Each student will (co-)lead one discussion during the quarter. Here are your tasks. They are not optional.
- At the end of the previous class:
- Meet with the teaching staff to discuss your plan (in 1601 Atkinson).
- You should have read your papers thoroughly to discuss your ideas about the paper and the next discussion in depth. What will you focus on?
- Ask the discussion group for that day for their learning and advice.
- Before you leave 1601, mail the TA with the questions which you want students to tackle in their reviews (1 question per paper commentary). The TA will instantly upload them to the submission site.
- Before your discussion day:
- Email the TA with your draft slides / ideas / questions. I will respond with feedback and suggestions for improving them. The sooner you contact me, the more helpful feedback I can give you.
- Make a small presentation slideshow which tackles the main points and more importantly, includes 3-4 discussion points per paper in the slides where the class will break into different groups and discuss them.
- For each slide, estimate how long you expect to spend on it (e.g. 1 min, 2 min). This will help you plan the overall timing of your presentation so that while you are presenting, you will be able to recognize if you are running behind or ahead and adjust accordingly.
- If you have a soft voice, practice enunciating and speaking in a loud lecture voice.
- On your discussion day:
- Submit your preparatory materials in pdf form (notes and slides etc.) via the online course submission system by 7am instead of your critique.
- Bring two printouts of your slides to the class for the instructor and the TA. You could print more for yourself (as back-up etc.) but that's your call. Printouts should be double-sided with 4 slides per side to save paper.
- Bring one printout of every paper assigned.
- Before class on the day of your discussion, read through all other students' critiques. (They're viewable through the course submission system after 7am). Weave ideas from your peers' commentaries into the discussion and credit their authors. It's a nice way to encourage the excellent, thoughtful work that students do in writing their commentaries, and also bring those ideas and their authors into the classtime discussion.
- Don't talk into your laptop; talk to the class ;)
- If, during your discussion, you start running short on time, don't speed up. Instead, skip less important slides/topics/points. It's good to have a plan ahead of time of what you'll cut if pressed for time.
- After your discussion:
- Send the pdf of your presentation to the TA right away!
- Meet the teaching staff *at the end* to discuss how your discussion went.
- Share advice with next group.
- Tell us how we can improve!
- Grade your peers' commentaries using the admin interface (see below for instructions).
Most importantly, begin your preparation by defining a very clear learning goal for the class. What will students understand at the end of class that they may not have at the beginning? Decide on 3-4 key ideas from the readings that you would like the students to understand deeply, and structure your discussion strategy around that. As part of that, your discussion should accomplish the following:
- Briefly summarize the papers for those who may have not read them as closely as others. (This is most important for papers where a critique is not required.) This should take no more than 10 minutes. You can summarize the papers together or separately, whichever you prefer. Don't worry about thoroughly summarizing every section of the paper, just focus on the key parts that everyone should understand in order to accomplish your learning goals.
- Lead a conversation about the papers, covering topics much like those that would be covered in a critique. You don't need to provide all the content, but you need to be willing to step in at any point when no one else is providing the content. Don't plan on giving a 45-minute monologue. Do come in with a clear set of goals for what you would like to convey.
- Get people talking! One great way to do this is to break people into pairs or small groups for a minute or two to think about a question. Pairs and small groups give more students a chance to participate, and they help students get ideas and words flowing. And by a minute or two, we literally mean 60 or 120 seconds. Inside of class, pair/small group discussion longer than a minute or two tends to lose momentum and fall off track.
- Cover both high- and low-level parts of the readings. What does this research mean? High level concepts are important, they help us anchor on the topic and give us some motivation for a research topic. How was this research accomplished? What technical concepts and methodological strategies were employed? Really dive into a key detail of how a study was performed, or whether the right research question was asked. If it's a technical paper, the discussion should help students deeply understand the key technical ideas.
- You and your co-presenter should share speaking time roughly equally. If you enjoy public speaking, plan to cede time to your partner. If you are a bit shyer, then plan when you will take over from your partner.
- When explaining technical formulas, diagrams, graphs, etc., try to explain what they mean conceptually, rather than just describing each variable.
- It's fine to have one or two slides that focus on key terms, but don't have an entire slide deck that regurgitates the entire list of key words from the paper.
- Examples are a great way to explain a concept. Walk the class through a concrete example to explain how a system or method works. Use examples that students can relate to in their lives or research projects.
- In general, keep your slides simple. Make sure the content of your slides compliments what you are saying and does not distract from it. If there is a short video or demo that illustrates something from the paper, show it! However, don't make the class sit through a 5-minute long video. Keep it short and sweet - pick the 1 or 2 minutes that are most important.
- For your discussion questions: the more specific the better. Do not ask questions that could be answered without having read the paper (in general, questions that start with "what do you think…" or "what is your opinion on..." fall into this category). Instead, focus on concepts from the paper (e.g. "what did <author> think about…", "what are the limitations of ..."). Centering questions around a specific example situation is a great way to make them more focused and specific. Remember to discuss the discusion question in class and correct common misconceptions.
- Feel free to build upon last year's slides or use them for inspiration. The course website for last year can be found by replacing the year in the website URL with the previous year.
We're very open to students trying something innovative or different during the discussion they lead. If you are going to do something "unusual", make sure to talk with us about it several days beforehand so that we can help you determine if it is appropriate and achievable.
Arrive early to class on your discussion day so you aren't flustered. Open up the blinds to let some natural light in. Encourage people to sit towards the front — it gives the discussion more energy. An important part of teaching well is leading class with energy and enthusiasm.
After class, grade the student commentaries. We recommend grading literally right after class while everything is fresh. Don't spend a huge amount of time on this — essentially, the goal is a "check", "check-plus", "check-minus" grading system, based on the depth of student's intellectual engagement with the paper's core ideas. In general, the majority of commentaries get a 'check', with exemplary commentaries getting a 'check-plus' and weaker ones getting a 'check-minus'. That said, this class is not graded on a curve, so any particular day may or may not match that general trend. Enter grades through the admin interface. You will have admin access for two days following your discussion day.
In your grading, please leave some feedback to make the student aware of the strong points in their critique as well as where they lacked. You should be honest and positive in your comments. "No comments" or "null" are not accepted, and simply saying "good job" or "needs work" is not enough.