I very much enjoyed observing presentations at High Tech High North County last week. There were so many things that I thought their staff had gotten right, but I wanted to write here a little about the feedback forms for presenters, both from other students and from adult panelists.
I have sat in on so many student presentations over the years, and sometimes I find myself spending most of my time trying to comprehend the byzantine rubric that the teacher has created (and I’ve created a few overly elaborate such rubrics myself). I think that it *might* be a good idea to co-create with students a more complicated rubric that attempts to handle every possible aspect of the presentation or project [although I've written more here about my suspicion of rubrics].
One thing I found myself feeling quite strongly during the presentations last week was how much better it felt as an outside panelist to get a simple, elegant feedback form to fill out. ”Complex structures beget simple behaviors and simple structures beget complex behaviors” might sound like a cliche, but I think it really applies here. When I’m in that space of trying to figure out what the complex rubric is after, I usually end up just circling a bunch of numbers and writing “nice job” at the end, unable to write anything more meaningful with my mind exhausted from rubric overload.
The presentation feedback form created by faculty at HTH North County explained to me what the faculty is looking for, it asked simple questions that are good practice (e.g. “What strikes you about this presentation?”), and it encouraged me to be “kind, specific, and helpful” which implies being hard on the content (and panelists forget to do this sometimes) as well as soft on the person (and panelists forget to do this sometimes too).
The other form that I saw was what I heard referred to as a “kish” form, short for “kind, specific, and helpful.” This was a form that all the other students filled out while watching the presentations. One of the things that most struck me about the presentations was the thoughtful questions that students asked after the presentation (e.g. “What steps are you going to take to ensure that you follow through on your goals next time?”). I was dropping into different classrooms for short periods of time, so I didn’t see all of the audience preparation at the event, but I felt myself getting anxious when I didn’t see more explicit audience preparation before each presentation. Nonetheless, it clearly happened at some point, because audience participation was great.
Two other notes:
1. The audience for each presentation was a mix of students from every grade level. I think this raised the stakes of the presentations and made for more interesting presentations for everyone.
2. At the end of every presentation, after hearing questions and comments from other students and panelists, the faculty met alone with the presenting student (and their parents if possible) in the hallway. A great protocol that I saw involved the teacher asking the student how it went and what could have been better, asking the parent the same questions, and only then giving the student feedback from the teachers. This little detail really improved the quality of the whole experience.
Kudos to HTHNC students and faculty for their work on these presentations!