Presentations don’t have to be a waste of time for ESL students


By Dan Lesho, Executive Vice President of iTEP International

Student presentations are a common way intensive English programs (IEPs) assess oral English skills. Particularly in programs focused on English for academic purposes (EAP), student presentations are viewed as an essential part of preparing individuals to succeed in a university setting.

Yet, most IEP teachers know that student presentations have very common pitfalls. Indeed, public speaking is hard enough for native speakers, and requiring students to make presentations in a new and unfamiliar language adds a whole new layer of complexity. In addition, there are differing cultural norms that affect how we view a successful public speaking effort. After seeing a student struggle through a presentation and losing the attention of the audience, a teacher might rightly ask, “Is there language learning happening here? What principle of language learning is being applied? Is there authentic negotiation of meaning? Are students communicating ideas to each other? Why is the audience losing focus? Why can’t the presenter be more extemporaneous?”

Adopting a poster presentation format can be the solution to many of the vexing issues surrounding student presentations. Here’s why this format is so effective.

Poster presentation sessions also provide opportunities for institutional development. Inviting faculty and staff from other departments is a great way to expose them to the work you’re doing in the IEP. They’ll be more inclined to come than they would if they had to sit through a series of Power Points. They can wander around and dabble as they please.

In fact, these presentations can be excellent preparation for the speaking and listening sections of English assessment exams such as iTEP. These test sections challenge test-takers to express themselves in a concise, organized way and to engage in active listening. Many IEPs focus on timed writing for test preparation, and poster presentations present an opportunity to practice timed speaking.