Working with lecturers from Lincoln University on presentation skills for the newly founded Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) this case study goes through what we did, how we did it and how we received our gold star!

“content, although king, gets lost if it isn’t presented in an engaging and passionate manner”

Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is a government initiative to monitor and assess the quality of teaching in England’s Universities (replacing the QAA system of cyclical inspection). The criteria by which universities are judged is still to be ironed out but the basic premise is that if a particular university is doing well (in accordance with TEF guidelines) then students will receive an enhanced experience and individuals, departments and institutions will be rewarded for high quality teaching and possibly be able to charge students higher tuition fees.

Lincoln University, like many Universities, pride themselves delivering great lectures and wanted to make sure they were doing everything possible to deliver an excellent teaching experience, drive engagement and encourage original thinking.

So, how do you teach an old dog, so to speak, new tricks? We at BMS met with a dozen lecturers from Lincoln University with the task of improving their presentation skills. Some of the lecturers’ have been teaching and imparting their specialist knowledge for longer than I care to remember and it’s probably fair to say that a few of them were a little resistant. This is not a reflection on the lecturers at Lincoln but more about the government policy and approach around TEF.

1. Chinese Whispers

Once the initial discussions had taken place, Andy Hitchcock and myself began to talk about memory retention and the limited ability we as humans have to retain information. We split into to four groups to do some role play. This exercise was, in its simplest form Chinese Whispers. Each Lecturer had to pick out of a hat random topics to talk about, chosen of course, by the BMS team. The topics were wide ranging: Chocolate, grass, wine making, British Prime Ministers etc. Once each group (4 in each group) had picked out a topic the task for the first participant was to talk for two minutes on the chosen subject. Once he/she had done that, the next in line would have to regurgitate and repackage that information for 1’30, the next for a minute and the final participant for 30 seconds. It proved quite difficult for each participant to fill their allotted times. The point being, even when those listening are focused and paying attention it’s still a challenge to retain all the information being downloaded onto them.

The lesson here, is that the content, although king, gets lost if it isn’t presented in an engaging and passionate manner.

2. Style

The next task was to focus in on the presentation style of each delegate. Again, in our groups we peeled off to various lecture rooms. We mic’d up the lecturers and with a video camera capturing their performances we began to monitor a snippet of their lectures. Some were very passionate, others were more measured, a few seemed quite bored by the sound of their own voice! However, the important thing is that even though they had different personalities and styles they were still very effective in getting their points across. This isn’t an exercise in changing personalities and styles it’s an exercise in improving what they already have and adding elements that will engage the audience. Once they had all finished we reviewed each performance one by one. We analysed delivery; the ‘presence’ of the lecturers I.e did they command the room or did they hide behind the lectern! We advised on intonation and the use of humour and props. We made suggestions and tweaks that I’m glad to say the lecturers took on board, not only because we were saying it but because they could see it for themselves – you are your own worst critic!

3. Review

The final performance therefore, was to see them in action again having made those suggested changes. The presentations were evidently better and our work was done and also appreciated – gold star all round!

If you’d like to find out a little more about how your University could benefit, please get in contact or read a little more on what we can offer on the Teacher Excellence training for teachers page