A Guide to Planning and Leading PKAL Events

Session Planning Guidelines

Preparing for the Audience

PKAL asks session presenters/facilitators to “practice what we preach” for the undergraduate classrooms and labs, to develop and offer sessions that illustrate pedagogical approaches that ‘work’. This includes getting many people talking and avoiding someone dominating the question/comment period. The challenge is most often the mix of experience in the group, some with lots of expertise/some novice agents of change, some perhaps with no interest but only there because of a deanly suggestion. For most presenters, this is no more of a challenge than preparing for a class of students on his/her home campus.

Scenarios that Work

When developing a plenary or breakout session, keep the session focused on the learner and not the teacher. Demonstrate how the information will potentially benefit the attendee in his/her institutional setting. Engage the participants through building in time for question and answer, case studies and use of real-life examples and situations.

If lecture is to be the primary method of presentation, it should be a lecture-demonstration, providing regular opportunities for the participants to engage in directed or informal discussions of the topics under discussion. The other approach is to leave adequate time at the end for questions. We recognize in PKAL that lectures have great value, both in getting a lot of information across, and in illustrating how experts in the field assimilate, distill and convey critical information in an orderly and creative way. However, 50-minutes of a one-way presentation of ideas most often does not have the same impact as sessions that directly engage the participants.

If collaborative learning exercises are to be at the core of the session, these should be planned carefully. The most successful sessions model a specific class, giving participants opportunity for personal engagement with the new approaches. In the workshop/breakout setting, these collaborative learning exercises should be accompanied with explicit statements about how the activity was designed (what was the catalyst for change), how it was implemented, and how you are determining whether or not the approach is serving your initial goals.

One approach to getting participants to reflect creatively about the process of reform is telling the history of your efforts, stopping periodically with the note: “And the problem that then arose was _______. How would you have solved that problem?”

A similar approach is to identify the key questions that you addressed in the process of developing and implementing new approaches, giving the participants at-their-table time to think through those questions, and then gathering and analyzing the answers that come back. For example, the question, “what was your best learning experience?...” can lead to some interesting discussions about what really works in getting students engaged.

One effective discussion-based approach is to use the 7 /7 pattern. Described for presentations at the Wharton School of Business (for one of its international conferences), speakers talk 7 minutes and then allot 7 minutes for discussion. This approach recognizes that participants often have as much experience and expertise as the presenter and should have equal time in talking about the issue under discussion.

Panel sessions need careful planning. For panels, it works best if the moderator contacts panelists far in advance to develop a session outline and coordinate the information to be presented by each panelist. The group should agree on the format that best works for the topic such as each panelist opening with a short statement followed by a question and answer or, alternatively, opening the session with questions generated by the audience. A conference call or pre-presentation meeting is important to review the session and to make sure all objectives are covered and the session has a good pace. For question and answer, it is helpful for the moderator to repeat all questions.

For sessions led by multiple presenters, it is equally important to coordinate in advance, outlining the format, the content and the digital information.

Rubrics for PowerPoint Users

  • Use the first and second page to outline your presentation; recap at the end
  • Use at least 24 point font
  • Use no more than six lines of text per page and not more than six words per line
  • Use images in place of words; always title your graphics
  • Use contrast in pages such as light type and images on a dark background (or vice versa)
  • Do not read what is on the screen

Staff Assistance

To assist in managing your session/presentation, a staff member or volunteer will be available to provide support. This person will see that materials get distributed in a timely manner, photos and recordings are taken, assist with technical issues, etc. In addition, a primary responsibility of the session coordinator will be to capture the best idea/s emerging from the discussions for immediate posting on the PKAL website.

Additional Presenter/Facilitator Details

  • Please plan ahead to attend the entire event and participate in pre-event planning conversations (email and conference call).
  • If travel expenses are covered by PKAL, presenters are to make their own flight arrangements and will be reimbursed after the event within the specified reimbursement amount. Note – for full reimbursement, tickets must be purchased at least 6 weeks in advance of event to keep costs at a minimum.
  • Presenters/facilitators are asked to work with the PKAL National Office to develop a one page abstract and identify resources for each session. We also ask for a one-paragraph narrative biographical sketch and digital photo. These items will be featured on the event website and/or in the event notebook.
  • Materials for sessions (hand-outs) should be prepared in advance, given limitations of on-site copying. We recommend providing a hand-out/note pages for power points, as this is a convenience for participants. PKAL can assist with copying, if materials are sent in advance to the office.
  • As follow-up to the event, PKAL will post on the PKAL web site interviews, materials, power-points and other resources from the event for the edification of the broader PKAL community. These materials will be gathered on-site by the PKAL staff, who will also be available to test your equipment prior to the presentation.
  • For PowerPoint presentations, presenters are asked to provide their own laptop. Back-up disks are a must. After the event, copies of presentation materials will be collected for post-event dissemination.