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Leading a Discussion. Sort of. . .



Since mid-March, various student learning teams in my courses this semester have been leading classroom discussions on different topics that pertain to the courses I have run since January.  In my course on Scandinavian and Nordic Crime Fiction, the final team, comprised of three young men, brought our discussions this semester to a close on Monday this week with a presentation/talk on how many of these stories have been brought to the TV and theater screens in recent years.

The discussion in itself wasn't bad.  Obvious planning had gone into it, based on the assignment packet, which contains a specific prompt, grading rubric, and additional information on developing  and leading an effective 30-40-minute class discussion.  Their discussion questions, while a bit pedestrian, weren't completely horrible, and the class was reasonably well engaged.  The overall performance of the young men 'met expectations' a euphemistic  way of saying that their execution of the assignment earned a 'B,' according to the grading rubric used for the assignment.  Just. 

But, there were nevertheless a few problems that, frankly, ought not to be issues by the time people -- young adults don't forget --  reach their early 20s.  In particular when giving a talk or leading a discussion at the head of the room in front of others.  

There was late arrival on the part of one team member for starters.  The team had been aware of their assigned date for two months though.  Two team members suffered from a completely disheveled appearance, and one looked like he had rolled out of bed five or ten minutes previously given the bed head and still apparent wrinkles from his pillow across a cheek.  All three, in addition, read directly from their PowerPoint slides rather than look at their classmates.  

Then there were the audible sighs several times from a couple of team members and Beavis and Butthead snickering throughout.  Maybe one or more of them were nervous, or as high as kites by 10:20am, or they were not really interested in what their classmates had to say in response to the questions posed by the team in question?  Who knows?  I credit the 30 or other students present that morning, however, for making an effort to pay attention and participate in the various discussion activities planned by the team.

Suffice to say, while suits, neckties, and shined shoes might not have been necessary (or expected), alarm clocks, showers, a somewhat more pulled together appearance, and a slightly more polished, professional demeanor would, perhaps, have yielded a higher grade.  

I know, I know.  I'm such a mean, unreasonable so-and-so.  But, here's the thing.  In few short years, or even sooner than that in some cases, these late Millennials or Gen-Z'ers, depending on whatever you want to call them, will have to function cohesively and efficiently within the modern team-based, open plan office setting.  Presenting on a specific topic and then leading class discussion on it, while looking somewhat more presentable than is usually the case, is a convenient and even valuable way for young people to prepare themselves for real life.  The inevitable wake-up call involving a bucket of icy water to the face, in other words, that awaits most students post-graduation.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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