Teaching Spotlight: Student-Led Presentations

Casey Fisher

  • Part-time Faculty, Department of Health Sciences

  • Towson University

  • Course: Health 311 Chronic and Communicable Diseases

  • Lesson: “Bones and Blood”

The Challenge: Student Engagement 

How can faculty excite students, deliver rich content and ensure learning outcomes are achieved – in a class that meets one time per week for nearly three hours?

The Innovation: Student-led Presentations

After spending the previous class sessions learning about the individual concepts of etiology, diagnosis and treatment protocols, Fisher wanted students to bring these concepts together to achieve the following objective: Describe the etiology, signs and symptoms, diagnostic tests, and treatment of the assigned disease or disorder.

Fisher arranged 28 students in small groups and assigned each group a disease or disorder of the blood or musculoskeletal system. Each group was given 60 minutes to create a presentation on their assigned disease or disorder. Students used their chapter summaries, the textbook and materials from previous classes. Each group delivered their presentation to the class during the remaining 60 minutes. 

“I could see it working. The students were focused. No one was bored. Every single presentation was what I was looking for,” said Fisher. “Honestly, this was an ‘AHA’ moment for me. I was listening to the presentations and thinking how similar they were to grand round presentations I had seen given by physicians. It was inspiring to me as an instructor.”

Instead of lecturing for the entire class time, Fisher’s approach made learning personal and relevant for a diverse set of learners.

Evidence-Based Practices at Work

  • Scaffolding. Fisher built a set of activities on one another across multiple class sessions, helping to move students toward increasing levels of sophistication in their work. For this lesson, students were able to leverage their earlier experiences and add their creativity, culminating in a higher-stakes activity. 

  • Collaboration. Fisher chose a simple technique to quickly sort students into groups: he wrote group numbers on index cards, shuffled them and handed them out. Students had to work together to engage with the material and create a presentation that met the learning objective. 

About this Spotlight

Fisher has long been committed to working towards deep student engagement. In previous terms, he documented his successes with this type of lesson and noted specific ideas for the future. Fisher has completed two terms of a Faculty Guild fellowship on evidence-based instructional practices – where regular reflection on one’s teaching and classroom experiences serves as the foundation for continuous improvement.