Monday, 14 April 2014

Guest Lecture Round 2 - Suit Up!

Hey everyone!

It has been quite some time since I have put anything up on the blog but it's time for a couple updates.

The first update is on the most recent guest lecture I was lucky enough to give in my supervisor Stephanie Bangarth's 3000 level lecture course: Canada in the World, Studies in Foreign Policy. Before I get into the details, I really want to publicly thank Dr. Bangarth for this wonderful opportunity to lecture in her class and I certainly learned a lot about what it's like to be on the 'other side'.

Future Dr. Shez in action!
Many of you who know me personally must be wondering how did this clown end up running a full 2 hour lecture on the "'Refugee Crisis' of the 1970s in Canada"? Well let me tell you it was honestly a lot more fun than I was expecting. I sat there wondering for days about how I could stand in front of a bunch of university students and just talk for 120 minutes straight. What was I going to say? Were they even going to listen to me? Are they going to take me seriously? Aren't I going to get thirsty and eventually run out of things to say? As it turns out, once I had finished preparing I had too much to say!

A lot of factors play into whether the lecture someone is about to deliver is going to be effective or not. Here's a quick break down of what worked well for me the first time around when it came to delivering a lengthy talk:
  • The students make a difference: I was really lucky to have landed some third year students who were very engaged in the material before I even started. It was a smaller class of about 20 students or so but they were quite eager to learn.
  • Be engaging: I can't even count the number of lectures in my undergraduate career that were a complete snoozefest. Be LOUD, be EXPRESSIVE, be PASSIONATE, MOVE AROUND, and ENGAGE your students. A friend of mine told me that lecturing needs to be seen as a form of entertainment and they were bang on. If you just stand at the front of the class and drone on and on even your most interested students are going to get bored and distracted.
  • Make entertaining slides: Have fun with the way you present the material. Yes there are many times in which the subject matter is serious but when there is an opportunity to make a suitable joke, discuss a political cartoon, or create a flashy image, or use a fun video DO IT. There is no better way to verify if your students are listening and paying attention than to see how many of them are laughing or smiling. 
  • Ask questions: Don't be afraid to ask your students/audience their thoughts on what you are discussing. This goes beyond the standard "does anybody have any questions?" Ask them what they would have done in the situation, or their opinion of the topic. My favourite classes have always been seminars because it gives you an opportunity to reflect, discuss, and ask questions about what you have learned. You get to actually engage in the material instead of reading words on a piece of paper and then listen to someone talk about it. Shifting your lecture style towards a semi-seminar style makes things more entertaining and helps to transfer knowledge in a variety of different ways. 
  • Have some fun: There are times when you will have to talk about some very nitty gritty details like the specifics of acts within government legislation, policy debates, or very minute details. Make sure you make it clear why this is important and make it entertaining for yourself. If you're having fun giving the lecture it is really hard for your students to not latch on to your excitement.
  • Let your personality shine: This builds on the above but be yourself out there. If you are more reserved with an interesting sense of humour - use it. If you are outraged at a law that was recently passed - then get angry. Showcase to your audience why they need to care about this. If you are talking about something you are personally interested in and attached to make it personal to your audience. Look into their eyes and convey that message. There are many ways to captivate your audience - use what works for you.
  • Have a so what? I cannot stress how important this is. Whether your presentation is 5 minutes or 5 hours you need to have a clear and concise so what? What is the whole point of your talk? What is the bare bones message you want them to take away from this? Whatever it is, make sure it is clear and say it right at the beginning. This way everyone knows why they are listening to you. Also, state the so what frequently. It is important to remind your audience what the big picture is and what exactly you want them to take away from your talk.  
Clearly making a very important point here

As for the lecture itself it went quite well. My supervisor was happy and I think the students learned a fair bit. I had a great time lecturing about something I am very passionate about. The lecture covered refugee policy in the 1970s and explored the various refugee resettlements within the decade. This includes the approximately 8,000 Ugandan Asian refugees (my dissertation topic), 7,000 Chileans, and the 60,000 South East Asian refugees. If you want to know more about the lecture send me an e-mail or leave a comment and I can do a follow up blog post on that :)

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