One of the things that many students in college are often required to do is a class presentation. Although preparation may not be very strenuous, the task can often be a nerve-wracking experience. There is something about having a group of people stare blankly at you, a teacher taking notes on your every move and the knowledge that there is no undo button to turn the stutters into clarity that brings out the anxiety you may not usually have.
As difficult as they can be, class presentations do have positive aspects: They build stronger social skills, enhance public speaking ability and, possibly, ease stage fright. However, is it fair to have them count for a large percentage of a student’s final grade?
I think that the answer here is yes and no. There are several factors in determining whether they are essential or not. For example, all majors don’t need to be able to deliver a professional presentation, and they do not necessarily have much of a use for it.
“It depends on the career that you want to pursue,” said Godfrey Petit-Frere, a junior business major. “Let’s say I want to work as a pharmaceutical marketer. I have to be able to present the medicines to different companies. Doing those presentations is going to help you. However, if I want to be an accountant, that probably isn’t very important for me to know how to do.”
“It is important in careers that involve research,” said Murielle Alphonse, a junior finance major. “You are going to need to be able to present what you find to your colleagues, and these projects could help with that.”
I think that the main majors that should require a class presentation are business and education. In both professions, it is necessary to have good skills in public speaking and relaying information to a crowd. Educators especially need to be able to be clear in what they are teaching, in order to help their students understand concepts in their curriculum. Class presentations strengthen this ability.
In other majors and classes, presentations are less important for two key reasons. First, there are a great number of careers that do not include any kind of public speaking. Presenting ideas or research to others may not have any part in their job description.
Second, many people are naturally shy and aren’t able to speak in front of a crowd of people. This fear can be very difficult to overcome, no matter how much practice is done. Contrary to popular belief, practice doesn’t always make perfect.
When I was still in high school, I had to do a PowerPoint presentation in my American history class. My partner and I practiced so that we would not freeze up or stutter, but it didn’t help her very much. Although there were only about 15 students in the room, she couldn’t project her voice or keep herself from stuttering. It was hard for her to even look up from the ground.
Instead of being understanding, the teacher gave her a bad grade for the assignment, and her final grade fell from an A- to a B. This is completely unfair. She had been efficient in researching her topic and preparing the PowerPoint presentation. She was an excellent student, but had no way of getting past her stage fright. This doesn’t mean that she should be penalized so heavily, especially since it was not a skill that would hold her back in her future career choice of nursing.
In some cases, it is very important for students to be required to do presentations, as they may need it in life. However, not every person is going to graduate and need that skill, and many people may not be able to. If a teacher decides to assign such a project, the score shouldn’t have severe ramifications. Punishing them or lowering their grades is extremely unfair, because what is most important is that they do their work and excel in what the professor is teaching. This is what should essentially be reflected in students’ final scores.
Hend Salah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.