Guidelines for Leading Class

Part of every student’s grade in this course stems from the role they will play in helping to lead a class on a specific week. As I noted already, the process of leading a class is not to be confused with running the entire show for 2 hours and 45 minutes. Rather, leading a class is simply a way for students to take an active role in enhancing our knowledge about the topic we are covering in class on a given week. You can be as creative or straightforward as you like with this assignment, but every pair needs to do the following things in order to get full credit:

DO SUPPLEMENTARY RESEARCH. Along with a partner, you will do some additional background reading on the topic we are covering during the week in which you are scheduled to lead discussion. I am happy to provide you with some readings that will be useful for this purpose. Please get in touch with me at least a week in advance.

PREPARE DISCUSSION QUESTIONS. Prior to the start of class, you and your partner will prepare a handful of discussion questions for each assigned reading and you will send them to me via email as an attachment. These questions will provide a framework for our class discussion, after we’ve listened to your presentation had a chance to talk about the presentation itself. Your professor will facilitate the actual dialogue, but you are expected to take an active role in our discussion by asking your questions, helping to answer them, drawing our attention to specific ideas in the readings, and so on. You are not responsible for making copies of the questions for your classmates: I will post an electronic copy of the document on our course website, where it will be both visible and downloadable. If you want or need print copies to distribute to your classmates, please let me know at least a day in advance of your presentation.

  • Some useful tips on writing discussion questions: Good discussion questions are ones that require people to a) engage with specific passages in the text, b) explain specific concepts and terms raised by the author, and c) explain and/or interpret specific points that are interesting, challenging, or provocative. Generally speaking, good discussion questions are ones that require people to think critically about what they are reading, and to work through the substance of an author’s argument. Good discussion questions cannot answered with an easy ‘yes’ or ‘no’, they do not ask people to simply fetch correct answers from the text, and they do not encourage responses based solely on opinion, but rather, on informed opinions (i.e. opinions derived from thoughtful engagements with the text or texts).

MAKE A HANDOUT. Prior to the start of class, your pair will prepare a handout that should compliment your presentation, and you will send it to me via email as an attachment. Your handout can be an overview of the topic, a guide to the assigned readings, or something that is specific to your case study (see below for info on case studies). The purpose of the handout and its format are both up to you. While I encourage creativity, the focus should be on content, first and foremost – I’d much rather you prepare something useful and ‘boring looking’ than a handout that is visually stunning and uninformative. You are not responsible for making copies of the handout for your classmates: I will post an electronic copy of the document on our course website, where it will be both visible and downloadable. If you want or need print copies to distribute to your classmates, please let me know at least a day in advance of your presentation.

BRING A MEDIA CLIP. Prior to the start of class, your pair will select an audio and/or visual clip that will compliment your presentation. Ideally, this clip should be used when you and your partner discuss your specific ‘case study’ (see below for details). If it’s possible, either send me a copy of the clip as an email attachment or send me a link to the URL address, if the content is already online. Be sure to bring a ‘hard’ copy of your clip with you to class on the day of your presentation (whether its a digital file on a portable drive, or an actual CD or DVD) and let me know which format you plan on using so that I can set up the equipment properly prior to the start of our class.

  • Tips when using audio-visual materials in a presentation: Make sure the clip is appropriate in terms of its length, content (i.e. suitable for a particular age group, etc.) and the purpose of your presentation (i.e. making sure the clip supports your talk, and doesn’t leave people confused or guessing). Cue up the media prior to the start of your speech, so that its ready to go when you need it. Familiarize yourself with the presentation equipment so that you don’t have to fumble around with cords, switches, or controls in front of an audience. Know the exact times where you need to start or stop a clip. Introduce the clip to your audience in such a way that they not only know what they are going to see and/or hear, but also why they are going to see and/or hear it.

PRESENTATION – INTRODUCE THE TOPIC. Each pair of students will prepare and deliver a presentation at the beginning of our class. It is casual in the sense that a) I will not be grading you on the mechanics of your delivery, i.e. your skill as a orator, and b) you will not be required to stand in front of a seated class when you deliver your presentation – we will rearrange the desks into a big rectangle and the presenters will be seated like everyone else (only close to podium, for easy access to the computer). However, I expect presentations to be clear, organized, substantive, and easy to follow. The first part of your presentation should thoroughly introduce the topic of the week to your classmates – it should address the salient (most important) points about the topic that you’ve pulled together from both your supplementary research as well as the readings assigned to the class.

PRESENTATION – A CASE STUDY (W/ MEDIA CLIP). Think of this an advanced version of ‘Show and Tell’. After you and your partner have sufficiently introduced the topic, you will deepen your classmates knowledge of the topic by utilizing a new example or  ‘case study’ in your presentation. Your case study could be a specific media artifact (a specific film, sound recording, etc), a specific controversy, a specific problem, or a specific public policy – it just depends on what topic we’re covering that week, and which issues and points you and your partner want us to understand in more depth. The case study you utilize in your presentation should not be one that is already covered in the readings assigned for class (hence it being ‘NEW’ example), but you should use the assigned readings to discuss it.

  • Let me clarify this with an example: Let’s say the topic for the week is ‘The Politics of Hip Hop Music and Culture’, and I assign the class readings from Tricia Rose and Michael Eric Dyson. Like all good writers, these authors are going to analyze specific artists and songs in their articles in order to ground their discussion and provide both support/evidence for the larger points they want to make. The case study that you and your partner bring to class should not be one that the authors already discuss in the readings…or one that is too closely related (for instance, if Michael Eric Dyson is analyzing the song ‘One Love’ from the rapper, Nas, then your case study can’t simply be a different Nas song). Rather, you should select an altogether different song or album as your ‘case study’ – but one that allows you to effectively apply concepts and ideas that you found relevant in the assigned readings (and, perhaps, from your supplementary research).

NOTE: I will be sure to review all the details of this assignment in class, but please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. 

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