The comprehensive exam is a demonstration of learning. To quote the course outline, it is ‘a presentation of significant understandings about education…and a demonstration of your systematic, critical, creative, and reasoned thinking about your inquiry as applied to your own inquiry and educational practice’. We have 20 minutes to present one year of learning, followed by 20 minutes of questions from our profs and a student reader, then 20 minutes of open questioning from anyone in the room.
To prepare, I’m re-reading Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. I’m going through his blog too. I’m not even halfway through the book, but I already have a list of things I want to include in my presentation:
- Acknowledgements Collage – I’d like to do a digital photo collage of all those who helped me with the coursework in the last year. If I can’t find photos of everyone, I was thinking a Wordle of everyone’s names would also have a nice visual impact.
- Story – Reynolds refers to Daniel Pink’s six senses from A Whole New Mind, one of which is story. In An Imaginative Approach to Teaching, Kieran Egan writes about the power of story too. From reading Pink and Egan, I have, in the past, integrated story telling into lessons and I’d love to try it in this upcoming presentation. Story is an efficient way to condense large amounts of material. More importantly, it’s a much more human way to connect with an audience; everyone loves a good story.
- Visuals – Anyone who knows me will know to expect photographs and a other visual representations of information. One of my three strands of research is visual literacy and arts based methods and my over-arching metaphor is that of the photographer; visuals are deeply ingrained in who I am personally and professionally. And, again, visuals are an efficient way to communicate a vast amount of information in a singular way. In particular, I want to create my own series of ‘through the lens’ altered photographs inspired by these photos here.
- Simplicity – I love the quote at the start of the book – “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – Leonardo da Vinci. Reynolds talk about the importance of “deciding what matters and letting go of the rest” (p. 17). I often try to pack in too many words, too much information, and this time I want to emphasize the essence of my research and let all the rest go. If anyone wants to read my thesis or talk to me about all the other amazing things I learned, they are welcome to, but for the presentation I’d like to focus in on what really matters.
- Emotion – I want to connect with the people in the room at an emotional level. I want to invite them, draw them in, so that they experience a little piece of my learning and want to know more. I’m not sure how I’m going to do that yet, as there will be at least 20 others in the room, each with their own beliefs, assumptions, and lenses. I know it will be challenging to evoke an emotional response from every person, but I’m going to try.
- Enthusiasm – This one won’t be a problem. I could talk, very excitedly, about my Masters research for hours, days, weeks! I know the power of positive energy and I will be sure to bring that to the presentation. I’m going to need it, too. I have the last time slot of the day!
Despite my efforts to do no Masters work for a week (I submitted my thesis a few days ago and had vowed to take a break), I can’t stop thinking about the upcoming comps presentation. I’m still mentally exhausted from writing the thesis, but there’s a nice settling of information in my head. I guess I’m settling in to present one year’s worth of profound learning in only twenty minutes.
Fortunately, it feels like the presentation is already starting to take shape, and I think it’s going to settle into my mind almost entirely on it’s own.