When effectively planned and used, PowerPoint (or similar tools, like Google Slides) can enhance instruction. People are divided on the effectiveness of this ubiquitous presentation program—some say that PowerPoint is wonderful while others bemoan its pervasiveness. No matter which side you take, PowerPoint does offer effective ways to enhance instruction when used and designed appropriately.
PowerPoint can be an effective tool to present material in the classroom and encourage student learning. You can use PowerPoint to project visuals that would otherwise be difficult to bring to class. For example, in an anthropology class, a single PowerPoint presentation could project images of an anthropological dig from a remote area, questions asking students about the topic, a chart of related statistics, and a mini quiz about what was just discussed that provides students with information that is visual, challenging, and engaging.
PowerPoint can be an effective tool to present material in the classroom and encourage student learning.
This section is organized in three major segments: Part I will help faculty identify and use basic but important design elements, Part II will cover ways to enhance teaching and learning with PowerPoint, and Part III will list ways to engage students with PowerPoint.
PowerPoint is especially useful when providing course material online.
Use of a light background with dark typeface or a dark background with a light typeface is easy to read in a large room.
Use clip art and graphics sparingly. Research shows that it’s best to use graphics only when they support the content.
PowerPoint’s Slide Sorter View is especially helpful to check slides for proper sequencing and information gaps and redundancy.
PowerPoint provides multiple options for print-based handouts that can be distributed at various points in the class.
Before class: students might like having materials available to help them prepare and formulate questions before the class period.
During class: you could distribute a handout with three slides and lines for notes to encourage students to take notes on the details of your lecture so they have notes alongside the slide material (and aren’t just taking notes on the slide content).
After class: some instructors wait to make the presentation available after the class period so that students concentrate on the presentation rather than reading ahead on the handout.
Never: Some instructors do not distribute the PowerPoint to students so that students don’t rely on access to the presentation and neglect to pay attention in class as a result.
Alley, Schreiber, Ramsdell, and Muffo (2006) suggest that PowerPoint slide headline design “affects audience retention,” and they conclude that “succinct sentence headlines are more effective” in information recall than headlines of short phrases or single words (p. 233). In other words, create slide titles with as much information as is used for newspapers and journals to help students better understand the content of the slide.
Avoid reading from the slide—reading the material can be perceived as though you don’t know the material.
PowerPoint can be used to prepare lectures and presentations by helping instructors refine their material to salient points and content. Class lectures can be typed in outline format, which can then be refined as slides. Lecture notes can be printed as notes pages (notes pages: Printed pages that display author notes beneath the slide that the notes accompany.) and could also be given as handouts to accompany the presentation.
Using PowerPoint can help you present information in multiple ways (a multimodal approach) through the projection of color, images, and video for the visual mode; sound and music for the auditory mode; text and writing prompts for the reading/writing mode; and interactive slides that ask students to do something, e.g. a group or class activity in which students practice concepts, for the kinesthetic mode (see Part III: Engaging Students with PowerPoint for more details). Providing information in multiple modalities helps improve comprehension and recall for all students.
Providing information in multiple modalities helps improve comprehension and recall for all students.
PowerPoint allows users to type directly during the slide show, which provides another form of interaction. These write-on slides can be used to project students’ comments and ideas for the entire class to see. When the presentation is over, the new material can be saved to the original file and posted electronically. This feature requires advanced preparation in the PowerPoint file while creating your presentation. For instructions on how to set up your type-on slide text box, visit this tutorial from AddictiveTips.
PowerPoint also allows users to use tools to highlight or write directly onto a presentation while it is live. When you are presenting your PowerPoint, move your cursor over the slide to reveal tools in the lower-left corner. One of the tools is a pen icon. Click this icon to choose either a laser pointer, pen, or highlighter. You can use your cursor for these options, or you can use the stylus for your smart podium computer monitor or touch-screen laptop monitor (if applicable).
You can make your PowerPoint slides, outline, and/or notes pages available online 24/7 through Blackboard, OneDrive, other websites. Students can review the material before class, bring printouts to class, and better prepare themselves for listening rather than taking a lot of notes during the class period. They can also come to class prepared with questions about the material so you can address their comprehension of the concepts.
The following techniques can be incorporated into PowerPoint presentations to increase interactivity and engagement between students and between students and the instructor. Each technique can be projected as a separate PowerPoint slide.
This technique provides visual interest and can include a series of questions for students to answer as they sit waiting for class to begin. These questions could be on future texts or quizzes.
PowerPoint supports multimedia, such as video, audio, images, and animation.
As with any technology, the way PowerPoint is used will determine its pedagogical effectiveness. By strategically using the points described above, PowerPoint can be used to enhance instruction and engage students.
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Vanderbilt University, Center for Teaching. (n.d.). Making better PowerPoint presentations. Retrieved from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/making-better-powerpoint-presentations/
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Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2020). Teaching with PowerPoint. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/instructional-guide