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No More Death by PowerPoint! Using an Alternative Presentation Model in a ChE Unit Operations Laboratory Course

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Professional Skills Development

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Matthew Cooper North Carolina State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Matthew Cooper is a Teaching Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at North Carolina State University where he teaches Material and Energy Balances, Unit Operations, Transport Phenomena and Mathematical / Computational Methods. He is the recipient of the 2014 NCSU Outstanding Teacher Award, 2015 ASEE ChE Division Raymond W. Fahien Award, and currently serves as the ASEE Chemical Engineering Division’s newsletter editor. Dr. Cooper’s research interests include effective teaching, conceptual and inductive learning, integrating writing and speaking into the curriculum and professional ethics.

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It is well-known that effective oral communication skills are critical to the success of chemical engineering (ChE) graduates in the modern workplace. With this in mind it is important that ChE instructors provide their students with numerous opportunities to practice oral communication skills through in-class presentations. However, assigning several oral presentations across multiple sections or in large classes can be mentally exhausting for the course instructor, and students may similarly feel that they are simply “turning the crank” and feel bored or unchallenged when faced with the construction (or sit in the audience) of yet another dull technical presentation – these are symptoms of the widely-discussed “Death by PowerPoint” (DBP) syndrome.

Part of the reason DBP syndrome occurs is adherence to the classic bullet/sub-bullet structure espoused in much instruction on technical presentations, which can lead to presentations feeling formulaic and lacking in creativity. In recent years new and exciting presentation paradigms such as pecha-kucha and Lessig style have been developed and adapted for technical presentations. One modern presentation style, the assertion-evidence model, requires a heavier reliance on visuals rather than text and is purported by many communication experts to be the most effective technical presentation format.

This work describes the incorporation of oral presentation assignments using the assertion-evidence model into different sections of a senior ChE Unit Operation laboratory course. Student performances using the assertion-evidence model and the traditional bullet/sub-bullet model will be assessed and compared. Comments from students indicate that they are pleased to try the assertion-evidence format, with early returns stating that the new method created less “waste” in student presentations because it forced people to actually understand what they were presenting. Students also commented that the format helped to engage them more as an audience member and that they enjoyed watching their classmates present in the new style.

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Cooper, M. (2017, June), No More Death by PowerPoint! Using an Alternative Presentation Model in a ChE Unit Operations Laboratory Course Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28705

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