By J.D. WRIGHT
“Death by PowerPoint” is an all-too-common phenomenon in higher education. These deadening talks can seem to drag on forever: speakers reading dense bullet-point lists; audience members fidgeting impatiently, trying to extract the important points or completely zoning out; everyone waiting for the ordeal to end.
DESIGNING A PECHAKUCHA ASSIGNMENT
Images are central to PechaKuchas, so encourage students to use their own photography when possible.
Alternatively, teach students not only about good presentation techniques but also about copyright. Review how to do an Advanced Google Image Search with copyright restrictions and consider using a Creative Commons Search.
Supply students with many opportunities for guided practice in the classroom and encourage them to practice on their own as well.
A debriefing session after the PechaKucha assignment can enhance metacognition and help students understand more fully what they have learned and how they benefited from the project.
PechaKucha presentations, according to new research, offer a refreshing alternative. Deriving their name from the Japanese term for “chit-chat,” PechaKuchas are presentations consisting of 20 automatically timed slides each displayed for only 20 seconds for a presentation totaling no more than about seven minutes long.
PechaKuchas feature primarily images with few (or even no) words. The goal of a PechaKucha is to “tell a story rather than trying to describe the slides” (Hirst 2016, p. 141) — to “talk less and show more,” in the words of PechaKucha developers Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham — and the result is that both the presenter and the audience focus more keenly on the most important material for enhanced learning overall (Ave, Beasley, and Brogan 2020).
As a presentation style useful in the academy, the PechaKucha method has been studied in a wide variety of disciplines (see references below), including nursing, language acquisition, physiology, biological sciences, leadership, education, communications and athletic training. The general consensus emerging from this recent research is that: (1) Students learn at least as well through instructor-led PechaKucha talks as through other types of presentations; and (2) Students report not only working harder on PechaKuchas as assignments but also being more engaged in the content they deliver in the PechaKucha style.
This article summarizes the new research and discusses possible advantages of incorporating PechaKuchas into your own teaching and lecturing regimen and of including PechaKucha assignments for students in your syllabi.
PechaKucha for instructors
Faculty can use PechaKuchas to appeal more directly to the “attention spans and media habits of modern audiences” (Waisanen 2018, p. 82). The inference from this research — that students will be more focused on lectures if presentations are delivered in a PechaKucha style — has been confirmed by another study that found no statistically significant loss of comprehension through implementation of PechaKucha techniques (Bakcek, Tastan, Iyigun, Kurtoglu, and Tastan 2020). In fact, research on PechaKuchas in the academy has long found that the technique increases student engagement and that faculty implementing PechaKucha-style presentations report increased levels of classroom energy (Ave, Beasley, and Brogan 2020).
Implementing a PechaKucha strategy for at least some class lectures has the additional benefit of opening up time in a class session’s schedule for more discussion, hands-on activities, and other active-learning strategies that have been consistently shown to enhance student learning (Ave, Beasley, and Brogan 2020).
PechaKucha for students
Several studies have repeatedly established that PechaKucha assignments yield learning outcomes that are statistically identical to those obtained through more traditional assignment categories, including papers and regular presentations (Ave, Beasley, and Brogan 2020; Bakcek, Tastan, Iyigun, Kurtoglu, and Tastan 2020; Liao, Lewis, and Winiski 2020). As a result, it makes sense to experiment with them, particularly given the finding that students have more satisfaction with those assignments than with equivalents.
In one study, for example, 71 percent of students reported that they had appreciated the process of preparing PechaKucha presentations, citing the conciseness of the talks and the degree of creative freedom afforded as factors in their satisfaction (Ave, Beasley, and Brogan 2020). Another study yielded 94 percent of responses recommending that PechaKucha assignments be given in future versions of the course (Polin 2018). In hypothesizing beyond these findings, some researchers suggest that enhanced engagement with the assignments could also translate into gains in presentation skills and creative thought (Ave, Beasley, and Brogan 2020).
However, because students might find some features of PechaKucha talks to be difficult — particularly the imperative of handling each slide in only 20 seconds (Ave, Beasley, and Brogan 2020; Hirst 2016; Liao, Lewis, and Winiski 2020) — another study recommends “consistent and transparent dialogue” about the value and benefits of PechaKucha assignments, especially when they are used as formative rather than summative assessments that help students to learn instead of measuring prior learning (Hirst 2016, p. 152).
“Overall, students enjoy PechaKucha presentations. Although the highly structured nature is constraining, it can also be enabling” (Lucas and Rawlins 2015, p. 106). Giving students the option of doing something new and different, something that they are also likely to find engaging, is an effective approach to teaching, and adding PechaKucha-based lectures to your repertoire of teaching practices can further enliven your courses.
The official PechaKucha site features superb examples of PechaKuchas from events from around the world.
Ceri Savage’s article presents background on PechaKuchas and advice for creating them.
Catherine Cronin’s article offers excellent tips and resources as well as examples of PechaKuchas.
A comprehensive overview of how to create a compelling PechaKucha can be found here.
A sample rubric for assessing student PechaKuchas can give you a head-start on crafting your own assignments.
If you are interested in adopting PechaKucha presentations in your courses and would like assistance with or advice about designing or assignments or lectures, then contact Teaching Support at www.teaching.pitt.edu or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
J. D. Wright is a teaching consultant with the University Center for Teaching and Learning. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Abraham, Reem Rachel, Sharmila Torke, James Gonsalves, Sareesh Naduvil Narayanan, M. Ganesh Kamath, Jay Prakash, and Kiranmai S. Rai. 2018. “Modified directed self-learning sessions in physiology with prereading assignments and Pecha Kucha talks: Perceptions of students.” Advances in Physiology Education 42: 26-31.
Ave, James S., Devin Beasley, and Amy Brogan. 2020. “A comparative investigation of student learning through PechaKucha presentations in online higher education.” Innovative Higher Education 45: 373-86.
Bakcek, Ozgu, Sevinc Tastan, Emine Iyigyn Pervin Kurtoglu, and Birthan Tastan. 2020. “Comparison of PechaKucha and traditional PowerPoint presentations in nursing education: A randomized controlled study.” Nurse Education in Practice 42: 1-6.
Hirst, Nicky. 2016. “Using Pecha Kucha as formative assessment in two undergraduate modules: (Re)conceptualizing ‘the right lines.’” Practitioner Research in Higher Education 10(1): 140-55.
Liao, Min-Ken, Greg Lewis, and Mike Winiski. 2020. “Do students learn better with Pecha Kucha, an alternative presentation format?” Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education 21(3):1-4.
Lucas, Kristen, and Jacob D. Rawlins. 2015. “PechaKucha presentations: Teaching storytelling, visual design, and conciseness.” Communication Teacher 29(2): 102-7.
Metcalf, Amy, Margaret V. Layton, and Trina L. Goslin. 2016. “Three ways to improve student presentations.” TESOL Journal 7(2): 421-28.
Polin, Beth. 2019. “The Leadership Exploration Project: Development and analysis of a leader definition and persuasive presentation.” Management Teaching Review 4(2): 119-137.
Waisanen, Don. 2018. “Using the Pecha Kucha speech to analyze and train humor skills.” Communication Teacher 32(2): 82-86.
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