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English for Academic Purposes

As part of the Graduate Training Elements courses I am following at my University is a course called ‘English for Academic Purposes’. I have followed another course previously about ‘Advanced Analytical Techniques‘ about which I have blogged previously. The English course is mainly aimed at non-native speakers of English, although some Irish students are also joining in. Lectures started a number of weeks ago, and I have been finding them really informative (albeit a bit slow-paced some times). I really appreciate the lecturer’s flexibility in setting out the course, whereby she addresses the issues we are dealing with rather than following a set syllabus. The fact that there is no mark associated to the course, is likely a big contributing factor.

As part of the course, some of the students are presenting their work to the other members of the class. The main idea is to get more experience presenting. After the presentation, we ask questions about the project followed by comments about how the presentation went, and how to improve our presentation skills.

Today it was my turn to present. I was a bit worried about making my presentation accessible to everyone present. Although most of the students are in science/engineering/IT, there are a few from the arts and humanities (including the lecturer). As a basis for my presentation I used many slides from my meeting earlier on in the month. However I tried to adapt them to a less technical audience.

Overall, the feedback was quite constructive, as it usually is. I am glad to say that the consensus was that they could understand my project, even the people from other fields. Some of the things I need to improve are related to eye contact. I was told that although I make eye contact, I tend to keep making eye contact with only a few people over and over again, rather than to all the group. I guess that is true, since I tend to make eye contact with either people I know are most critical (generally at the beginning of my presentation) so that I know from their body language what they are thinking, and then if I feel as if they are not showing an interest and I start getting stressed I look for friendly people in the audience. It was also said that I should improve the quality of the equation I inputted (it is an image, so resolution is not that great) and to use the Equation Editor.

Another comment I do not know whether to take as positive or negative. One of the guys commented that I was animated during the presentation. I know I tend to move around and move my hands quite a lot (or alternatively play with my scarf) when presenting, and also tend to go to the screen and point towards things on the screen sometimes. So perhaps I do need to tone down on that. Though other people in the group said that that kept them interested.

Overall, there is room for improvement, but I am happy about the comments I got. I should be giving a similar version of the presentation in the coming months to students from my school as part of the postgraduate presentations that the Biological Research Society are organising. So hopefully it will be an improvement on my presentation today.

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