“I thought you were going to talk about anatomy.”
About halfway into my 90-minute talk, a high school aged student raised her hand for the first time, and her comment was--well, not what I expected.
I had been invited to a give a talk for an after-school program, Stanford High School Science Circle, dedicated to expanding the breadth and exposure of science research to a diverse group of high school students in the Palo Alto area. Little did I know that: a) it was the first time this series of lectures had been offered, and b) the students’ expectations were quite different from mine.
I realized my rookie mistake: not setting clear objectives for the beginning of the lesson. After a little digging, I learned what I could have done better.
My biggest mistake was not clearly explaining the task and objectives that were set forth by the program when I was invited to speak. I had reviewed the material about this program on their website when planning my talk, but that day I discovered was that what's on the website isn't always what the audience expects.
In this case, parents who registered their children may have reviewed the program description, but they may not have relayed the program goals to their children. The students I saw that day clearly had a different opinion from mine of what "...broad exposure to exciting developments in various fields of science..." meant.
So here are four recommendations:
Here are the specific steps to follow in preparing the lecture:
Once I realized how disengaged my students were, I pulled out another powerpoint that I had given earlier that month, on neuroanatomy and other related physiology of stroke. Finally, a connection. I saw the students smiling and scribbling their notes down. So they got something out of the talk--even if it wasn’t what I had intended to talk about.
Have you ever had a talk derailed when the students’ expectations and your lesson objectives not aligned? How did you rescue that lesson from being an hour of wasted time for you and the students?