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Making Peer Assessment work: Rubrics and Feedback Methods to Encourage Reflection

in Professional Development

As teachers, we don’t always have the time to go through everything that our students have produced – it’s also not always necessary. We want to get our students to the point where they can review their own work for strengths and weaknesses. So, how can we get there?

Three types of feedback

Feedback comes from one of the three Ps: professional, peer and personal. Professional feedback is from course tutors and anyone who could be considered the so-called expert. Students value this most because they feel that only the person who has been trained in this field has the knowledge and more crucially, the authority and expertise to review and comment on their work.

Peer feedback is difficult and often associated with negative feedback from fellow students. We need to encourage an atmosphere of collaborative learning and establish the goals of peer feedback. Just as professionals and experts have others review their work, our students can review each other’s work for strengths and weaknesses. When executed properly, peer feedback or assessment, can help students improve and recognise their own mistakes or weaknesses.

Reviewing one’s own work, giving personal feedback, is challenging for many students. Students are either too critical of their work or they see nothing wrong with what they have produced and are quite happy with their product.

Effective feedback

Giving effective feedback needs to be taught (and learnt). You cannot just have your students exchange essays and tell them to give their partner some feedback. They may not know what they should be looking for. Students may pick out unimportant aspects. They may also read the essay and summarise their feedback with a comment like, ‘That was nice.’ Or ‘I liked it’. Such statements don’t say very much about the work itself.

Here are some ideas on how to improve the quality of feedback from peer reviews and self-assessment.

Tip 1: Use rubrics to focus

Train students to give feedback and self-assess by providing guidelines on what to look out for. As with standardised exams, you can create rubrics which show students what they should be looking out for in a piece of work. Rubrics can be used for both spoken and written work and when designed well, should make the review process smoother. There are three types of rubrics.

Holistic rubrics can help evaluate the overall quality of a piece of work and can be used with any type of work a student has produced. Use it to assess role plays, podcasts, and even shorter pieces of writing. It’s not difficult to design, and easy to use. As a starting point, decide on how many levels of performance you want. Then write the descriptors for the best and worst level of performance. After that, write the descriptors for the levels in between.

Here’s an example rubric used to assess 10-minute videos created by students.

If such a rubric is a little too general for you, or if you think your students need more guidance on what to look out for, why not try an analytic rubric?

The advantage of this rubric is that it is strongly aligned to your learning objectives. The rubric focuses on different performance criteria and enables students to identify strengths and weaknesses in a piece of work. To create this type of rubric, decide what learning objectives should be demonstrated in the work, and then write your descriptors for the best and worst level of performance before writing the descriptors for the levels in between.

The following rubric assesses introductory paragraphs for an argumentative essay.

Another good rubric is one that focuses only on what students are expected to know and demonstrate in their work. Less time-consuming to create, you can use this rubric in self-assessment and also easily adopt it for peer review.

The following rubric was used to assess student podcasts. Three learning objectives were assessed here: the opening or introduction of the podcast, the content, and the delivery. The rubric identifies the minimum standard for each of these learning objects and reviewers would make their own observations in the columns on either side.

You can create your own rubric or use a ready-made one (just note that you might have to adapt the latter to suit your specific purpose). Here are some rubric banks for you to browse:

Tip 2: Personalize your feedback with the P-Q-P formula

Holistic and analytic rubrics don’t offer much room for personal comments. Use the P-Q-P formula with the rubric, or even on its own to encourage students to really think about what they’re reviewing. This formula works with both peer review and self-assessment.

P-Q-P stands for praise, question, and polish. Have students look at the piece of work and identify something that is worthy of praise, something that stands out or was done well. ‘Question’ requires the reviewer to pose a question (or more) about anything related to that piece of work. It could be content-related, language-related, or even process-related. In the last step, reviewers make suggestions on how the work can be improved., i.e. how to polish it up.

Tip 3: Feed forward and feed up

Have you ever noticed how feedback only looks back on a piece of work? Comments such as ‘You didn’t have a strong thesis statement’ or ‘The email had too many spelling errors’ tell our students what was wrong with their work. However, they do not necessarily tell them how to do better. While it can be argued that comments like the previous would imply that this is an area that needs work, the main message is still: ‘This is not good.’

Consider how you word your feedback and try to make your comments feed forward and feed up. When you feed forward, you’re telling your students what it takes to do better next time. Instead of ‘The email had too many spelling errors’, try ‘Check your work for spelling mistakes before submitting; there were quite a number of errors here.’

In feed up, make the link between what your students have produced, and why their real-world language needs to be clearer. With the example of the thesis statement, you could clarify your feedback as follows: ‘It’s important to know how to write a good, strong thesis statement because you’ll be doing a lot of that when you write term papers in graduate school.’


Feedback shouldn’t only come from you. While getting students to do peer-review and self-assessment may seem like something lazy teachers would do, the actual goal of this independence. Students need to be able to review their own work and those of their peers. When they leave your course, they won’t have you to give them feedback on their every move. And, move up and forward – feedback is important but so is feeding up and feeding forward!


If you find this article useful, you may also be interested in coaching principles for the ESL classroom.

Global Learning Exchange with Law Jaw – Using the Internet to Get Law Students Speaking Together

in Professional Development/Teaching

Breaking out of the online blues. Running an international exchange from your armchair… After 18 months of online teaching many students are jaded. Chances are you are too! Here’s one way to breathe life into your online classroom and remotivate you and your students.

I teach legal English at Potsdam University and for the past three semesters that’s meant teaching online, using Moodle and Zoom. Online teaching has its downsides: that’s undeniable. But it also opens up opportunities that you’ll never find in the normal classroom. I wanted to make the most of one such opportunity.

Essentially online meeting software, such as Zoom or Big Blue Button, allows far more participants to take part than the standard classroom. Also, these participants do not have to be in the same town or state or even country. With this in mind, I came up with the idea of Law Jaw.

What is a Law Jaw session?

A Law Jaw session brings together two classes of students from different countries to talk about law-related and non-law-related topics. Of course, the students needn’t be law students, but common interests help. So you could just as well run a Biology Jaw or Art History Jaw or Economics Jaw session (they just don’t rhyme!) Of course students should share a common language, in this case English.

Many of my students had been missing the chance to have conversations with new people in English due to restrictions on travel. The session gives students the chance to practise using English in an authentic situation in which they can also discuss topics related to their studies. More than this, students get to know and network with international counterparts in a low- pressure atmosphere and gain insights into one another’s legal systems and cultures.



Planning, planning, planning

The Zoom session is the focus of the exchange, but all really begins beforehand. In the week before, all students posted short profiles on a platform called Padlet. Padlet has the feel of a social media platform. It allows you to post and comment on other posts. However, the platform is self-contained and doesn’t require an account. By posting profiles and comments, students could understand more about their counterparts before the session began. The Padlet stayed online after the session so that students could continue communicating or swap contact details to stay in contact.

The core of the exchange takes place on Zoom. Students join pre-assigned breakout rooms in which they are given questions and topics to help them get to know their international counterparts and their legal systems. They take part in three twenty-minute-long discussions with different people and different sets of questions each time, separated by breaks of five-minutes.


Here’s an example of a set of questions for one of the three discussions.

1) First, introduce yourself to your partner (5 mins)

2) Answer the following question:
What differences are there in legal education between your countries? Find at least two. (5 mins)

3) Tell your partner about a topic from class or another law-related topic that you find really interesting. (10 mins)
Run out of things to talk about? Do you have any favourite TV or film actors? Which series or films do they appear in?


So far I’ve run two Law Jaw classes, one between San Andes University in Bogota and Potsdam University and another between Potsdam and Melbourne Law School.

Law Jaw Screenshot

Bogota- Potsdam- Melbourne

The Potsdam-Bogota Law Jaw, in which 70 students took part, ran (surprisingly) smoothly, in large part due to the planning that had taken place. My internet connection cut out just before the session was due to begin but I knew that Clayton, as a co-host, could take over and luckily I was able to rejoin after only a couple of minutes. The session did pick up some delays as it went on, but these could be compensated for by cutting into the five minute pauses between the discussions.

Clayton and I listened in on the conversations that took place and heard discussions of transgender rights in Colombia, the German constitution, the series House of Cards, learning online, Colombia as a fabulous holiday destination and the importance of positive female role models in the legal profession.

The session with Chantal’s group at Melbourne Law School was just as successful as the Bogota exchange although with a different dynamic. About 40 students took part and the breakout groups were smaller. The students came from a range of backgrounds, including Australia and South East Asia.

(Want to learn more about cross-cultural communication? Check out this article by Mandy Welfare! – Ed.)

Feedback and the future

The reactions from students in post-session questionnaires has been overwhelmingly positive with all saying that they’d willingly take part in another such session or recommend it to a friend. Informally, students were still telling me how much they’d enjoyed it weeks later.

One criticism was that the discussion sessions were too short, which in a way is a positive sign. Another criticism was that some groups were too large or there was a size imbalance between the two groups, which are areas of planning to be worked on.

I’m hoping to organise exchanges again with Melbourne and Bogota in the coming semester. An exchange with a university in Bhutan is also at an early planning stage. For the coming exchanges I’d like to help my students practise presentation skills and build their personal profiles before the sessions take place.

What’s in it for the teacher?

The positive feedback from students!

More than that, I found that the opportunity to collaborate with teachers you wouldn’t normally work with hugely rewarding. However, finding teachers willing to get involved was probably the most difficult part of the whole process. I took part in a big online meeting of legal skills teachers organised by the Legal Writing Institute, put myself out there, told other attendees about my idea and so met two law professors willing to give it a try.

It was through conversations with Clayton Steele from Brooklyn Law School and Chantal Morton from Melbourne Law School, that the Law Jaw developed from a basic idea into a session that can engage large groups of students from different backgrounds for ninety minutes.

Perhaps you have English teaching friends or former colleagues who work in other countries, professional organisations or institutional links that you can draw on?

But won’t somebody please think of the copyright?!

[I know what you’re thinking. “What a genius idea!  I can’t wait to steal it and hope I don’t get sued into oblivion!”. Well, dear readers, your noble editor has come to the rescue. Here is Tom’s response regarding copyright concerns:]

“I wouldn’t have any problem with other teachers using/ developing the idea. I’m sure I’m not the first to come up with such an idea to bring students together. Of course it’s nice when other teachers share their experiences of running sessions, but it’s not the end of the world if they don’t!
I only really gave the whole thing a name as a useful shorthand and a bit of fun.”

Interested and want to know more or have a similar idea and want someone to bounce it off?

Drop me an email: or
visit my website:

Teach the Rainbow II: Queering our ELT Materials and Practices so Everyone Belongs

in Professional Development

Teaching materials mostly focus on grammar and lexis – but often seem to fail to paint a realistic, inclusive picture of our social landscapes. Tyson Seburn explains why minority representation matters and demonstrates how teachers can bring diversity into their ELT classrooms.

I am staring at a blank page. I should be writing materials for B1 learners, but I’m still staring – I know the target language and I know the types of activities I’m expected to incorporate. Still, I have questions, ones that other writers and teachers may only briefly consider, if at all.

  • How will the content help all the learners feel they belong to this learning experience?
  • What will my choices of content convey about what and who is valued?

Answers to these two questions can significantly impact how learners feel about the materials and more importantly, about themselves.

Language learning is most effective when the language and activities are relevant to the learners using them. The narratives (i.e. texts, audio, visuals) in our materials are not only vehicles for modeling target language; they collectively paint a picture of what people are worthy of being included and which experiences are valued.

Choosing relevant content: situational relatability

Let’s use a snapshot of a lesson to demonstrate. Take a coursebook unit that focuses on polite requests. Throughout the unit, there are the usual four skills, grammar, and pronunciation activities. One unit situation included is applying for a mortgage, where that target language will be used.

We see a couple sitting at a desk, one holding a pen about to sign a document while the other looks on with anticipation. Across the desk is a person in a jacket, who most likely is the mortgage specialist. There is a short text at the top of the page setting the scene and an audio dialogue with gap-fill under the image.

One set of questions we may ask ourselves when looking at these pages is about situational relevance. What if our learners aren’t likely to apply for a mortgage? What if there’s a different process in our context for buying a house than the way it’s presented here?

It can be easy for our learners to disconnect from materials when they don’t see themselves in them.

Yes, the grammar, the lexical set, and the functional language is probably real, but for your learners, is this context and this use of the language irrelevant? Surely we would adapt or skip this part of the unit altogether.

Ultimately, it can be easy for our learners to disconnect from materials when they don’t see themselves in them. For these reasons, it is our responsibility to do our best to create and give access to learning materials that support our learners’ needs. However, this also includes narratives.

Narrative biases – who do you think does what?

Then, another set of considerations we should make concerns the narratives themselves, assuming the situation itself is not the problem. When you pictured the unit as you read about the bank loan for a mortgage situation above:

Who were the couple that came to mind?


  • do they look like?
  • are they wearing?
  • are their names?

What does the mortgage specialist look like?


  • bank are they at and what does it look like?
  • kind of information set the scene in the text?
  • did the couple and mortgage specialist say to each other in the dialogue, how do they sound?

Your answers to these questions can be interesting to think about.

Diverse representation in practice

Let’s examine a sample narrative for this unit, including a preview text, a visual, and dialogue.

TEXT – relevant vocabulary, target language

Somchai and Lucas are first-time homeowners, at least they want to be. They are applying for a mortgage. Today, they are at Deutsche Bank to discuss terms with a mortgage specialist, Emilia. If all goes well, they will probably sign the mortgage application.

Normalising diversity: a mortgage is a mortgage is a mortgage.


Somchai: Hi Emilia. We’ve looked over the application and we’d like to discuss the interest rate on the mortgage. Would it be possible to lower it in any way? 2,0% is a little high for us.

Emilia: OK, let me see what I can do. Ahh yes, the interest rate for a 10-year term is lower than 20 years. However, the shorter term disqualifies you from the first-time homeowner bonus. Do you think that this option might suit you better?

Lucas: I think we should weigh these options first. Do you mind if we talk privately for a few minutes?
Emilia: No, of course not. I’ll come back in 10 minutes.

Closing the circle of inclusion and belonging

When you compare the total sample narrative with the one you imagined at first, there are likely to be differences. It can be helpful to cycle back to the two questions we began with:

  • How will the content help all the learners feel they belong to this learning experience?
  • What will my choices of content convey about what and who is valued?

When we answer these questions, learner identities play an important role for relevance, just as much as the situation and language context do. If certain identities are represented as stereotypes or erased completely from the materials we use to practice language, how can learners feel connected to, invested in, or valued by them?

Two women drinking tea in bed
Another example of normalised, relatable diversity.

Stick it on your fridge: Inclusion 101

To promote inclusion and belonging in our practice, I have a few maxims on post-it notes near me:

  • Do the work. Before you try to improve anything, read stories by underrepresented individuals. Watch videos from minority voices. Listen to podcasts about race, queerness, and disability that centre these experiences.
  • Reality has variety. Let go of any preconceived notions of what X people are. One of the best ways to avoid reducing a group of people into one version is to increase the opportunity they appear in our materials. For instance, more than one LGBTQ narrative means we can showcase more individuality.
  • Nothing is always centred. Place focus away from a perceived default where possible. For example, English (and perceptions of culture) is centred in our lessons by default. It doesn’t need more help or power. Take the opportunity where natural to localise names, places, experiences, and even use L1.

For a more in-depth exploration of inclusive practice, see my new book, How to Write Inclusive Materials (2021).


Teach the Rainbow: LGBTeachers on the Importance of Queer Visibility in ELT

in Berlin/Professional Development

To celebrate Pride Month and the Berlin CSD/Pride Parade (which is today, by the way!), ELTABB has asked queer teachers in Berlin for their thoughts on LGBTQIA+ lessons and visibility in the ELT classroom. We hope that this article will open the door to more positive and effective discussions on the matter as well as cultivating more inclusive teaching. Plus, we want our queer members, peers, and colleagues to know that we see you and support you!


Name: N/A

Pronouns: she/her, they/them


How do you identify? Bisexual/pansexual/queer

What do you teach? Freelancer at secondary and higher institutions.


Are you publicly out at work?

Partially at one place but not officially at the others.

Do you teach LGBTQ+ lessons in the classroom? If yes, what have you taught? How did your students respond?

Not really. I have adapted a listening comprehension exercise from a report on singular “they” but that’s really about it.

Have you experienced homophobia/biphobia/transphobia in the classroom? How did you handle it?

I haven’t yet because I try to avoid even having a situation of homophobia, biphobia, or transphobia in the classroom because I have no training in handling these situations effectively. Also, since I’ve dealt with biphobia and bi-erasure in my personal life, I don’t want to put my LGBTQ+ students in any uncomfortable, invalidating, or even threatening situations.

What steps can teachers take to ensure safe queer visibility and representation in the classroom?

That’s a hard one because I have no idea myself. I did read one piece from Tyson Seburn on using LGBTQ+ issues as debate topics, and he claims that doing so could result in “the othering (and potential demonizing) of the LGBTQ+ individual.” After reading that, I have decided to not have students discuss or debate these issues but instead give them the chance to shed light on certain LGBTQ+ subjects by giving informative and factual presentations. So far no one has volunteered, unfortunately.

What problems should be addressed in regard to queer visibility and representation in the classroom?

Too many! For me, the first step is to ensure the acceptance, safety, and security of the queer educator (at least from higher-ups and colleagues). I’m sure there are peers, like me, who are afraid to fully come out because they aren’t sure how their institution, bosses, colleagues, or students may respond.

If queer educators feel safe then I feel that they can also ensure the acceptance, safety, and security of their queer students thus nurturing an inclusive yet educational environment. Moreover, general training on inclusive education is something I personally wish I had and feel that all teachers should have.

Name: Jean

Pronouns: she/her

How do you identify? Queer/lesbian

What do you teach? Mainly general English, occasionally Business. Beginners and upwards.

Are you publicly out at work?

Yes, if the occasion arises. However, in the classroom, this has rarely happened so far, so I prefer to be out by talking about my life and what’s important to me, e.g. going to CSD or other queer events and including people and events in my lessons that give LGBTQ+ people a presence, e.g. talking about Ireland’s openly gay PM,  Obama’s law on equal marriage, or the bathroom dilemma for trans people.

But I think my own sexual orientation is less important than what I do with my students. I think it’s OK to be seen as a heterosexual woman who includes LGBTQ+ stuff in her lessons. I think we all have a responsibility to do this regardless of how we identify – just as I think it’s vital to talk about racism as a white woman.

Do you teach LGBTQ+ lessons in the classroom? If yes, what have you taught? How did your students respond?

I have an article on “Pink Money,” i.e. the spending power of LGBTQ+ people, and our contribution to GDP, which I have used in lessons on the economy. I also have a very popular “Pub Quiz” lesson which includes questions like “Which European country has an openly gay Prime Minister?” or “When were the Stonewall riots?”

And I have a wonderful collection of postcards: some of scenes from Pride Marches or same-sex couples holding hands. I use these in many ways, e.g. to engender discussion or to teach a specific language structure (e.g. There is/are).

The overall reactions have been positive. I think that if you present these things with confidence then the straight students enjoy an opportunity to indulge their (secret?) interest and the queer students feel seen.

Have you experienced homophobia/biphobia/transphobia in the classroom? How did you handle it?

Not directly, but if any phobic comments are made in the classroom I try to address them on the spot or turn the issue into a lesson at a later date (e.g. bring an article about a person who has suffered homophobia and have a discussion about it).

What steps can teachers take to ensure safe queer visibility and representation in the classroom?

Present LGBTQ+ people as a part of the landscape as often as possible. Let’s ALL be brave every now and then: perhaps during Pride Month or when something important happens in the world – include it in a lesson!

Furthermore, course books are notoriously LGBTQ+ -blind. How about sending an occasional email to a publisher to demand more inclusion?

Name: N/A

Pronouns: he/him

How do you identify? Bisexual/polysexual

What do you teach? Higher education.

Are you publicly out at work?


Do you teach LGBTQ+ lessons in the classroom? If yes, what have you taught? How did your students respond?

Yes, in thematic courses. Not negatively; however, many had little idea about LGBT+ culture.

Have you experienced homophobia/biphobia/transphobia in the classroom? How did you handle it?

Some bisexual erasure/biphobia. I told students about how I personally felt as a bisexual.

What steps can teachers take to ensure safe queer visibility and representation in the classroom?

Be open about their own sexual orientation if possible,  plus support LGBT+ students in coming out/being out.

Name: Justin

Pronouns: he/him

How do you identify? Gay

What do you teach? Everything.

Are you publicly out at work?

I’m out in the sense that I don’t hide it.

Do you teach LGBTQ+ lessons in the classroom? If yes, what have you taught? How did your students respond?

In Business English the only time that it has been a dedicated part of the lesson is when we talk about diversity and inclusion. The learners tend to be interested since they know I’m out, and I treat the topic in a professional way. I also get the impression that there’s value-added.

I’ve never had any negative experiences with that topic in the classroom (to my face).

Have you experienced homophobia/biphobia/transphobia in the classroom? How did you handle it?

In my role as a language school owner, we received vague negative feedback about a trainer, which we *suspected* may have been due to sexual orientation but it couldn’t be proved. This unfortunately forced us to replace that trainer with another one and the topic was unable to be directly dealt with (due to the vagueness of the request).

What steps can teachers take to ensure safe queer visibility and representation in the classroom?

It is important that, from the start, all trainers (no matter the orientation) state their pronouns as well as ask the learners for theirs. This sets the tone that you want to be inclusive and respectful. It might spark a conversation and it may be uncomfortable, but we all have to grow in certain ways. It is also a good linguistic link as well as a teaching and learning opportunity.

This article ran previously (however, the message is still fully up-to-date).

Here are some ideas for making your lessons more inclusive:

MaWSIG Panel webinar: Making materials that reflect the realities of marginalised groups

Boost your Online Teaching with Brain-Friendly Slides – Here’s How

in Professional Development/Teaching

When teaching online, you probably use slides to some extent. Making slides is easy — just add a text box and an image, right? In his May workshop, Ákos Gerold shared what makes slides brain-friendly – and it’s different from what you see most people do.

Imagine you are giving a presentation. You show a slide with five bullet points, each followed by a short sentence, and discuss the topics listed. But, to see if your audience is paying attention, you sneak in a completely unrelated sentence.

When you check if anyone registered the odd sentence, most of your listeners won’t believe you said something offbeat. So you play back the audio that you secretly recorded, and their jaws drop. They realize that not only did they miss the unrelated sentence but probably most of what you said.

I do the above each time I teach presenting slides in a brain-friendly way – it helps demonstrate what is wrong with the typical use of slides in every industry, including education.

Multi-tasking is a myth

Neuroscientists have proven that the brain cannot pay attention to more than one source of information at the same time. When we show slides while we speak, the visual almost always wins over the auditory.

The result is that our audiences and students are unable to hear most of what we are saying while absorbing visual input.

Switching is detrimental to learning.

When they finish reading, they will shift their attention back to us. But the next slide will hijack it again.
Such switching is detrimental to learning.

So what can we do about it?

Make it as easy as one, two, three…

Whenever possible, reduce the amount of visual input in each slide to what can be absorbed in two to three seconds.

This roughly translates to an image and up to three words. Make sure you use the exact words from the slide and synchronise what you say with when those words appear on the screen. Such little and synched visual information will not distract your learners’ attention from your verbal message but support it.

How can you know what words are on the next slide and how can you synchronise perfectly? Using presenter mode in PowerPoint or Keynote allows you to see the current and next slide along with your notes. When sharing your screen in Zoom or Teams, only share the part of the screen with the current slide.

The green frame shows what part of the screen is shared in Zoom.

Keep it short and sweet

Say goodbye to bullet points and full sentences. Making them appear all at once will introduce visual stimuli that take longer to absorb than two to three seconds.

Instead, break down bullet point lists into separate slides for each point, reduce the text to its essence and synchronise when delivering.

If it is important to explain the link between the bullet pointed pieces of information, e.g. because they are part of a system, then keep them on the same slide. Just make them appear one by one as you introduce them and grey out the ones you are currently not talking about. Again, the text on each slide should be shortened to its essence.

Tips for longer texts

When you need to show visual information that exceeds what can be absorbed in two to three seconds, e.g. longer text, follow a three step procedure.

1. Before you click to the detail-heavy slide, say:
a) what you are going to show
b) how long the students will have to read it, and
c) what you will do afterwards.

Example:  “Now, I will show you a short text about X, I will give you a minute to read it and then we will focus on some of the sentences which demonstrate a grammatical point we will deal with today.”

2. Stop speaking – they will be unable to hear what you are saying while reading anyway – and show them the slide.

3. After the announced time is up, briefly repeat what you will do next and then do it.
Example: “Let’s look at some of the sentences which show us how  [grammatical structure] is used.”

Then click to the next slide, where everything but the sentence(s) which you wish to analyse is greyed out.

More brain-friendly slide design tips

Add a related image whenever you can. — Tested 72 hours after exposure, the retention of the content of a presentation that used only text in the slides is 10%. This number climbs to 65% if the slides include black and white images and up to 85% in the case of colour pictures.

Do colours matter? — Due to its resemblance to a large, shiny object, a light background attracts more attention to the slide than to the speaker. Respectively, the opposite colour combination gives the latter more prominence. Thus, a dark background with light letters is often better.

To screen share, or not to screen share, that is the question. — You may often start sharing your slides at one point during class and then keep sharing till the end, relegating yourself to a small screen in the corner. But humans connect with other humans, not slides. Therefore, whenever possible, exit screen sharing to facilitate connecting with your students.

As you can see, most widespread slide practices are unfortunately not aligned with how the brain works. This is because they are based on what we see in printed media. But magazines, newspapers and books are very different from presentations and online teaching.


To find out more about what makes presentations brain-friendly, check out my website, YouTube channel or LinkedIn page.

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