Teacher Roadmaps - Making Presentations

Pulling it Together to Make Meaning and Get Feedback

Final presentations are valuable opportunities for students to pull together their understandings as they document their investigations for others. If your students will complete a full inquiry cycle and do final presentations in class, make time for them to get feedback before and after the final presentations.

  • Share and discuss your student teams findings in class.
  • Bring your scientist mentors into this conversation as well.

To prepare your students for final presentations within a science community, give them a glimpse into the role of presentations in scientists’ work-a-day lives and where they see science presented around them in their own lives. Preparing oral presentations, posters, and papers helps scientists pull data together and make sense of the findings. Conversations with others help place a specific study in a broader context.

Science Presentations Are Almost Second Nature to Scientists

Formally and informally, scientists describe their studies, argue their ideas, and get feedback from different audiences: colleagues in their own research group; other scientists in their institution; collaborators and competitors from across the world.

Scientists and students in their research group usually meet weekly to talk about how everybody’s projects are going. When enough data have been collected to evaluate the evidence, a researcher usually begins to share the findings at their lab meetings. These informal presentations are friendly places to answer questions from peers and refine interpretations. They also serve as practice for later formal presentations to larger audiences.

Encourage your students to view themselves as a member of:

  • a research team with their peers
  • a research group with you and other students in your class
  • a research group with their online scientist mentor
  • the broad community of researchers and citizens

Science is presented around us every day

Scientists write blogs, make videos, take part in radio and TV interviews, and many other creative activities to share their science. Science writers prepare news stories. Artists sometimes create plays about major scientific events. Organizations and agencies produce public service announcements, brochures, billboards, etc.

Presentation Types and Hints for Orchestrating Class Activities

Are you looking to enhance your students written and/or communication skills during this learning sequence?

The answer to that question will influence whether you have your students make Oral Presentations, Research Papers, and Posters as their final presentations. See the Student Making Presentations resource for general tips for these presentation types.

There are, of course, other valuable ways besides these formal presentation types for students to share the meaning of their research projects. Students could create songs or videos or dances. Scientist mentors will be less familiar with providing feedback on these formats.

Whatever your presentation type of choice, show students examples of the kind of presentation you expect them to produce. Examples of scientists’ work also shows the real-world connection of the activity. Local scientists might have posters that you can bring to class or hang in your hallway, or the scientist mentors working with your teams may have a .pdf copy they can post.

Holding a research symposium as the capstone experience can be a powerful closing to the investigation.

  • Hang student posters in your school hallways.
  • Showcase your students’ work to the entire school and beyond.
  • Share your presentation rubric with both your students and their mentors.

Tips for Students Making Science Presentations

Presenting science is partly about knowing clearly what your research means and crafting the message in a way your audience can easily understand. It is where research skills and communication skills come together for maximum effect.

No matter what type of presentation you assign for your class, here are a few tips for your students:

  • Use a story board or whiteboard to map out your general ideas.
  • As you plan your presentation, complete the figures and tables first. This can help you evaluate the evidence and see gaps.
  • Put your research in context. What is already known and in the published literature? What is your approach to answering the research question and why you are asking it?
  • Make your presentation understandable to a wide audience, experts and others not familiar to the research field.
  • Go beyond re-stating your results. Think through what the findings mean.
  • Consider how your results relate to others. How do your data compare to teams doing similar research? What could explain any similarities or differences in the results?
  • Justify your conclusion using evidence from your study. Are your conclusions are consistent with data from your study?
  • Are there alternative explanations that should be considered?
  • Suggest what next research would be worth doing based on your findings.
  • Put your research in a big-picture perspective. Scientists often call this the “So-What?” question. It can be a challenge to describe why someone other than you should care about your research. Who can use your findings and how?

Prepare your students for feedback — from their peers, from you, and from their mentors. Have students give feedback on presentations, posters, or lab reports by other students. You can have students give feedback to other classes at your school or other schools. Students will need guidance as they learn to offer constructive criticism to each other and as they respond to feedback from others. Victor Sampson and colleagues' article on argument-driven inquiry includes a peer-review sheet for students to use in evaluating each other’s lab reports.

Here are some of the things scientists look for when they review each other’s research:

  • Does the research project address an important and interesting question?
  • Is the study based on solid background research and theory?
  • Is there clear thinking and creativity in how the problem is addressed?
  • Were appropriate variables investigated to answer the question?
  • Were enough data collected and measured accurately to answer the question?
  • Is the evidence compelling?
  • Are alternative explanations considered? Are limitations discussed?
  • Can the findings be broadly applied beyond the study?


See also the Presentation Resources for Students and Mentors.

Student Science Presentation Resources and References

Low-Grade Science: Primary School Students Conduct and Publish a Study on Bees This article describes the Blackawton bees study conducted by elementary students from the United Kingdom and published in the scientific journal Biology Letters.

Journal of Emerging Investigators This is a scientific journal for middle and high school scientists.

The Archimedes Initiative This site is a free video archive showcasing students at county and state science fairs and the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Exemplars Science Rubric This rubric for middle school science projects include criteria for use of scientific tools, science reasoning and strategies, science concepts and use of data and communication.

Story-Boarding Science This post by a horticulture scientist in a professional online community of life scientists describes how their lab group used story-boarding to visualize a research project to prepare it for publication.

Blackawton, P.S, et. al., 2010. Blackawton bees. Biology Letters. 7(2): 168-172.

Seeman, J.I., and T. Lawrence. 2011. Students Inspiring Students: An Online tool for Science Fair Participants. The Science Teacher 78(8): 39-43.

Sampson, V. J. Grooms, and J. Walker. 2009. Argument-Driven Inquiry: A way to promote learning during laboratory activities. The Science Teacher 76(8): 42-47.


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NSF_Logo.jpg This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant #2010556 and #1502892. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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