by Professor Michael Bromby, Truman Bodden Law School of the Cayman Islands
This blog post is based on a presentation given to the CUHK Directions in Legal Education Conference in June 2020. It described how the fast-paced Pecha Kucha format was adapted to a one-to-one speed networking format where students gave the same presentation on three separate occasions to three other students. During the Covid-19 unexpected and necessary move to online learning, this format was particularly useful as a revision exercise to consolidate and review lecture content that was not necessarily delivered in a traditional face-to-face lecture.
This adaptation was applied to an undergraduate LLB course in English Law, delivered to students in the Cayman Islands as validated by the University of Liverpool in the UK. The module was a final year elective in Employment Law, assessed by an unseen exam. During the second semester, teaching was interrupted in week 7 of a 12 week teaching period and moved to an online distance-delivery mode.
Encouraging students to become the researchers, authors and producers of content that had a rigid and formal structure, resulted in bite-sized student generated content. Sharing this content in a synchronous format gave participants a sense of connection and cohesion when students may otherwise have felt distant and isolated from the module and their peers. Furthermore, the process was energized with an element of fun through competitions for the best image, funniest slide and best presentation to foster a sense of informality and community spirit which had been lost in the sudden move to distance learning.
Compiling a bibliography of the educational use of Pecha Kucha indicated that this format was most frequently reported in medical and language instruction. It has also been used, for example, in a course on Tax Policy. Not only are transferable skills engaged in this manner of presentation, but discipline specific knowledge and skills were enhanced as well as promoting self-directed learning. The novel combination with speed-networking in this paper serves to combat some of the negative aspects reported in the literature by allowing repeated performance to a much smaller audience to hone presentation skills.
[Figure 1- available via license: CC BY]
Dale’s Cone of Experience indicates that two weeks after a lecture, students typically remember only 20% of what they hear. Whilst criticisms surround the empirical evidence to support the overlaying of retention rates in the Learning Pyramid, the general principle is that experiential or active learning can be more effective than passive approaches to learning.
The long practised teaching methods of delivering a lecture and providing directed reading may result in lower student retention rates, if not supported by further learning activities. Hence, the theme of students as producers has attempted to engage students in some of the more rewarding teaching methods that result in higher retention rates. Notably, the active elements of ‘doing’ and ‘teaching‘ are the effective methods, hence the rise of law clinics, student law reviews and a range of learning by doing activities where students produce content or services that are aimed at the external public or at their own internal peers.
This method of combining Pecha Kucha with Speed Networking aims to harness all layers of the learning pyramid, sequentially, as students use the lecture content and reading materials to generate an audiovisual narrative and presentation that is then delivered, or demonstrated in a sense, to a fellow student who may then generate discussion that informs a second and third iteration of the presentation to different students so that there is repeated practice and this results in a teaching or revision process using student-generated content.
Pecha Kucha Format
For those who are not familiar, Pecha Kucha is a fast-paced presentation style that employs a fixed amount of 20 PowerPoint slides that are displayed for only 20 seconds each. Originating in the Japanese architecture industry as an image-based alternative to text-based presentations, this format has become popular with other industries and as a form of entertainment in dedicated Pecha Kucha Nights.
It has spread to academic conferences as it is not dissimilar to the short and inspirational TED Talks that may convey the motivational narrative of a keynote speaker. Similarily short 5 minute Ignite or Lightning Talks involve an overall time restriction, but with more flexibility within the presentation for the speaker to change their slide transition pace through the slides in comparison to the rather rigid Pecha Kucha format.
[Figure 2 - Free for personal and commercial purpose with attribution]
Indeed, the use of only 20 slides is restrictive in terms of the overal volume of visual content that can be shown. Furthermore each slide should have only a single image that has some relevance to the accompanying narrative, which is even more restrictive or rigid in format. This does have the effect of moving away from ‘death by PowerPoint’ or overreliance on reading text-based content from the screen. Instead, interesting, eye-catching graphics are encouraged which can facilitate memory recall and a different type of visually stimulised learning.
More frequently reported in business, medical, nursing and English language teaching literature, positive findings for the use of Pecha Kucha in higher education have ranged from an increase in students’ speaking skills, improved self confidence and time management and higher individual and group assessment marks in comparison to a more traditional presentation format. Negative reporting has included an increase in anxiety from the rigidity of the format and that the time limitation had a negative impact on communication effectiveness.
In an attempt to reduce the reported negative aspects, the individualised one-to-one presentation method was used in this case study along with repeat presentations in a speed-dating or speed-networking format to develop a more effective model.
Speed Networking Format
The benefits to demonstrating, discussing and practicing arise from more effective learning experiences found in the cone of experience or learning pyramid, above. Whilst the ultimate purpose of the Pecha Kucha presentations was as a revision exercise, there were many transferable skills and additional benefits to be gained through the speed networking format.
[Figure 3 - Blogger/Google terms of service allow attribution]
Firstly, this design allowed students to be more comfortable in a smaller setting in order to counter some of the reported negative findings from the literature. Arguably, there may still be apprehension, nervousness or anxiety about giving a presentation to a smaller audience which should, perhaps, not be designed out as there ought to be some inherent intepidation with the development of oral presentation skills.
Secondly, the model can be scaled to work with a range of participants. The diagram above shows eight presenters and eight listeners, but this can be modified, or large classes can be split into a number of circles such as that shown. Topics must be allocated carefully to avoid overlap or repetition between adjacent presenters and also avoiding the listener hearing a topic they have prepared themselves.
Running three iterative Pecha Kucha presentations appeared to be the most effective mechanism to encourage small tweaks and development by the presenter. Time between each iteration allowed for brief discussion between the presenter and listener to reflect on how effective the session was and ask further questions. In this format, each student would therefore present on one topic and listen to three further topics thereby covering a significant portion of the syllabus.
The remainder of the syllabus could then be covered asynchronously by students if the presentations were recorded and made available subsequently. Alternatively, listeners could be grouped into a small audience of two or three per presenter, which would further maximise exposure without needing to increase repetitions by the presenter.
The benefit to moving this particular case study to an online environment during the Covid-19 outbreak, was previous experience of running these Pecha Kucha revision sessions in the classroom. There is a significant amount of preparation required to distribute the topics efficiently and coordinate the speed networking timings.
In preparation for the move to online and distance learning, the principles outlined in Salmon’s 5-stage model for e-tivities were used to ensure that there was sufficient technical and academic support at each stage of prepration for the online sessions. See this link for more details on the 5-stage model: https://www.gillysalmon.com/e-moderating.html
Each step need not take considerable time or resources, but each step must be completed in order to build up or scaffold the activity so that students may complete it effectively and gain the maximum learning from the activity. The first steps are rather generic to any activity but the latter stages must be tailored to the particularities of the Pecha Kucha task.
Providing an example, which in this particular case study was a Powerpoint template for Pecha Kucha with timed transitions and empty slides accompanied by a complete Pecha Kucha with notes for each slide and the topic of the presentation was ‘about creating a good Pecha Kucha’ as an example.
Results and Conclusions
Student feedback on the use of Pecha Kucha was overall positive in nature, with no negative experiences reported. Whilst the student cohort size was small the module feedback included the following comments:
“This PK session allowed me to glean a better understanding of [the topic] in a very short session; the slides also help to impact my memory of the information as well (aide memoire)”
“As a presenter, this is good practice, the power of vision and brevity. As a participant, lots of good info, condensed”
“Session was really good and helpful for preparing for exams. Allows you to condense information and present to others to improve form and content.”
“I found the exercise to be useful. It allowed for a real test of knowledge, understanding and application of the law and its purpose. Good preparation for exams!”
When comparing the final exam results with a previous year without Pecha Kucha revision sessions (when revision sessons would be formatted as Q&A or instructor led) there was a general trend of better performance in the exam when the Pecha Kucha sessions were used. However, the numbers are relatively small (6 in the year using Pecha Kucha and 8 in the year not using this method) and so statistically significant comparisons are difficult to draw.
The general trend was an increase in first class graded exam papers for half of the class and no third class gradings. The number of lower-second grades were also reduced. Such a trend may well be attributable to better performing students when year groups are compared, so the results of the module were compared to other modules taken by the same students in that same year where Pecha Kucha was not used.
All students performed above their average calculated final degree classification, with the exception of number 3 who was only two percentile points below. Generally, all students performed better in the module using Pecha Kucha than in others, with the exception again of student number 3, and number 5 who was very close. Part time students who did not take four modules in their final year are noted as n/a.
References and Further Reading
Angelina, P (2019) Improving Indonesian EFL students’ speaking skill through Pecha Kucha, LLT Journal: A Journal on Language and Language Teaching, Vol. 22, No. 1, 86-97
doi.org/10.24071/llt.2019.220109 Retrieved July 11, 2020.
Lehtonen, M (2011) Communicating Competence Through Pechakucha Presentations, Journal of Business Communication, 48 (4), 464–481. https://doi.org/10.1177/0021943611414542
Morrow, M (2018) The art of PechaKucha: From the classroom to the boardroom, The Tax Adviser, vol. 49, no. 8, pp. 538-541. https://www.thetaxadviser.com/issues/2018/aug/pechakucha-classroom-boardroom.html
Oliver, J & Kowalczyk, C (2013) Improving Student Group Marketing Presentations: A Modified Pecha Kucha Approach, Marketing Education Review, 23:1, 55-58 https://doi.org/10.2753/MER1052-8008230109
Salmon, G (2013) E-tivities, 2nd Ed Routledge. See also: https://www.gillysalmon.com/e-moderating.html Retrieved July 11, 2020.Solmaz, O (2019) Developing EFL Learners’ Speaking and Oral Presentation Skills through Pecha Kucha Presentation Technique, Turkish Online Journal of Qualitative Inquiry 10(4) 542 https://doi.org/10.17569/tojqi.592046
Subramony, D., Molenda, M., Betrus, A., & Thalheimer, W. (2014). The Mythical Retention Chart and the Corruption of Dale's Cone of Experience. Educational Technology, 54(6), 6-16. Retrieved July 8, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/44430317
Grimes, R., (2000). Learning law by doing law in the UK. International Journal of Clinical Legal Education, 1, pp.54-57. http://dx.doi.org/10.19164/ijcle.v1i0.130 . Retrieved July 11, 2020.
Activities by Jill (2018) Speed Dating Activity for the Secondary Classroom http://interactiveideasandinspiration.blogspot.com/2018/03/speed-dating-activity-for-secondary.html Retrieved July 11, 2020.
Experience Design, Virtual Reality and Media Hybridization for the Digital Communication Inside Museums - Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Edgar-Dales-Cone-of-Experience-shows-that-after-two-weeks-we-mainly-remember-information_fig1_336935595
Heine Ventures (2015) Average student retention rates by activity type. Data used from the National Teaching Laboratories http://heineventures.com/user-interface-design-tips/the-learning-pyramid-2/