by Marie-Eve Monette, Department of Modern Languages and Classics

It is the beginning of class, and two students are getting ready to give their presentation. I know that they will probably talk for the 12-15 minute assigned time, some referring to their notes, others more at ease with speaking spontaneously. One slide after the other though, they will talk at the class, blurting out rehearsed information until the conclusion. All the while I think, there has to be a way to make this more engaging, and for all to participate more actively!

20 slides, 20 seconds per slideSince those first presentations I evaluated 7 years ago, I have searched for and experimented with different formats and requirements for the presentation component of my language and literature courses. That is why I jumped at the chance of attending Dr. Niles’ “Pecha Kucha: Multimedia Alternative to Term Papers for Digital Natives” presentation when I attended the Teaching Professor Technology Conference in Atlanta a few weeks ago.

During a Pecha Kucha presentation, the presenter creates a research narrative that offers an overview of his or her research project by

  • presenting 20 images in 6 minutes 40 seconds
  • setting the presentation software to change the image every 20 seconds
  • selecting images that reflect the main idea to be developed during each 20 seconds

This leads students to reflect on how to develop a research topic and synthesize the ideas that will support it. They also critically select images that reflect each idea. Additionally, Dr. Niles explained that the fast-paced mode of Pecha Kucha is ideal for the students in the audience, many of whom are digital natives who prefer to interact in real time and expect immediate and rapid access to information. Since she asks that the students in the audience evaluate the presenters’ performance, this presentation format also actively engages students by appealing to their capacity to rapidly draw knowledge from visual prompts.

While Dr. Niles uses Pecha Kucha in her undergraduate courses, I see enormous potential to apply this model to graduate courses. During her talk, I kept thinking that Pecha Kucha would be a great tool to teach research methodology to graduate students. Preparing a Pecha Kucha presentation would allow them to narrow their research focus, elaborate an initial outline for their final research paper, and synthesize the main arguments used to demonstrate their thesis. By presenting this project as a live research narrative, rather than a traditional 20-minute read presentation, they would have to engage much more with the material and rehearse before the presentation day. Finally, because the students in the audience would provide evaluations of their colleague’s presentation, the presenter would receive feedback to improve their research and arguments before writing his or her final research paper.

Dr. Niles’ Pecha Kucha presentation was inspiring, and I walked away from her talk with next semester’s graduate course assignments already planned. We’ll see how it goes? I will definitely keep you posted.


Marie-Eve Monette is an assistant professor of Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages and Classics.