Third International Symposium on
Academic Writing and Critical Thinking
Communicative Efficacy and the Issue of “Self-performance”
in the Cross-disciplinary Research Presentations Classroom
It is common, accurate and serves a practical purpose to regard presentations as a kind of performance. Indeed, in teaching presentations we may highlight their performative nature in order to inspire dynamic and engaged delivery. This paper examines, however, how an overemphasis upon conventions of performance, particularly where it is aimed at projecting what is perceived as an “impression” deemed appropriate to a research discipline, may be responsible for some failures of communication in presentations. Cross-disciplinary courses in research presentation skills are shown to provide an especially fertile context for exploring, understanding and imparting awareness of this. Given the unique and considerable challenges posed by sharing research across disciplines, a cross-disciplinary research presentation course foregrounds the issue of communication efficacy to a quite extraordinary degree. For the author, this raises questions about the factors informing research presenters’ decisions in preparing and delivering their presentations. Based on experiences in classes, research on presentation skills, along with discussions of the contested notion of “performance,” it is argued that it may be helpful to students for teachers to articulate a practical distinction between the projection of one’s disciplinary identity as a research scholar and effective communication of research content to an audience. But how does one draw that practical distinction without immersing students in the semantic fluidity of the term “performance” or philosophical controversies surrounding the function of performance in social being? It is suggested that contained within the dense and abstruse pages of existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness there may be a useful analogue.
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