DOLCE Recap: Assertion-Evidence Approach to PowerPoint

Several Academic Technology Services staff attended the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) conference last weekend in Seattle. Dr. Andy Jones and Dan Comins both shared some of what they learned from the conference at last Friday’s DOLCE meeting.

Simon Dvoark also announced that ATS will be offering a new service – WordPress sites for faculty. He is currently piloting the service and is looking for 4-6 faculty members to participate. If you’re interested, fill out the “Contact Us” form on the .

Below, you’ll find my summary of Andy Jones’s presentation.

Jones presented what he learned from Kathryn Cunningham (University of Kentucky) and Melissa Marshall (Penn State)’s presentation, “Rethinking the Design of Presentation Slides: The Assertion-Evidence Structure.” He explained that one of the problems with PowerPoint is that the standard template created decades ago for business presentations encourages us to use a title and bullet points, and this has led many faculty to project their lectures notes.

As cognitive psychologists have determined, when you’re reading, it’s hard to listen to someone talking, and visa versa. However, there’s a part of your brain that doesn’t focus on language – the visual part. Thus, the recommendation is to put an assertion instead of a title on the PowerPoint slide, and an image instead of bullet points.

Including an assertion rather than a noun or a question orients the students to the primary point you are discussing at this particular moment in your lecture. The assertion functions like a topic sentence in a paragraph,” said Jones, and has the added benefit of helping your students refocus should they zone out.

Then, Jones continued, by including “a highly relevant image, you can speak eloquently on whatever it is meant to represent because you well understand whatever concept you are trying to communicate.” Your verbal explanation and the image work together as evidence that support the assertion.

If your discipline does not readily lend itself to images, consider presenting the information in a way that visually demonstrates the relationship between the facts you would have listed in bullets.

Several meeting attendees bought up Prezi, which capitalizes on demonstrating the relationship between concepts, and this is a perfectly reasonable alternative to PowerPoint. The real message of the meeting was that you have work with the technology you are using and not feel confined to templates.

The issue of note-taking was also raised; most faculty felt that some students focus too much on transcribing the lecture and not enough on what the faculty member is saying. Their solution was to provide students with PowerPoint slides so students do not stress about taking notes in class. When using the assertion-evidence approach to PowerPoint, Jones suggested you create a handout that has the image from the PowerPoint in one column and an explanatory paragraph (with links to additional resources) in another column. That way, students have information that complements the lecture rather than duplicates it.

For more information, view “Rethinking the Design of Presentation Slides: The Assertion-Evidence Structure.”

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