We, the CEL Student Scholars, were given the opportunity to present at the Conference for Engaged Learning’s Ignite session. An Ignite Presentation is intended to initiate conversation following a brief introduction on a topic. With Ignite’s slogan being “enlighten us, but make it quick,” we had to adopt a new style of thinking to efficiently discuss our experiences from the 2021 CEL Seminar on Re-Examining Conditions for Meaningful Learning Experiences, which took place a few weeks prior.

An Ignite presentation consists of 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds, totaling to a five-minute presentation. This event was our collective first experience with this structure of presentation, which led to challenges alongside a great learning opportunity. Some obstacles included getting all of the information we wanted into the presentation and condensing a broad topic into overarching points. We struggled to find a balance between feeling prepared and presenting as too rehearsed. However, this experience taught us to trust our ability to extrapolate the most salient information from our bodies of research, which further bolstered our confidence among our new colleagues.

Christina had the unique experience of attending the conference online. Nothing quite prepares you to present virtually in front of college professors, administrators, and staff of varying backgrounds from across the world. Although Christina had conducted research in economics prior to joining the CEL Scholar team, she never considered the difficulty that comes with presenting your work at high speeds to maintain a conference schedule. She felt as if she stumbled in comparison to the professors who preceded her presentation and was nervous that she had only furthered the power differential between herself and the other conference attendees, but that was not the case at all. When she entered her first breakout session post-presentation, the professors welcomed her opinions with open arms and prompted her with scenarios to help determine how they could better their understanding of her subject matter. Although difficult at times due to the combination of imposter syndrome and her general newness to the subject matter, she learned and grew in more ways than she could have ever conceived through presenting and facilitating meaningful discussions on her work. Christina now can think about feedback, her area of study, with a touch more nuance given the sheer amount of insight that the professors provided her. Additionally, she has been prompted with realistic and important questions to further propel her work with feedback, which is invaluable given the importance of partnership in the pursuit of CEL’s work.

Sophie and Ellery had a more typical conference experience, presenting live to conference participants. After completing their presentations, they enjoyed discourse with the participants both in the room and online. Participants asked questions, and although Sophie and Ellery had to answer on the spot, they felt that everyone was truly listening and cared about what was being said. This helped them to feel more comfortable, showing them a new level of respect that is sometimes absent from more traditional classroom settings where student voices are not always heard. Sophie and Ellery also enjoyed relating their presentations to the other sessions they heard and learning how so many different topics can relate to each other.

As we collectively began our endeavor learning beyond the classroom, we all felt as though we were taking a huge step not only forward, but also outside of our comfort zones. However, we’d like to argue that learning only begins once we are pushed into our stretch zone. Therefore, we were extremely grateful for this opportunity to present somewhere that was not a classroom. The roles felt reversed, as we were given the mic and asked to share our knowledge and experiences to a group of highly regarded academics, rather than being the ones listening to a lecture from a professor. While this felt intimidating at times, it was also a moment that seemed to represent the real world well. Oftentimes traditional learning is perceived as something limited to a classroom with four walls and is one sided, geared towards the student. However, learning is ongoing, experienced in all settings, and is for everyone (including faculty and staff). Following our Ignite presentations, a positive environment was established where we felt heard and encouraged to continue conversation surrounding our presentation topic. In contrast to classroom experiences where we learned information, took a test, and moved on, presenting at the conference made us feel respected and inspired to continue our research.

We loved the opportunity to present at a conference for the first time, as it provided us with a tremendous growth experience. Throughout the 2021 Conference for Engaged Learning, we participated in global scholars’ sessions; in our next article, look forward to reading about our experience attending these presentations.

Sophie Miller is the 2021-2024 CEL Student Scholar. Ellery Ewell and Christina Wyatt are 2021-2023 CEL Student Scholars. All three are collaborating with participants in the 2020-2023 research seminar on (Re)Examining Conditions for Meaningful Learning Experiences. Learn more about the current student scholars.

How to cite this post

Wyatt, Christina, Sophie Miller, and Ellery Ewell. 2021, October 19. “Through the Eyes of a Student: A Restructured Approach to Igniting Conversation” [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/through-the-eyes-of-a-student-a-restructured-approach-to-igniting-conversation.