Good Practice in Using PowerPoint for Teaching

Author: Melissa Highton

Why use presentations?

Preparing a presentation helps you to provide structure and maintain flow.
You can:
Emphasise key points.
Focus attention.
Aid understanding using charts and diagrams.
Integrate multimedia and web access.

Why use PowerPoint?

Fit for purpose.
Widely available.
Flexible production of handouts, OHPs , onscreen shows.
Bringing together a range of media.
The process of structuring the presentation clarifies the content.

Enhancing teaching and learning

Good practice with presentation software in learning and teaching depends on using it to
substantially change the student experience and to change what students do with that

If students can read and take notes better, course outcomes can be improved.
Presentation software can sometimes help the instructor present an idea in a qualitatively different way.
Improve learning outcomes by offering materials or ideas that the student would not otherwise see.
Use slides as a resource for use outside the classroom can facilitate reuse and changed use of contact time.

Breaking out of linear presentations

Most presentations are a pre-planned linear arrangement of ideas.
If the teacher allows the slideshow to dictate the order and pace of ideas is learning the loser?
More slides mean more ideas can be covered, but can students can keep up?
There is a comfort in reading out bullet points, but don’t let it become crutch.

Presentations don’t have to be linear – use the‘action buttons’ and hyperlinks to allow you to jump to different topics in your presentation.
Be prepared to start and stop and move around your presentation.

There are some keystroke shortcuts you can use while you are presenting

Next slide =N, Enter, Spacebar
Previous slide = P, Backspace
Go to slide "number“="number"+Enter
Black screen = B
White screen = W
Change pointer to a pen =CTRL+P
Change pen back to arrow = CTRL+A
Erase onscreen annotation = E
End slide show =ESC
Display this list during a show = F1

Making accessible presentations

Accessible presentations are designed with the viewer in mind.
Using PowerPoint allows you to change your fonts, colours, backgrounds and sizes easily across your entire presentation, for different audiences.
The different printing options and the ability to send the file in electronic format allow you to respond to individual students’ needs.

It is wise to pay some thought to the distance students may be from the projector, i.e. they may be sitting at the back of a large lecture theatre.  
All students may have difficulty reading vast amounts of text on the screen
Use a font size of at least 24 pt.
Make sure all handouts are in font 12 – preferably 14 and above.
Text colours
Be aware of background/foreground combinations, as some are very difficult to distinguish for those with visual impairments.
Do not use colour to convey meaning as some students may have visual difficulties e.g. colour blindness for red and green.
Use high-contrast colours
mid-tones do not show up well
avoid bright red as it shimmers

Be aware of background/foreground combinations, as some are very difficult to distinguish for those with visual impairments.
A dark background and light text is best for dark rooms.
A light background and dark text is best for light rooms.
Keep the same background colour throughout the presentation.
Avoid patterned backgrounds behind text.

Use bold to highlight rather than Italics or underlining (as this can make the words 'run together').
Be aware of type of font used - 'sans serif' fonts such as Arial or Comic Sans are easier to read for many people.
Blocks of upper case tend to be harder to read compared to lower or mixed case. It is recommended that you use mixed case.

Use slide layout tools wherever possible
Do not put too much information on each overhead - 6 bullet points are optimal.
Use bullets or numbers rather than continuous prose.
Keep lines left justified with ragged right edge.
Use wider spacing between sentences and paragraphs.
Allow only one subject matter per slide.

If you put too much text on one slide your audience simply will not be able to read it or take it in, however important the information is. If you were hoping they might copy it down the chances are they won’t be able to. It would be much better to give any large blocks of text on a handout and keep your slides to bullet points or simple sentences to ensure that your audience get the most from your presentation. Even though you might feel that you have a lot of information to get across, be careful not to overload your audience. Many PowerPoint guides suggest that a good limit to stick to is about 40 words per slide.

Diagrams should be accompanied by a printed version.
If you have to use complex diagrams ensure sufficient colour contrast.
Write alternative text for images and diagrams.

Only use one or two text colours, one or two font styles and one or two animation or transition effects.
Use sound effects sparingly and make sure they are relevant.

Publishing PowerPoint to the web

PowerPoint presentations can be put up ontoweb sites for your students to view.

They can print off handouts before class or review your content after a lecture.
It is worth thinking about how you would like your students to use the materials and what they will learn from them.

There are also issues to be considered with regard to web accessibility and file-size where PowerPoint is concerned.
How will students use your slides on the web?
For preparation?
For note taking in lectures?
For revision and reference?

If you offer your presentation as a substitute for a lecture or as the primary way of communicating your content, make sure your
slides make sense if read alone.

Sometimes, Powerpoint slides can be difficult for students to access once they are on the
web. There are several things you should do to ensure that you are not blocking access to your content.
A guide to putting your PowerPoint slides on the web is available online.

Designing your own look

There are many design schemes offered within PowerPoint, but you may want to make your own to give a specific look to your work.Use the Slide Master to make these changes. It will ensure consistency and allow you to make changes in design across your presentation.

PowerPoint training

PowerPoint is installed on all staff PC desktops as part of the Microsoft Office suite.
ISS run regular training in using PowerPoint. You can book online.
Work-through materials to get you started are available online.


last updated November 17, 2006