Teaching Aids

Every presenter uses teaching aids of some sort, using them effectively takes forethought. Teaching aids can cover everything from PowerPoint slides, to overheads, using the whiteboard, having handouts, or physical items.  How you use them becomes the key part of their presence in your teaching.

Selecting teaching aids should be done with the purpose of helping the students to learn the material; hence being called ‘aids’. Learning is done through the senses: seeing, hearing, touching.  The training aid provides that connection beyond just hearing the speaker.  It provides a visual connection, or physical in the case of an item the student holds, that allows other senses to become involved in the learning experience.

Some people may have a preference over how they learn: visual versus auditory. Having an item for students to look at and see helps to appeal to the different learning styles and involve them in the presentation.

Care has to be taken that the training aid does not become a distraction. Whether it is a slide with text that swirls and dances as it comes on the screen, or a hand held item that beeps and flashes, if the teaching aid is distracting, it is not helping.  Selecting the training aid has to be done with the idea that the item will help the students learn, not distract from the learning.

When to use them also becomes a matter for consideration.  Displaying the training aid at the beginning of the class may itself be a distraction as students wonder what the item is and why it is there.  But taking a large or complicated item out during a lecture can be distracting by losing time, which may impact student attention. Similarly, handing an item around the room also takes time.  Do you continue to talk while the item is making it’s way around the class?  Or do you wait?

Overuse can also dull the audience, and care should be taken not to over do the use of any aid. In designing your lecture, think about what aids you want to use and when.  Practice with them and ensure that they work and you know how you want to show them.

During your presentation, ensure that everyone can see your aids. It sounds simple, but don’t stand in front of the slides or white board, write large enough for everyone to see, have enough handouts for everyone, etc..

Incorporating training aids into a presentation takes forethought. Ensure that you know what you want to accomplish by having an aid and then select an aid that adds to your presentation without being distracting. Make your selection with your audience in mind, the goal is always to help the student to learn, understand, and remember the material.


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