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How A Small Initiative Improved the Confidence of Students from Rural Areas

In the university where I worked, every subject would have a seminar component for 15 marks. Students have to talk on a specific topic at least once per subject.

This initiative was taken to train students from rural areas not to face difficulties when they go for jobs. But it did not happen as planned. Some faculty members found it difficult to complete it on time and requested the management to remove it from the assessment. Absenteeism, unwillingness to take seminar were the main reasons cited by the faculties.

During that time, I handled a subject called Renewable Energy for Electrical Engineering Students. I elaborately talked to the students about the purpose of conducting and the importance of the seminar. Also, I asked the students about their difficulties in doing.

The majority of students told the following

  • Stage fear
  • Classmates might tease
  • Teacher might ask questions
  • Less confident to talk in English 

But, All the students accepted the importance of the seminar, and they were waiting for someone to help them come out from those difficulties. That was enough for me to implement my plans. 

After that, I gave the following assurances to students

  • Nobody would ask questions, including the teacher (me).
  • Can speak in Tamil or English or mixed
  • Ensure no classmate would tease
  • Can choose your topic on your own (you can discuss with me if needed) 
  • Minimum 3 marks for attendance, 4 and 5 marks depends on performance (max 5 marks)

With my assurance, they were curious and willing to talk in front of their classmates. I nominated a representative to get topics from students and make alternative arrangements in advance when some students take leave.

I allotted 5 minutes at the beginning and end of all my classes for the student seminar. In the first few days, students found it challenging. After seeing the support and encouragement from their classmates and me, they become confident. The outcome was surprising. All the students completed their talk halfway through the semester. A good number of students did very well.

Then we planned to have a second round, with the condition that every student must talk only in English. They were allowed to read from the handouts if found difficult. Things went well in the second round also. That time, there was no stage fear, no hesitation from anybody. Some of them found difficulty in talking in English, but we encouraged them to complete it successfully.

I opened the idea about group presentation for 30-minute using PowerPoint with 4 students per group. We borrowed some classes from other faculties and scheduled them for two days. All the students prepared the presentations excellently, and during that time, they were much confident in presenting.

After seeing the presentation, I got the idea to go for a poster presentation for the same topics. I gave the guidelines for poster preparation. Also, we requested the architecture department to share their studio for displaying the posters. 

The students made excellent posters and explained them well. They were confident even willing to answer the questions. Then I invited our department students to see the posters. The students were very much pleased about their accomplishment. 

In the end, I requested the vice-chancellor to visit the venue. He appreciated the efforts of the students and instructed me to give all the faculty members a presentation about what I did for the seminar component. 

With proper support, encouragement and motivation, all the students completed 2 seminars, a PowerPoint presentation and a poster presentation in a single semester. At the end of the semester, their confidence was high. 

Still, some students are facing these challenges. They really need support from teachers.

We must understand that being a teacher is not for just teaching subjects. We should prepare them to face the world

It happened about 12 years back. Still fresh in my mind.

Expect your valuable suggestions!

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