Audio-visual presentations – delivered either in real-life or virtually – feature heavily in educational assessments and employer recruitment. This study explored neurodivergent undergraduate students' experiences of presentations. The aim was to understand how neurodivergent students describe experiences of presentations in educational and workplace contexts and how neurodivergent students experienced training, support activities and learning technologies associated with presentations.
An exploratory qualitative phenomenological approach was taken, from students' perspectives. Overall, 12 neurodivergent undergraduate students (Mage = 21.89 years, SDage = 2.57; nine women, two men, one non-binary) discussed their experiences of presentations within educational and/or professional contexts via semi-structured remote interviews. The sample included individuals with diagnoses of anxiety, depression, dyslexia, borderline personality disorder, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, and panic disorder.
Thematic Analysis of interview transcript data revealed four main themes (with sub-themes in parentheses): Control (preparedness; delivery); Audience Perceptions and Behaviours (expectations of “normality”; shared knowledge; audience “expertise”); Intervention Efficacy (early access; individuality; learning technologies) and Value of Presentation Skills (reciprocity between education – workplace; self-efficacy; self-esteem; learner development).
The dataset was extracted from a relatively small sample from a single university and indeed a single academic discipline. Furthermore, the dataset was collected during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – although this gives us a valuable snapshot of students' experiences and perceptions during this time, whether the author can extrapolate these findings in future is unclear.
The findings help understand how we better support students. Better ways to support learners can be developed in developing presentation and audience skills. This research shows that alternative assessment provisions must be based on individuals and their own specific needs and skills, rather than their divergence label. This research can inform the development of digital learning technologies.
This research can inform how educators, coaches, trainers, and facilitators “train” audiences to be more inclusive and less prejudicial/biased. We can understand how to better construct social spaces for presentations, in the classroom and the world of work.
This report presents a valid and valuable methodological approach, conducted and reported transparently. This research was conducted during a crucial, unprecedented and precarious time period for learners and education professionals. Implications are considered with respect to the design of teaching, learning and assessment activities; facilitator, learner, and peer behaviours; the role of digital learning technologies; and employment/employability.
This research was funded by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisation's Interface - Innovation Voucher scheme. The author would like to acknowledge the support of Ben Scott and Courtney Aitken in the early preparatory work that underpinned this study and its report.
Hand, C.J. (2023), "Neurodiverse undergraduate psychology students' experiences of presentations in education and employment", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JARHE-03-2022-0106
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