Project-Based Learning (PBL)

Getting Adults to Serve as Panelists for Students’ End-of-Term Presentations

December 23, 2014

I'm a San Marino High School (CA) social studies teacher who thinks that students are likely to produce high quality end-of-term presentations if they are required to give their end-of-term presentations to a panel of adults.

For most students, this “public audience requirement” ups the stakes, significantly increasing student motivation to do high-quality work.


Weeks before actually inviting the adults to participate, I produce a GoogleDocs Presentation Sign-Up Sheet.

This sign-up sheet consists of:

  • The title of each group’s presentation topic
  • A brief description of each group’s presentation
  • The names of the students presenting
  • The group’s email address/contact information
  • A sign-up box for those interested in serving as a panelist
  • A sign-up box for those interested in serving as an observer

I then attach a note to the sign-up sheet saying:

Hello Everyone

It’s that time of year again - time for the students in my (class) to give their end-of-term presentations.

These presentations are scheduled for (date), and if you would like to serve as either a panelists or as an observer, please click on the link below and sign-up in the box where indicated:

Panelists are expected not only to observe the students end-of-term presentation, but also to ask at least five minutes worth of follow-up questions.

Observers are also expected to watch attentively, though they are not permitted to ask any follow-up questions or in any other way interact with the students.

Parents may serve as either panelists or observers, though parents may not serve as a panelist for a presentation given by a group which includes the parent's own son or daughter.

Ideally, a panel should consist of three-to-five panelists. There is no limit to the number of observers.

I then “share” a copy of this sign-up sheet with the

  • Site Administrators, faculty, and staff
  • District Superintendent, District Representatives, and staff
  • PTA President and PTA Members
  • Board President and Board Members
  • Parents of the students in the class
  • Mayor, police chief, fire chief, city officials and staff

I’ve been absolutely amazed with the willingness of the adults in our community to serve as both panelists and observers.  

Moments before each presentation is to begin, I remind the panelists that the group’s contact information appears on the sign-up sheet and that if the panelists wish to provide the students with any kind of written feedback, they are encouraged to do so via that email address. The feedback is very much welcomed, I add.

After all presentations are over, I send out a thank you letter worded as follows:

For all of you who served as either a panelist or an observer for my (period / class) end-of-term presentations, I want to thank you for the great gift that you have given to my students.

Because of you, these students put in hours and hours of prep.

No promise for an "A", no personal urging, and certainly no typical teacher-like threat could or would have caused them to prep as they did for you.

In other words, because you were so willing to take time out of your busy day and provide an audience for these students, they were highly motivated.

I can't even begin to put to words all the great and wonderful lessons that I would have learned had I been given an opportunity such as this this while in high school.

On behalf of all the students in my (period / class), thank you so very much.

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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  • Project-Based Learning (PBL)
  • 9-12 High School

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