To reflect deeply on the course material and share original insights about prejudice and/or prejudice reduction.
At the beginning of the course, introduce this assignment as follows:
"What if you stood before the United Nations, with TV cameras in front of you and translators at the ready? What words of wisdom would you have to share on the topic of prejudice?
During our last class, we'll hold a roundtable session in which each member of the class delivers a five-minute talk on the topic of prejudice and discrimination. This presentation should:
- Draw upon what you have learned during the course
- Show your capacity to think independently, deeply, and creatively by going beyond simple summaries of course material
- Be designed to have a lasting effect on your listeners -- to change their thoughts or behavior in some way
After the talks are given, I will collect a typewritten copy of your address, and we'll open things up for a final discussion."
Encourage students to practice delivering their presentation so that the speech is well-polished, and stress that they should time it to make sure they don't exceed the five-minute limit. You should also emphasize that you're looking for thought-provoking, memorable presentations that pack a punch, not abstract generalities or dry literature reviews. Otherwise, the last class session will end with a round of boring speeches.
Three Weeks Before the Course Ends
Roughly three weeks before the course ends, remind students that they should be thinking about their upcoming addresses to humanity, and invite them to speak with you if they have questions about the assignment. Then tell them:
"Remember, the challenge is to be creative and come up with your own unique insights. If you have a theatrical bent, you're welcome to use props or anything else that makes your message memorable, but make sure your presentation is designed for a general audience -- not just classmates or other students."
Running the Last Class Session
Here are some tips for running the last class session:
- Sit in the back of the room and have students give their presentations in the front. Students can either give their addresses by going around the room or by going after each other when ready.
- Before the first presentation, remind students that they're among friends and should relax as much as possible.
- Tell students to listen closely to each other rather than thinking about their own presentation.
- Ask everyone to take detailed notes on each speech so that they have good questions and observations for the class discussion that will follow the presentations.
- Take good notes yourself, evaluating the content and delivery of each presentation and jotting down points for class discussion later.
- After the last presentation, give students a ten-minute break to decompress before moving to the class discussion.
- If weather permits, it's nice to reconvene outdoors, sitting in a circle on the grass somewhere relatively quiet.
- Open the class discussion by asking students to identify particular presentations and points that they found especially thought-provoking, moving, or memorable.
- Keep the discussion positive, exploring the elements that made certain messages effective and sharing what you liked about various addresses.
One variation is to limit the topic specifically to prejudice reduction rather than leaving it open to any prejudice-related topic.
This assignment works best in classes with 10-20 students. Beyond 20 students (about an hour and a half of addresses), even the most dramatic presentations can become monotonous.
Instructors should also be forewarned that students can become quite anxious about having to say something original in front of a group of peers. It is therefore important to reduce this anxiety as much as possible (e.g., by letting students know that they're welcome to run ideas by you ahead of time).