|Teaching and Learning Forum 2000 [ Proceedings Contents ]
Encouraging self directed learning through poster presentations
School of Education
Edith Cowan University
In this session I will demonstrate how I use poster presentations in a first year Education unit as a focus for both self directed learning and peer assessment. The activity requires students to collaborate with peers to find evidence that answers a question, collate this evidence to draw appropriate conclusions, and prepare a poster which they use to present their findings to the whole class. When they have finished the presentations, they assess other students' posters, and I combine these assessments with my own ratings to determine a final mark for each student.
The learning context
I use poster presentations as a learning tool in the unit Issues challenges and directions in education. This is a first year unit in the Bachelor of Education (Secondary Teaching), and is the only unit taken in first year which relates specifically to the field of education. The main objective of the unit is to encourage students to think about educational matters from the perspective of the teacher. Specific content of the unit is not seen as being important in itself, but is used as a medium through which students can explore new ideas and review their current perspectives on teaching and learning. About 80-100 students enrol in this unit each semester. Classes comprise one mass lecture each week and a two hour workshop involving 20-30 students.
The semester schedule provides for a two week non-teaching period which can occur as early as week 5 in the semester. Although this period is not intended to be a vacation, it is often seen as one since there is a one week vacation immediately adjacent to it. I arrange the poster activity so that students have to work on it during this two week non-teaching period.
Preparation of posters
Students are given a list of questions about teaching and learning, such as the following:
Should students be rewarded with prizes or privileges for learning well?
I spend one lecture session explaining how to research such questions and develop an answer that makes effective use of evidence from the library and the web. Students then form small groups (normally 3 persons) to work on one of these questions and develop a poster that presents an argued answer to the question. Posters have to contain four major sections:
How much emphasis should be placed in the school curriculum on memorising information?
Should low achieving students do more rote memorising than high achieving students?
Should teachers make a practice of praising students who do good work?
Should schools group students into classes on the basis of their ability (for example so that a class contains only the more capable students)?
Should we continue the practice of dividing high school students into year groups?
Introduction, that establishes the importance of the question and indicates which aspects of it are addressed in the poster;
The groups work on a self directed basis. Although we provide some support in class, students do virtually of the work in their own time and under their own direction. They decide for themselves what aspects of the question to focus on, locate their own resources and develop their answers independently of the university teacher.
Significant evidence, arranged in some appropriate way such as reasons for and reasons against. The source of this evidence must be acknowledged;
Presentation and assessment of posters
One two hour workshop class is devoted to presenting and assessing the posters. On the specified day all students display their posters around the room. They take turns in explaining their evidence and findings to a small group, which allows everyone to participate in discussing four or five posters. After that, each student is assigned three posters to assess, using a check list that focuses on the following matters:
How well does the introduction establish the importance of the topic?
The class tutor also assesses each poster, and his/her ratings are combined with the student ratings to determine an overall mark for the poster activity. An individual student's mark for the activity is sometimes adjusted in light of feedback that students provide about the contribution that each person made to the project.
How well does the introduction indicate which aspects of the topic are being addressed?
Has sufficient evidence relating to the question been presented in the body of the poster?
How well does this evidence relate to the most important aspects of the question?
How well organised is this evidence?
How good is this evidence in terms of its source and its recency?
To what extent is this evidence supported with appropriate in text references to the literature?
In light of this evidence, how reasonable is the conclusion?
Overall, how well does the poster answer the question that was addressed?
Is there a properly presented list of references used as sources of evidence?
How appropriate is the amount of content presented in the poster?
How well is the content of the poster displayed?
Student feedback about this activity
Students report that this is an interesting activity and that they learn a lot from it. Most of them seem to take the task seriously, and make effective use of the library and the web as sources of evidence, thoughtfully collate this evidence and present their ideas well. Some students enrich their evidence by interviewing relevant people. Overall, student feedback indicates that the activity helps them develop some useful learning strategies as well as learn more about the subject matter.
How this process contributes to self directed learning
This activity helps students develop some of the component skills that are important to self directed learning, such as:
In addition, it give students practice in some important academic skills, such as:
Monitoring one's progress
Assessing the quality of one's own work
Working effectively with others.
Locating and selecting evidence
Using evidence to reach a conclusion
I believe that this is an effective learning activity. It is easy for staff to set up and manage, gives students an opportunity to explore a topic that relates to their own interests, and helps them develop some of the skills involved in self directed learning. It is also easy to assess, since the assessment is an integral part of the process of presenting the posters in class.
|Please cite as: Fuller, R. (2000). Encouraging self directed learning through poster presentations. In A. Herrmann and M.M. Kulski (Eds), Flexible Futures in Tertiary Teaching. Proceedings of the 9th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 2-4 February 2000. Perth: Curtin University of Technology.
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