Teaching and Learning Forum 2000 [ Proceedings Contents ]

Encouraging self directed learning through poster presentations

Richard Fuller
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.
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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.

The process

Preparation of posters

Students are given a list of questions about teaching and learning, such as the following: 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: 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.

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: 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.

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:

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. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2000/fuller.html


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