by Steven A. Perry, PhD student in Systematic Theology at Duquesne University. His work focuses on theological anthropology and the intersection between theology and contemporary life.
Ask the typical college student today about their media intake and you will get a bevy of responses: Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix…and the list goes on.
Technology has become ubiquitous in our society. A quick glance at the modern college classroom shows that instructors have a DVD player, a computer and/or a projector at their disposal. However, these teaching tools only become useful if we use them wisely. The question for the contemporary educator is this: how can we capitalize on our students’ media savvy to engage the content and skills of our course? While the pervasiveness of technology presents new challenges to the pedagogical task (ah hem…cell phones anyone?), I believe one way teachers can tap into their students’ digital aptitude is by assigning academic poster projects in the classroom.
Images are powerful—and educators can capitalize on students’ creative impulses by inviting them to put their digital skills to work in the service of their grades.
Academic posters offer students the opportunity to apply their aesthetic sensibility and mental acuity to a specific research problem. By choosing thought-provoking course material and encouraging students to ask questions, educators can position the academic poster assignment to be a significant form of active learning. The advantage is that it forces students to present their ideas visually. Translating ideas from simple text into an interactive format requires a strong grasp of the research question and fosters critical thinking skills.
Interaction can take multiple forms: the presenter and people viewing the poster can engage the ideas together. The poster can also open up interactive media capabilities, for example, through QR codes enabling viewers to view a related video on their own device.
Done well, the act of creating an academic poster necessitates that students ask deeper questions. As a bonus, students can submit their course work to research symposia or conferences. Academic posters have become common in humanities conferences in recent years, influenced in part by the sciences. These visual displays of learning can tap into students’ natural media instincts.
Assigning as part of a final research paper or project the requirement for students to visually present their findings in front of the class helps students develop real world skills for the workplace. Presenting and organizing information by communicating through images and text gives students the opportunity to take research and make it their own—putting their own unique stamp on issues presented in the class. Utilizing PowerPoint as a simple presentation format or even poster boards with text boxes and pictures cut out and pasted can help students avoid the pricey printing fees of producing one large poster.
Using academic posters in the classroom helps students learn to communicate visually in an image-dominant culture. If “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then it is vital for us teach our students when and how to use the right ones.
by Emtinan Alqurashi, doctoral candidate, Instructional Technology and Leadership at Duquesne University. Her research interests include online teaching and learning, students’ learning experience, and instructional technology.
As a student, I created an academic poster presentation in the Qualitative Research course (Education, Duquesne University). In order to prepare for the poster research presentation, students were asked to write and submit four draft sections for review and feedback.
- Title and brief description
- Introduction and literature review
- Entire draft
- Final proposal and poster presentation
My project, “An analysis of motivational beliefs, expectancies, and goals and their impact on learners’ satisfaction in online learning environments in higher education,” focused on students’ online learning experience with an emphasis on self-efficacy, outcome expectancy, goal setting and their relation to student satisfaction. I went on to present this poster at the 2015 International Education Conference in Orlando. The course assignment had prepared me for this opportunity.
The benefit of the poster session as a final assignment is that students are forced to think critically and get feedback to improve their ideas, research questions, methodology, analysis, and more. Preparing a visual presentation that summarizes written research is not a skill that students come with; I had to learn how to visually present my learning. The peer interaction helps you see how far can you take your idea, that your idea may need a twist, maybe the problem is not clear, or there’s related research you didn’t know about. Also, by listening to other presentations, you learn to improve your own research skills and knowledge.
The poster presentation helped me not only to develop a strong research proposal, but also gave me the chance to interact with peers, talk about my research, and receive constructive feedback.
Examples and tips on making academic posters:
- Duquesne University Undergraduate Research Symposium http://www.duq.edu/research/student-research/undergraduate-research/urss
- NYU Library: How to Create a Research Poster: Poster Basics http://guides.nyu.edu/posters
- YouTube Video: How to create a Poster in PowerPoint https://youtu.be/1c9Kd_mUFDM