Poster sessions are established
features of academic conferences. They are periods
in which people with contributions which do
not add up to full papers, or those wanting
to up-date on work in progress, are each allocated
a table or space in a hall, where they put up
a stand or simply stick a poster on the wall.
They stand by it, and other delegates wander
around reading the posters and talking to their
There are several ways in which this idea
can be adapted for teaching purposes.
- It can be used instead of a series
of presentations, especially when the
group is large, and a succession of
presentations would take too much time.
- Designing the poster in small groups
is a useful way of breaking up a long
and perhaps rather arid teaching sequence.
Encourage members to express theoretical
ideas in some graphic and metaphorical
way, using flip-chart paper and felt-tip
pens, then display them during a coffee-
- Teacher-designed posters can be
used to inform students about by-ways
of the subject which do not justify
taking up time in main classes, but
which are nevertheless valid aspects
- Mini-posters: anything from the
size of a Post-it note upwards can be
stuck on a wall to note student reactions
to a teaching sequence: people can anonymously
ask the teacher to vary the pace, use
simpler language, or spend more time
on particular topics and less on others.
Again useful for large groups.
- Reporting-back from large numbers
of small groups can be done in this
way, too. Instruct the group reporters
to write just one point on each piece
of paper or card. Wandering around the
groups, pick up a general idea of the
main themes which are likely to emerge.
Use this to start a mind-map on the whiteboard, or divide it into
columns or areas. Reporters then post
their individual findings onto this
in the appropriate place, and everyone
gets a chance to have a good look at
the result before the next session.
- Use a similar system to match up
students with information to provide,
with those who want to know it. We used
to do this as part of an induction programme
when students came with very different
experiences of working in disparate
areas of social work. Each would be
asked to list their experience ("working
with young offenders", "day-care
for dementia sufferers" etc.) on
cards, and also their areas of ignorance,
on different coloured cards. Matching
these up provided the basis for informal
student-led seminars for the best part
of a week, and ensured that when we
started "teaching proper",
there was a much more consistent base
of shared experience to work with.
Posters give something to do as well as something
to look at, and enable students to get out of
As ever, always make sure that you give value
to what is offered by commenting on it both
formally and informally, and refer back to it
in formal teaching.