Reporting to a Group by a Poster

Brief description

Students (individually or in small groups) design a poster to communicate to a large group or class the results of their research on a topic. The procedure is very similar to poster sessions which are now often used at academic conferences - particularly at scientific meetings.

Aims and skills

Succinct but interesting written and graphic communication. Small group discussion. Courses used in

Extensively used as a way of reporting back on small group research projects in field courses. Also used in political geography, contemporary china (see example) and introductory human geography. It is particularly suitable where small groups of students carry out pieces of research in which it is important that all students should know the findings of all of the various groups.

What the teacher does

Define the areas of investigation, divide students into groups and tell them that the results of their research are to be communicated by a poster. Give clear instructions on how the poster is to be drawn (see example) and a firm deadline for it to be completed. Provide paper, pens and blu-tack, or make the students responsible for their own materials. Ensure that the room is one where posters can easily be mounted on the wall and clear the whole area of chairs or ensure that there is plenty of clear space around the posters.

The class session starts with students placing the posters around the room. Allow a few minutes for informal looking and comments. Remind students of the purpose of the whole exercise e.g. 'Groups of you have investigated different aspects of the geography of China after Mao. By the end of this session we want to be able to conclude what (if any) have been the changes to China's geography since 1976'. To sharpen their enquiries give them two or three things to note down as they look at each poster. You may also decide to have a student from each project group standing by their poster to answer questions arising from what the poster says. (If you do this then it is essential to rotate the students standing by the poster.) Then lead a discussion or set students in small groups (not the same as the groups in which they did the projects) to discuss issues arising out of the poster presentations e.g. 'Have the policy changes since September 1976 resulted in much fundamental change to the human geography of China?'

Problems for the teacher

Though this method can work extremely well, there are certain very significant disaster areas particularly if students are new to it. Without clear instructions, students can produce posters so packed with information that they are difficult to assimilate, or (more often) students react to the word 'poster' by producing something so visual (even artistic) that there is little or no content. Hence, it is very important to say very clearly what is the purpose of the exercise, how you will organise the session when they initially report by their posters and what makes for a good poster (see examples). As an incentive you may choose to assess the poster and/or involve students in assessing theirs and others posters, using the criteria that you have laid down.

The Geography Discipline Network would like to thank the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) for permission to reproduce material from this publication.

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