It seems that I’ll be judging a poster session next week. So this seems like a good time to repost this from 2009:
I was at a conference that had an excellent poster session. I realized the session would have been even better if the students with posters had been randomly assigned to stand next to and explain other students’ posters. Some of the benefits:
1. The process of reading a poster and learning about its material would be more fun if it was a collaborative effort with the presenter.
2. If you know that someone else will be presenting your poster, you’ll be motivated to make the poster more clear.
3. When presenting somebody else’s poster, you’ll learn the material. As the saying goes, the best way to learn a subject is to teach it.
4. The random assignment will lead to more inderdisciplinary understanding and, ultimately, collaboration.
I think just about all poster sessions should be done this way.
My post elicited some comments to which I replied:
– David wrote that my idea “misses the potential benefit to the owner of the poster of geting critical responses to their work.” The solution: instead of complete randoimization, randoimize the poster presenteres into pairs, then put pairs next to each other. Student A can explain poster B, student B can explain poster A, and spectators can give their suggestions to the poster preparers.
– Mike wrote that “one strong motivation for presenters is the opportunity to stand in front of you (and other members of the evaluation committee) and explain *their* work to you. Personally.” Sure, but I don’t think it’s bad if instead they’re explaining somebody else’s work. If I were a student, I think I’d enjoy explaining my tellow-students’ work to an outsider. The ensuing conversation might even result in some useful new ideas.
– Lawrence suggested that “the logic of your post apply to conference papers, too.” Maybe so.
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