The #EDUC201 Digital Poster Fair: Bridging the gap between theory and practice

By David Scott and Jason Ribeiro 

One of the great challenges we have in teacher education concerns the need to ensure that our teaching reflects the approaches to education we encourage our students to enact in their practice. In this regard, an overwhelming body of research in the field of education points to a need to move away from transmission-based approaches to teaching and learning that emphasize the ability to memorize disconnected facts divorced from the lived experience of students (Friesen & Scott, 2013). In the place of such practices, emerging research calls for the design of learning experiences that possess “an authenticity, [and a sense] that the work being done is ‘real work’ that reflects the living realities of the discipline being taught” (WNCP, 2011). Educators advocating for this approach to education, argue that each discipline (e.g., mathematics and history) has its own particular ways of generating knowledge and assessing what counts as quality work. Attuned to the nature of a particular discipline, the job of educators thus becomes finding developmentally appropriate ways to apprentice young people into such practices (Perkins, 2009).

Alongside these insights, we additionally know that learning becomes more meaningful and relevant when students are given opportunities to articulate their learning within public forums where they are required to interact in spontaneous ways with people they do not know (Rushton, Malone & Middleton, 2014). Within such forums, possibilities exist for the promotion of multiple literacies and multimodalities (Kress, 2003) that leverage the power of new technologies to achieve deep active learning (Beetham & Sharpe, 2013). These learning experiences are especially impactful when they are coordinated for first-year students (Sumara, 2011).

Putting theory into practice

Seeking to model the kind of teaching practices the educational research literature calls for, Dr. David Scott and Ph.D. student, Jason Ribeiro from the Werklund School of Education set out to create a different kind of assessment experience for the first year students taking EDUC 201: Introduction to Educational Studies. On November 25th, 2016, they organized the #EDUC201 Digital Poster Fair at the Taylor Institute (TI) for Teaching and Learning. Envisioned as a mini conference, the fair afforded groups of four students the opportunity to present their research stemming from a significant educational issue within a public forum attended by Werklund faculty and graduate students, as well as the larger University community. Divided up into three one-hour sessions, each session kicked off with a mini-keynote from an invited guest speaker.

What is a Digital Poster Showcase?

Using Rushton, Malone and Middleton’s (2014) work as a foundation, Scott and Ribeiro modified the creation and displaying of traditional research posters to now include performance, video, imagery, text and voice in a single PowerPoint slide. A digital poster showcase creates a multimodal learning environment that fosters diverse opportunities for students and attendees to engage with course materials and one another (e.g. remote cam sharing).

During the lead up to the event, students worked with Scott and Ribeiro to craft a research question that reflected a contemporary issue in education, found peer reviewed articles addressing their question, synthesized findings, and then came to their own conclusions on their topic. They then had students examine both strong and weak examples of research posters, which students critiqued in relation to the assessment rubric. Students were also given opportunities to receive formative feedback on their poster layout and design. Students submitted their posters on both D2L, as well as a OneDrive folder that allowed for easy access on the video monitors on the day of the event. Conference-style documents were also created to assist and engage the attendees (e.g. event program, assignment rubrics for judges, #EDUC201 Twitter chat, etc.).

Who attended?

In total over 160 students participated in one of the three sessions. The event was further enriched by the presence of Werklund School academics Dr. Dianne Gereluk, Dr. Mairi McDermott, and Dr. Catherine Burwell, who provided the keynote presentations.  Around 30 faculty and graduate students additionally gave up their time to act as judges for students’ presentations.

Impact

This shift in assessment practices allowed Scott and Rebeiro to redefine what it means to provide students with a rigorous and intellectually challenging course. Often rigour is understood as imparting more, and increasingly sophisticated information to students. However, within the digital poster fair rigour is better understood as “being in the company of a passionate adult who is rigorously pursing inquiry in the area of their subject matter and is inviting students along as peers in that discourse” (Rosenstock, as cited in Friesen & Scott, 2013, p. 12). Through creating a space where students presented their research in ways that mirrored how academics present their scholarship at conferences, a shift occurred for students away from learning about the field of education, to participating in the community they are being inducted into.

Ultimately, students were grateful for the opportunity to showcase their work in a professional manner and interact with the various attendees. In a subsequent feedback survey on student experiences in EDUC 201, many students identified this event as the highlight of the course. The level of engagement in this event was additionally demonstrated through the active social media response, including Twitter, where students promoted their work and engaged with the broader education community.

References

Beetham, H., & Sharpe, R. (2013). Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age: Designing for 21st century learning. New York, NY: Routledge.

Friesen, S., & Scott, D. (2014). Inquiry-based education: A review of the literature. Edmonton, AB: Government of Alberta. Retrieved from http://galileo.org/focus-on-inquiry-lit- review.pdf

Kress, G. (2003). Literacy in the new media age. New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Perkins, D. (2009). Making learning whole: How seven principles of teaching can transform education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Rushton, D., Malone, C., & Middleton A. (2014). Digital poster – talking cycles for academic literacy. In T. Lillis, K. Harrington, M. Lea, & S. Mitchell (Eds.), Working with academic literacies: Research, theory, design (pp. 299-306). London, England: WAC Clearinghouse.

Sumara, D. (2011). Systemic, specialized and sustained: University of Calgary integrated framework for teaching and learning. Retrieved from: http://www.ucalgary.ca/provost/files/provost/iltp_forgfc_june2011_0.pdf

Western and Northern Canada Protocol (WNCP), (2011). Guiding Principles for WNCP curriculum framework project. Retrieved from http://www.wncp.ca/media/49521/protocol.pdf

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