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6 Ways to Use Teaching Posters in Your Course to Increase Student Engagement


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Here are 6 ways you can use "teaching" posters in your course to increase student engagement.

In higher education, research posters are often part of professional conferences. We share our work-in-progress or the results of our most recent study. We engage in conversations with colleagues. We browse different topics, learn new ideas, and maybe vote for the “best poster” award.

These poster sessions allow us to share what we’ve learned about the research process, ask questions about what we don’t know, and encourage us to think about how the findings influence our own thinking and our work.

What if we applied this same idea to teaching? What if we change it from “research” posters to “teaching” posters?

Ask yourself, “How can I involve my students in the process of creating and presenting a poster based on what they are learning in the course?”

And, “How can I involve my students in the process of teaching course content to their colleagues?”

Before I share some ideas to answer those questions, let’s take a moment to briefly discuss the typical format for a research poster. Then, we’ll consider how to apply the process to a “teaching” poster.

The Format of a Typical Research Poster

Research posters in higher education usually have the same type of format. The structure and categories are designed to align with a scholarly research article or the scientific method. Typically, you will see six sections:

  • Introduction: Presents the research problem and/or thesis of the argument.

  • Literature Review: Highlights the most relevant and/or current studies and findings on the topic from other scholars.

  • Methods: Outlines the methodology and procedures that were followed to conduct the study.

  • Findings: Summarizes the main findings and results from the study.

  • Recommendations: Features a brief discussion about how the findings can inform future research or decision-making.

  • Resources: Includes a brief list of sources used in the study.

These six categories work for research posters, but the goal of a teaching poster is not to share research. It’s to TEACH someone the topic. Students may not need a methodology section or a findings section.

When students think about creating teaching posters, they will need to create new categories to help teach the topic or course concept to someone else. Possible categories might include:

  • Summary of the main idea/topic: What’s the topic/course concept?

  • Purpose of the topic: Why is it important for you to understand this topic/course concept?

  • Learning outcomes: What should you know or be able to do when you finish interacting with this poster?

  • Impact or influence: How does this topic/course concept matter in the “real world” (outside of this course)?

  • Analogies, Stories, or Mnemonic Devices: What are some creative ways you can remember information about this topic/course concept?

  • Helpful Tips: What are some tips to remember this topic/course concept?

  • Sample quiz questions: What question should you be able to answer when you finish interacting with this poster?

These are just a few ideas, but you can see how the categories need to change since the purpose of the teaching poster is to help students teach.

They have to reflect on what they are learning, organize that information so they can teach it to others, and prepare for questions from their audience, just as we do when preparing for a lecture or class activity.

Now, let’s revisit the two questions I asked at the beginning of this article:

  1. “How can I involve my students in the process of creating and presenting a poster based on what they are learning in the course?”

  2. And, “How can I involve my students in the process of teaching course content to their colleagues?”

Here are a few ideas to kick-start your thinking:

6 Ways to Use Teaching Posters in Your Course to Increase Student Engagement

  1. Assign individual students or groups different poster topics based on different chapters or modules within the course. As students visit each poster, they can teach each other the main ideas, key points, and important information about that course concept, they can also discuss how the topic of their poster relates to other posters.

  2. Challenge students to change the title of their poster to a provocative question instead of the typical titles you see on research posters.

    For example, instead of “A Comparison of the Characteristics of the 8 Planets and 1 Dwarf Planet in the Solar System” change it to “What Happened to Pluto?” or “Why is Pluto No Longer a Planet?” This sparks curiosity and it’s more memorable, which are two things we want when we teach!

  3. Ask students to leave a section of their poster blank and provide sticky notes (see picture below). As they teach their posters, their audience can post questions, comments, or reactions using the sticky notes. You can integrate the comments into a lecture or class discussion.

    (Note: I cannot take credit for this photo or idea. I found it in my Twitter feed two years ago, and it has become one of my favorite ideas for both research and teaching posters.) 

  1. After students teach their peers, ask them to create an infographic to fill in any gaps or clarify confusing concepts from their poster session. Infographics take complex information and simplify it into a visual format.

    This is the same process students go through to create their posters, but now you’re asking them to teach the information in a different way and to address questions or comments from their peers.

  2. Challenge students to take one section of their poster and teach the topic/course concept to a child. See how well they can simplify their topic without losing the content.

  3. If you teach online courses or large classes, ask students to create virtual posters. They can integrate multimedia (videos, podcasts, gifs, social media feeds, etc.) to create a more engaging learning experience.

Concluding Thoughts

The process of planning, creating, and presenting a poster is a significant part of this learning experience. But, you’re asking students to take it one step further by challenging them to TEACH the concept to someone else.

Throughout this activity, you have involved your students in the process and they are engaged in higher level critical thinking skills.