Poster Sessions as a Strategy to Motivate Engineering Learning R. Montúfar-Chaveznava*, M. Ali Yousuf* and I. Caldelas† *
GIRATE Group, Engineering Department, ITESM Santa Fe, México D.F., México † Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas, UNAM, México D.F., México
Abstract: Poster sessions are usually employed by scientists to present their works at professional meetings. This format also works well in classes and gives students the opportunity to communicate the results of their final course projects. In this paper we present some reflections about the use of poster sessions to motivate the learning in some engineering courses given in the Engineering Division at the ITESM Santa Fe. The results and observations that this experience produces are discussed. The objective of the posters presentations is, in one hand, to encourage and motivate students especially in their basic courses where they do not find any relationship with real world applications and, in the other hand, to provide an assessment tool to teachers.
Index Terms: Poster Sessions, Engineering Learning, Motivation.
Actually, motivation is an attitude very difficult to get from most engineering students. They consider that basic subjects such as mathematics, physics, biology and chemistry are not attractive because they do not exhibit their direct relation with the students’ world. Consequently, most advanced topics, without a strong basis, become difficult to learn and understand, and then, there is not motivation to go ahead. For instance, modeling is an activity where students usually fail; the mapping of events from real world to mathematical functions is extremely difficult to them. These observations (and some others) explain why students lose motivation in engineering studies. Pretending motivate students, the Engineering Division of the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey Campus Santa Fe (ITESM-CSF) has adopted different strategies in the offered courses to avoid students de-motivate and lose interest in engineering. In this case, twice a year, we organize a poster session where students present a poster and/or prototype of the project they are developing in selected courses. There is no restriction to participate, that means, students of any academic year and engineering career can participate presenting their works and advances. Besides, considering that the poster session can be considered as a reporting technique , students from basic courses also participate reporting their activities and progresses during the session, making the poster session an assessment tool for the teachers. We consider that poster sessions motivate students in their studies, decreasing the desertion rate and indifference to arid engineering courses. We have note that the student participation is continuously increasing from event to event. We note the most successful (and eye-catching) participation corresponds to students from careers related to computer engineering. Particularly, students involved in e-business courses present excellent applications in their posters. Obviously, this fact is due the availability and facility they have with computer technology. However, students of advanced courses involved in research projects also presents excellent works, and students of basic courses are usually very creative in their prototypes. II. POSTER SESSIONS.
Poster sessions are one of the principal ways that has been used for communication among professionals at national and international meetings. It is usually employed by scientists to present recent results of their 1
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research because the poster contents are very similar to a research paper, slide presentation, or other scientific communication. This format also works well in classes  and gives students the opportunity to communicate the results and advances of their course projects. Moreover, poster sessions are useful teaching strategies; ,  and  report the successful use of poster sessions as a classroom experience to improve the knowledge of subject matter and interest in research activities. In  the author used poster sessions to improve learning in a sensation and perception course, in  it is described a successful research convocation that included submissions by undergraduates. About 1970, with the advent of computer graphics, the poster sessions have got an increasingly important role in conferences and meetings . Actually, all available technology makes easy the creation of effective and attractive posters and even, re-defines the concept of poster. A. The poster definition.
In literature we find the following different poster definitions: (1) A poster consists of a series of illustrations containing information mounted on various sizes of poster boards to describe innovative ideas or research results to interested parties on an informal basis . (2) A poster is a visual presentation, usually printed on paper which then is attached to some sort of blackboard or stand to be viewed from a distance of about 1.5 m . However, although these definitions are basically the same, we consider these definitions are a little obsolete due the arrival of new technology and the creativity that some students have showed during the poster sessions we carry out. Fig. 1 shows a traditional poster presented in a poster session. Consequently, we say that: A poster is a visual presentation, attractive, interactive and dynamic showed on a board where ideas, results or communications are presented. Posters present some advantages and disadvantages compared to oral presentations. Some advantages are: Flexibility, space saving, long term availability, most interactions, and more effectiveness in conveying ideas. The disadvantages are: not all results fit well to its format, difficulty to transport, more time and expense in preparation, can be weary for presenter. Nevertheless, from our point of view, flexibility in poster sessions is the most worthy characteristics, because it allows introducing students in scientific or professional world. They do not have to face a crowd in a room, but they express their ideas and argue to one person at time. The fear to mistake is not present in their head. They do not have to compete, but share. A motivating factor in students is the fact that some meetings are carried out in places other than their home. In this case, they consider a kind of reward to their work the possibility to represent their institution abroad. Some kind of honor that makes them self-confident, a revitalizing shot to motivation in engineering studies. B. The poster content
As we mention above, the poster content is very similar to a research paper, but we also mention that a poster is a reporting technique. Then, the posters that are presented in our sessions have both characteristics. To do it, we have defined a template and established some minimal requirements. Basically the poster content is: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) 1
Title Objective Introduction Methodology Results and/or advances Conclusions References
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It is possible that some of the content elements do not apply and others were necessary. Besides they have care about the poster content, it is necessary that the students plan the poster format. They should know the audience, the reasons they are interested in their presentation, the level of expertise on the topic, and the expectations of the audience. The knowledge of the limitations of the audience is important . We strongly recommend students to avoid the excessive use of words in their posters, nobody likes to read in excess, or remain more than five minutes looking at the poster, just keep it simple. Basically the poster should be auto-descriptive, containing the principal ideas to communicate of the work in sequence; it even can be a sort of guide or script that helps them to explain the project. We encourage the use of diagrams and images. Some students, instead of presenting a traditional paper poster, develop a slide presentation or a dynamic web page and project it over the board. They respect the contents and get the attention of the audience. Some times they include sound and music. Another kind of poster includes 3D images, textures or special inks and papers. The quality of graphic material is critically important to effectively communicate the intended message . When one looks at these eye-catching posters, it is unquestionable that students are strongly motivated in theirs courses and they have spend a lot of time and resources.
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Traditional student poster.
C. The poster session organization
The poster sessions are carried out twice a year. About 50 posters are exhibited; most of them include a prototype they have developed. We have about two students per poster, it means, about one hundred students participating in the event. The poster session last about six hours, where students remain in their places, explaining their job to their classmates and teachers. We provide electricity to every poster site because usually students make use of laptops, projectors and other tools that need electricity. Every hour, the space where the event is performed is jam-packed. The reason is that students at ITESMCSF have a 10 minutes break to change classes and take advantage of that to visit the exposition. The closing ceremony takes place at the end of session, usually we thank and encourage students to continue showing the same interest in their courses and projects, it is the motivation time. Fig. 2 shows some aspects of a poster session.
Aspects of the poster session. We observe some prototypes exhibited with the posters and additional tools that students use during the presentation to better communicate their ideas.
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D. The poster session as an assessment tool
We believe that poster sessions are an alternative teaching and evaluation method. According to , well-constructed performance-based assessment should include the following criteria: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
Some degree of student choice Content knowledge and use of processes Scoring criteria in advance An audience beyond the teacher Accurate indicators of target outcomes
The poster session met all of these criteria. Students can select the way they include the information of their project in the poster by a design, format, and layout, and incorporate graphs, tables, and photos. They summarize the information and offer explanations. They previously know how they would be scored. They also know most of the audience. The posters themselves are accurate indicators of the desired outcome of effectively communicating to a large audience the results of the project by descriptions and explanations. Consequently, there is no doubt about the fact that poster sessions are an assessment tool that helps teachers to give a final score to students. The question is what is the just weight of this judgment? Usually it is up to the teacher. III. CONCLUSIONS.
The poster sessions are enthusiastically received by engineering students (and instructors). They enjoy developing their projects and love the interaction with their classmates and teachers. Most important thing is their motivation to carry out the project. They do not think about the course note, but they get immersed in their work. Finally, they find the connection between abstract topics and the real world because the project they are presenting is the result of applying basic concepts. We find the greatest value in conducting a poster session is in the originality of the experience. The students have the chance to participate in every step of a sort of scientific process. It is important that standards for presentations should be rigorous to get the best from students. By doing this activity, the students get ownership and pride in their product. With respect to the poster sessions we find that if properly prepared they provide an excellent format for communicating and sharing new ideas or results; they allow for individual communication between the presenters and interested individuals; their programs allow participants to survey many presentations and focus on those of specific interest; and they demand most time to prepare than traditional paper presentations and are more difficult to transport. Finally, in  the author points due the new strategies that industries have implemented for an industrial development, schools are demanded to change curricula to include more technology than science, give more stress to continuing education, and promote joint research projects with industry. Analyzing this statement, we can say that poster sessions help to fulfill these demands. So, we find in poster presentation a strategy to motivate students in engineering studies, and prepare them to satisfy the industry requirements.
Acknowledgements – This work was partially supported by ITESM-CSF, CONACyT 48504 and PAPIIT IN226107.
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