Student Poster Symposium
at the Department of Biological Sciences
Posters as skill training and assessment
Beyond constituting a standard way to communicate scientific results in conferences, posters are also a great pedagogical tool to help students learn the course content, while practicing dissemination as a skill (Marino et al., 2000).
At the Department of Biological Sciences (BIO), several biology courses now include science communication and dissemination as part of the Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs). In line with the concept of constructive alignment (Biggs & Tangs, 2011), course teachers have added poster assignments to their curriculum, and redesigned course assessment to include poster presentation.
In the biannual Student Poster Symposium, we bring together students from multiple courses to present their course material and their scientific work to their peers through 60-second flash presentations and on-site poster session, taking the format of a scientific conference.
Goal & Purpose
In collaboration with course teachers at BIO, bioCEED has developed the biannual student poster symposium. Since 2019, all courses that include poster presentations as assignment or assessment are invited to contribute to the event. As of 2023, 10 biology courses and one non-biology course participate to the symposium.
The student poster symposium invites course students to present their work to peers, teachers and supervisors. Topics in our symposium are as varied as microbiology, molecular biology, research practice in biology and molecular biology, bioethics, UN sustainability goal 14 and 15, academic writing, behavioral biology, palaeoecology and polar oceanography.
The student posters may cover a topic in direct relation with course contents (review, assignment, etc.), report findings in a experimental setting such as lab- or field activities in the course, summarize experience with work placement or research involvement, etc. Making a scientific poster as part of a course assignment and/or as assessment is a meaningful way to train students in practical skills and learning outcomes like scientific dissemination, oral presentation and poster design. Presenting posters in the context of a large symposium trains students to adapt their presentations and communicate with an audience beyond their course.
The work with the student poster symposium is aligned with bioCEED's goal of creating forms of assessment that outlive the course and that have value outside of the assessment situation. The added value of this form of assessment, in addition to participation to the event itself, is also the online platform bioPITCH (https://biopitch.w.uib.no/), showcasing all the student posters online. While bioPITCH is available for peer and future students as inspiration, it also serves as a digital archive allowing presenting students to share their product with potential workplaces, and add to their personal cv.
The student poster symposium brings together students from different courses and study programs, creating the feeling of an on-campus student conference. Approximately 150 students participate each semester in addition to course teachers and supervisors. All students and teachers (whether or not enrolled in one of the participating courses) are welcome to the event, and invitations are distributed on local information screens, online and in newsletters.
During the poster symposium, the students pitch the poster(s) either as a group or individually. Pitches, in the form of flash (60-second) presentations, are performed in front of a large audience in the Nash auditorium at Vilvite. Such presentations give students the opportunity to train and strengthen oral presentation skills and science communication as described in course intended learning outcomes (ILOs). Following the pitches, both presenters and audience mingle in an area adjacent to the auditorium (the mezzanine at Vilvite) where all the posters are displayed. As in any other scientific conference, presenters can discuss findings in detail with their audience.
We have develop a criteria-based peer feedback form to allow student to train in giving and receiving feedback. This online form is available to all via QR codes placed at the venue. After the event, feedback is sent to student presenters.
- All posters are displayed at bioPITCH (https://biopitch.w.uib.no/) and sorted by semester and course. Each poster has a separate page that students can link to in their personal CV/portfolio.
- Poster about the student poster symposium at BIO
- A sample of the information and guidelines for course leaders and students
- Writing tips for students: bioWRITE (https://biowrite.w.uib.no/)
- Student feedback form (screenshot)
The Student Poster Symposium at BIO is created by bioCEED in collaboration with course teachers and the student participants. It is therefore important that the symposium addresses the needs of the individual courses in terms of ILOs and assessment. However it is likewise important that the event remains uniform enough for it to function as a joint conference. Thus, compromises and adjustments must be done both to the course descriptions and to the programme of the symposium in order to cover all needs. We must thus consider the following:
- Course teachers might need to apply changes to the study plan of the course and make the presentation/poster part of the ILOs and course assessment.
- Upon request from teachers, the programme may include additional items or sessions when relevant for by the course. For example, we have experience with adding a 5-min paper presentation session to the programme as this was a requirement for one of the courses.
Our experience is that there is need for an administrative coordinator and sufficient technical support to make this event feasible. Among the needs to be covered are:
- booking a venue
- communicating and coordinating with all course teachers and students
- printing posters
- organizing the viewing sessions (logistics, placement)
- making a detailed program for the poster pitches
- preparing for on-screen display of the posters during the pitch session
- invitation to and promotion of the event
For our event, there is also a need for digital assistance as all posters must be made available online.
Funding for the event must also be carefully taken into consideration, especially with regard to printing the posters. Coffee and light snacks is often appreciated and creates a nice atmosphere, although not strictly necessary.
Biggs, J. & Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).
Marino, R. et al. (2000). Using poster sessions as an alternative to written examination - the poster exam. J. Chem. Educ 77, 9, 1158. https://doi.org/10.1021/ed077p1158
Holtermann, K., Soulé, J. and Cotner, S. (2023). Poster sessions as constructive alignment in BIO courses. UiB Læringskonferansen 2023. (view pdf here)
- Jonathan Soule
- Kristin Holtermann