Poster Project Final: Student Perceptions and Performance

Tuesday 4:30pm-5:30pm Red Gym
Poster Session


Eileen Herrstrom, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
This poster summarizes the results of nine terms of teaching an introductory physical geology course with a poster project that replaces the final exam. The course is intended for students who are not planning to major in science, although some geology majors have come out of the class. It satisfies two general education requirements – one for physical science and one for quantitative reasoning. Ten years ago, the grade was based mostly on exams (70%) and the rest on laboratory exercises (30%). Since then, I have reduced the emphasis on tests and added several other types of assignments, along with the Poster Project. Pedagogical research and personal experience had shown me that exams do not always accurately measure a student's learning, and I wished to give students who do not test well other ways of demonstrating their knowledge. For the project, each student prepares a poster showing analysis of geological data using a spreadsheet. A series of quizzes illustrates best practices in poster-making, and several parts of the poster are due throughout the semester. During the scheduled final exam time, students display their posters and review others' work. The project has proved to be an effective way for students to demonstrate their spreadsheet skills and to study a topic in depth. Evaluations show that 89% of students prefer the project to a written final examination, and 64% score better on the poster than on the midterm exams. Thus, the project does provide an avenue for students who perform poorly on written tests to improve their grades. There is a group of students who preferred the project but would probably have scored better on an exam. Most low scores resulted from not submitting all parts of the project. Many evaluations have urged me to keep the project in the course.

Presentation Media

Poster Project Final (Acrobat (PDF) 24.7MB Jul11 16)
Project Elements and Sample Quizzes (Acrobat (PDF) 12.5MB Jul11 16)
Student Handout for Poster Project (Acrobat (PDF) 167kB Jul11 16)