Concerns About "Teaching" at Professional Conferences

Baron Perlman and Lee I. McCann

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

 

Most efforts to improve teaching involve undergraduate or graduate instruction. Other pedagogy, largely ignored in the literature, occurs when psychologists teach and learn at professional conferences. How might this teaching be improved?

Brookfield (1995) argued that faculty do not really understand the outcome and impact of their teaching, nor how to improve it, until they ask students how they perceive their pedagogy. We asked faculty their pet peeves about the nature and quality of the teaching they experienced while attending professional psychology meetings. Their opinions should prove useful for presenters interested in enhancing the quality of their conference "teaching."

Method

Participants

We surveyed attendees at a state (Enhancing the Teaching of Psychology and Human Development Conference, University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, WI, n = 29, response rate = 100%), regional (Mid-America Conference for Teachers of Psychology, n= 49, response rate = 63%), and national (NITOP, n = 48, response rate = 12%) teaching conference and colleagues at two doctoral and two master's departments (n = 18). One hundred forty-one responded; 134 contributed usable data. Participants were asked to complete the survey only once.

Procedure

All attendees responded individually during one session at the state teaching conference. At the regional meeting we distributed a brief questionnaire to all participants to be completed and returned before the conference ended. At the national meeting an announcement indicated a questionnaire was available at the registration desk and could be returned there. We also distributed questionnaires to faculty in our department and asked colleagues to do the same in three other departments.

We told potential participants:

We are interested in the quality of teaching that takes place at conferences. What are your pet peeves (major dislikes and annoyances) about conference workshops, symposia and other presentations you have attended over the past few years (e.g., APA, APS, NITOP). Take a few minutes and write down your two or three major pet peeves about such presentations. What bothers you or annoys you the most?
Results
Discussion
References

Brookfield, S. D. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Table 1

Audience Pet Peeves About Conference Presentations

Na

%b


Preparation and Content

Disorganized (e.g., no outline or summary, no themes or content integration, no take home message)

21

8

Title/Abstract do not accurately describe content

19

7

Lack of content (e.g., too much intro/small talk, audience generates content, use of icebreakers)

17

6

Content choice (e.g., too high/low or technical, expert does not share expertise, lack of depth, conclusions not supported by data, no theory, too theoretical, no examples )

16

6

Handouts (e.g., too few, incomplete, irrelevant)

14

5

Unprepared presenter/discussant

10

4

Too much material

8

3

Total

105

40

Style and Rapport

Poor rapport with audience (e.g., reading verbatim)

33

12

Speaking style (e.g., monotone voice, boring, no enthusiasm, no humor, talks too fast or slowly)

18

7

Lack of respect (e.g., pompous, arrogant, talk down to audience, not approachable, do not send promised materials after conference)

8

3

Total

59

22

Managing Time/Audience/Questions/Interchange

Run too long, start late

21

8

No/little time for questions or interchange

19

7

Not managing audience well (e.g., audience "experts" pontificate, muddy issues, audience comments take too much time)

11

4

Not repeating inaudible questions

3

1

Total

54

20

Visual Aids

Illegible (e.g., print too small)

30

11

Too much on overheads/slides/PowerPoint

8

3

PowerPoint: too fancy, distracting

5

2

Other (e.g., no visual aids, struggle to use technology)

4

2

Total

47

18

Total

265c

_____________________________________________________________________________________

a Attendees (n = 134) usually gave more than one peeve per category. Responses represent number of peeves, not attendees.

b Percent = number of responses/total number given.

c Total percentage may not equal sum of item percentages due to rounding.

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