Creating Posters for the FYS Guiding Question Conference

Here are some examples of posters.  I have two good ones, a bad one, and a analog mockup for this year.  See my email about workshop dates and times to learn about the e-poster options.

The first one is from an older template, but it’s still a good one.  Bias alert: it’s from a former student, Emma Horn. (Emma is now in her second year as a PC.)

goodI like this one for many reasons.   First and foremost, it has a detailed issue map – one that shows the complexity of the issue she was exploring – and Emma was capable of discussing in great detail the observations, inferences, and questions she had chosen to display.  Further, her background statement, roadmap, and points for discussion were distillations of much longer works (her final paper).

As you look at this poster and think, “that’s rather simple”, keep in mind that famous quote about length…”if I had more time, I would have made this shorter” (the internet says it was originally from Pascal, 1657).  That applies here.  This issue map and poster is the result of many weeks of work.  In fact, she only put the question in the center after it had evolved many times and she settled upon it for the poster session.   It looks neat today – but I can assure you that at times it was quite messy and disorganized,

She saved each element of her poster as a PDF file, and later uploaded them to her ePortfolio (along with her final paper).  It’s a subject she has continued to explore. In short, it’s indicative of someone who took FYS and its learning objectives quite seriously.

Some of my students (and students from other seminars) thought our posters looked too “cookie cutter.”  Yes, they looked the same from afar, but each was quite unique in their details!  (I did frown on putting pictures on their posters…but she rebelled!  Good for her!)

Here’s an electronic option that’s also very good – it’s from one of my current PCs, Sam Passanante.  It has all the elements I’ve noted in Emma’s, except that it’s on-line (on her ePortfolio.)

If this link works as I suspect it will, you’ll not get to her poster.  But if you go to ePortfolio and find Sam’s page, you can find her poster in First Year Experience => FYS.

Granted, these e-posters are less attractive from afar.  They don’t invite students to visit quite like the analog posters.  Nevertheless, I find these e-posters are better.  Students who sit at the computer together discuss their work in greater detail and for a longer period of time.  I found this to be true in all of the sections using ePortfolio posters, not just mine.

As you well know by now, I’m encouraging the e-format.

The third example is not very good – in fact I would not have given this student credit for this work.  Sadly, this type of poster is far too common.


It does not have an open-ended enduring question.  It does not have an issue map – or any indication that this students understands complexity.  It’s more of a junior high school level visual representation of a topic…or a weak book report.  It probably took all of fifteen minutes to build, and had little to do with the FYS learning objectives.

It’s possible that the student knew a great deal about their topic and could discuss aesthetics in detail, but FYS and these posters are about grasping the nature of complexity.  They don’t organize what we know, or show how the problem might be solved (We are working with adaptive/wicked/complex problems, not complicated/technical problems.

And they’re not art projects – with apologies to quality art projects…

Guiding Questions follow a similar line:

  • Personally relevant & incites your curiosity
  • Requires multiple perspectives across humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, arts
  • Does not have one “right” answer
  • Persistent and unavoidable as part of the human condition
  • Open-ended
  • Lends itself to focused inquiry on a particular topic
  • Requires critical thinking
  • Non-judgmental

Also attached here is a mockup of an FYS poster for the Tri-Fold.  (The ePortfolio posters are essentially the same – come to Maria’s workshop to hear more.)

Mockup for FYS PosterHere’s the PDF for download: Mockup for FYS Poster

Remember – it’s a mockup, not a carefully done student project.  Some of the details are there as placeholders.  (It’s likely that an actual student project along these lines would have updated their issue map to follow their new question/issue a bit more closely.  I am showing the original map that sparked the journey in the first place.

It does, however, have all of the elements I mentioned last week:

  • Background – what’s the inspiration/reason for the Guiding Question
  • The Guiding Question stated clearly
  • The Issue Map – what makes the problem “wicked” (why is it not a technical, solvable problem?)
  • Roadmap – possible courses, internships, organizations, etc.
  • Points of Discussion – this is somewhat open to interpretation, but might include how your question evolved
  • A place for comments
  • Key Resources (references) used for understanding the complexity of the problem

I do have multiple examples (good and bad) in my office and am happy to loan them out if you’d like to show your students.

The bottom line:  I want a poster to show that a student is less certain about what they know (not more) and therefore open to new and different ways of thinking.  I want them to realize that their knowledge – not matter how good – is incomplete and that the mark of an educated person is not what they know but what they do when they don’t know.

As always, let me know if you have any questions.



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