Conference Presentation Feedback, Part 1: Introduction

So, about a month ago, I gave two conference presentations at two different conferences in the space of two weeks. It was a little nuts, and I probably won’t be trying that crazy trick again any time soon, but I did get to go to two completely different, and extraordinarily valuable, conferences and give presentations that, by all accounts, were positively received.  For my first time(s) on the conference-presentation circuit, that seems like a pretty good outcome to me.

The first presentation was “But what did they learn? What classroom assessment can tell you about student learning,” which I gave at the ARL Library Assessment Conference in Baltimore, MD on October 25.  Being an ARL conference, this was kind of a big deal for a librarian from decidedly-not-an-ARL-library.

The second presentation was “But what did they learn? What classroom assessment can tell you about student learning,” which I gave at the 10th annual Brick & Click Academic Library Symposium at Northwest Missouri State University, which entirely lived up to its reputation as a terrific small conference for academic librarians, and which I am recommending to all of my coworkers for their future professional development.

Astute readers will deduce that I gave precisely the same presentation at both conferences. I’ll address that issue momentarily.

Because my presentations were about minute papers, a form of classroom assessment, I decided to “eat my own dogfood” and close the presentation by actually doing a minute paper: I passed around pieces of scrap paper and asked the attendees to write down two things:  one useful thing they’d learned, and one thing they still had questions about.1

I finally had a chance to look through the minute papers from the two presentations last week, and I noticed that a lot of recurring themes came up in them, especially in the “one thing I still have questions about” part.  This is good, and it’s precisely the kind of information that informs pedagogical practice when classroom assessment is done right.  Unfortunately, unlike a credit-bearing course, where the faculty member can come back the next day and clarify things that the students didn’t understand; and unlike a one-shot instruction session, where you may never see those students again but at least you can do it better for the next set of students, I probably won’t ever get a chance to clarify these issues.  The best I can do is respond in a public forum and hope the Long Tail (or … something … ) fills in the gaps.

So, over the next week or so, I’ll be responding to some of the recurring themes that I saw in the minute papers.  I’ll collect all the posts under the category of “Conference Talkback 2010” so you can view them all there once they’re finished.

Giving the same presentation twice?

So, yeah, I gave pretty much exactly the same presentation twice at two different conferences.  I had a hard time deciding whether that was right or not, and I’m still not sure whether it was.  I wound up justifying it as follows:

  1. I wasn’t being paid for either presentation. In fact, I paid full registration for the ARL conference, and a moderately discounted presenters’ registration rate for Brick & Click.  (I was paid in what Dorothea Salo [borrowing the term from Cory Doctorow] has described as the “whuffie” currency of adding a line to my CV, which, when you’re on the tenure track, is frankly far more valuable than cash.)
  2. I judged it extremely unlikely that there would be any overlap between participants at the two conferences. As it turned out, there was one person at Brick & Click who identified herself as having been at the ARL conference, but she didn’t say she’d actually been to my presentation at the previous conference.
  3. The time slot at the ARL conference was 20 minutes, while at Brick & Click it was 50 minutes, so I expanded the talk a bit for the latter conference, included more examples, and we had time for a more extended Q & A afterwards.
  4. I consulted with my boss about the question, we talked over the issues involved, and decided it was probably okay to go ahead and do both.

As I said, I’m still not 100% certain I did the right thing, so if you feel that I didn’t, I’d appreciate hearing your (respectfully expressed) thoughts on the matter.  And, heck, if you think I did do the right thing, I’d appreciate hearing that, too.

And, as they used to say before advertising got all viral and whatnot, “watch this space!”

  1. There are many variants of the minute paper; this is the one that I use most often in one-shot library instruction classes.

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