If it’s Tuesday, this must be …

Charlie DePascale



12 days, 3 conferences: PowerPoint presentations, posters, uncomfortable chairs, and a few random thoughts.

  1. Conference presentations are an art form: whether it’s a keynote address, a 15-minute research presentation, an “electronic board” or a poster a good presentation must tell a story, make a point, and deliver a message. A picture can be worth thousands of words.  Thousands of words on a slide are not worth quite as much.


  1. Long breaks between sessions are nice. Finding the right break:session ratio can make or break a conference.


  1. With the right speakers and topics, two days of plenary sessions can be magical.


  1. It can be good to put yourself in situations where you’re the oldest person in the room for two days. (but you know, not in a creepy way)


  1. I hate effect size. It may have been an improvement over reporting simple significance levels, but that’s not enough.  You still have to be able to explain the impact that your treatment will have.  Even dreaded econometricians tell me that a certain treatment will result in a student earning $5 a week more for the next 40 years.  I don’t believe any of it, but I appreciate the effort.


  1. Every conference should have a few sessions where we share all of the things that didn’t work as planned, describe all of the treatments that had absolutely no impact at all. We can learn so much from things that didn’t work.


  1. I miss overhead transparencies. Sure they were messy and limited, but they seemed to breed spontaneity.  Pretty much every session in the transparency era included somebody grabbing a blank transparency and a marker to rebut or support a presenter. That just doesn’t happen with PowerPoint.


  1. How about a conference with “anything can happen Thursday”? Imagine a session on Thursday afternoon with a block of concurrent sessions, but no descriptions.  You don’t know what the topic is or who the presenters will be.  You just pick a room, sit back, and engage with the presentations.  The downside is minimal, and you may learn something new.


  1. Researchers have to ask big, important questions; or at least they have to know and understand the big important questions. Even if your project is to make a better widget, you should have some idea how the better widget might be used.


  1. As Seen on TV: Nothing ever works the same way at home as it did on TV.  That’s the feeling I get with many presentations.  This treatment will work with high quality instruction, appropriate administrative support, sufficient training, proper implementation, and kids who want to learn.  And the cold remedy will work if taken for 10 days with lots of fluids and plenty of rest.


And why is it so hard to get a comfortable temperature in hotel conference rooms?

Published by Charlie DePascale

Charlie DePascale is an educational consultant specializing in the area of large-scale educational assessment. When absolutely necessary, he is a psychometrician. The ideas expressed in these posts are his (at least at the time they were written), and are not intended to reflect the views of any organizations with which he is affiliated personally or professionally..

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