"More and more Economics conferences are using poster sessions to feature research studies. They're more interactive than formal presentations by an author to a roomful of audience members. I read about using poster sessions as a teaching tool in my field, and thought it would be a fun way to get students talking with each other about research," Mellor said.
Students in Economics 456 chose to work individually or small groups, and then identified a research question related to healthcare economics. They used existing data to explain the importance of their topic, and performed a literature review to summarize what economic researchers have found related to their question, and how they found it. Each team made a poster, or a visual display of their research question and its answer. Research topics included medical malpractice caps, mental health coverage parity, drug advertising, and the use of soda taxes to combat obesity, just to name a few.
During each poster session, half the students stood with their posters to discuss their work, while the rest reviewed the posters and talked to the presenters. Macy Cullison and Mary Bonney, both from the Class of 2010, thought the sessions were a good way to interact with other students in the class, in a way that is more casual than the interaction that takes place in lectures, or even in seminars.
Several economics faculty and staff came to act as guest judges, including Pat Luke, office manager. "Pat really is the most powerful person in the department; plus a good test of how well someone knows their work is whether they can explain it to someone outside of economics," Mellor said. Will Hausman, Chair of the Economics Department, was another guest judge. "This was a wonderful experience. I was deeply impressed with the posters, which summarized the work and with the students' ability to explain what they had done. I also think this must have been a great experience for them, very professional," Hausman said. Students like Jen Lopdrup, Class of 2011 and recently declared Economics minor, had good things to say about the experience. According to Jen, "it was a great hands-on application... it enabled us students to get a firm grasp on a specific question in a complex field." And students will get to participate in Mellor's future classes. "I'll definitely do it again - I just loved seeing what William an Mary students can do, and how much they seemed to enjoy the learning experience," Mellor said.