I have a love and hate relationship with APSA, but one thing I like is that it kicks off the year. I always come home with more energy to work. Tomorrow I’ll be posting about some of the active learning ideas I encountered at panels, but today I’m going to take a time out to talk briefly about a disturbing trends that I saw and would love to discuss in the comments.
Panels are DEPRESSING. Its rare that I leave a panel feeling happy that I attended instead of just downloading the papers on my own time. There are plenty of reasons for this, but I think the most prominent one is that our format for exchanging knowledge at conferences is fundamentally flawed. All the research that we know about how people learn best, and our preferred method is to have a group of individuals talk at the audience and each other for an hour and a half and then (if we are lucky!) allow for questions and dialogue with the audience. I wish I could say that the teaching and learning sections did better, but one of these panels was the worst offender, with only ten minutes left for questions, and most of those more technical ‘how-do-I-do-this’ type questions instead of genuine discussion.
I much prefer the working group model of ECPR’s joint sessions, round-table style conversations, or the track method at TLC. I would love to see us just throw out the rulebook, look up from our own papers, and talk to each other. Perhaps that’s wishful thinking, but I do want to think through some other models that would really allow us to engage with each other and perhaps, even–dare I say it?–teach each other about our findings.
Edited to add: Nina posted about the working group model at APSA which also sounds like a better method and one that could be applied more broadly.