Volume 11 · Number 1 · Pages 98–105
Designing Academic Conferences as a Learning Environment: How to Stimulate Active Learning at Academic Conferences?

Johan Verbeke

Log in download the full text in PDF

> Citation > Similar > References > Add Comment


Context: The main aim in organizing academic conferences is to share and develop knowledge in the focus area of the conference. Most conferences, however, are organized in a traditional way: two or three keynote presentations and a series of parallel sessions where participants present their research work, mainly using PowerPoint or Prezi presentations, with little interaction between participants. Problem: Each year, a huge number of academic events and conferences is organized. Yet their typical design is mainly based on a passive way of sharing knowledge. No models for an adequate conference design and an appropriate learning environment are available. The overall conference design, however, is a crucial aspect in the learning of the participants and deserves special attention from conference organizers. Method: I have organized around 15 carefully designed conferences (and attended many more. These have been the steps of an ongoing exploration to learn from each of these events and develop a deeper understanding of adequate conference designs and stimulating learning environments. This paper reports on my understandings of the organization of a selection of these conferences (in architecture, arts and design) and on the way knowledge sharing and knowledge development was stimulated at these events. These conferences included less traditional conference designs, collective learning and explicit sharing of understanding between participants. Results: Collaboration in small groups and joint plenary discussions, plenty of time for interaction and generous feedback to presenters turn out to be very valuable for consolidating knowledge and envisioning future developments in a discipline. Also, it is our experience that the presence of design objects as a trigger and catalyst for discussing and learning makes a huge difference in sharing and developing new knowledge. This paper aims to highlight the importance and raise awareness of different methods of stimulating the construction of knowledge by conference participants. I hope it will inspire future conference organizers and help them to induce more deliberate knowledge construction amongst participants. Implications: Insights from this paper are relevant for all conference organizers, especially those in the domain of architecture, arts and design. It has become clear that it is beneficial to have exhibit-type presentations as well as moments of collective learning. Organizers are recommended to adopt an explicit conference design. Constructivist content: Following a constructivist approach to learning environments, this paper stresses the importance of scheduling moments of active and collective learning and knowledge construction explicitly during academic conferences.

Key words: Conference design, collective learning, collective tutoring, knowledge construction.


Verbeke J. (2015) Designing academic conferences as a learning environment: How to stimulate active learning at academic conferences? Constructivist Foundations 11(1): 98–105. http://constructivist.info/11/1/098

Export article citation data: Plain Text · BibTex · EndNote · Reference Manager (RIS)

Similar articles

Peschl M. F. (2006) Modes of Knowing and Modes of Coming to Know Knowledge Creation and Co-Construction as Socio-Epistemological Engineering in Educational Processes
Verbeke J. (2015) Author’s Response: Four Layers for Designing Conferences as Learning Environments: Space, Time, Communities of Practice and Trust


Beckett S. (1984) Worstward ho. Grove Press, New York. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Biggs M. & Karlsson H. (eds.) (2010) The Routledge companion to research in the arts. Routledge, Abingdon. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Brown J. S., Collins A. & Duguid P. (1989) Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher 18(1): 32–42. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Deleuze G. (1988) Spinoza: Practical philosophy. City Lights Publishers, San Francisco. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Deleuze G. (1994) Difference and repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. Columbia University Press, New York. French original published in 1968. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Duffy T. & Cunningham D. (1996) Constructivism: Implications for the design and delivery of instruction. In: Jonassen D. H. (ed.) Handbook of research for educational communications and technology. Macmillan, New York: 170–198. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Eliot T. S. (1943) Four quartets. Harcourt, Brace and Co, New York. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Foucault M. (1972) The archaeology of knowledge and the discourse on language. Translated by A. M. Sheridan Smith. Tavistock Publications, London. French original published in 1971. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Gibbons M., Limoges C., Nowotny H., Schwartman S., Scott P. & Trow M. (1994) The new production of knowledge: The dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies. Sage, London. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Gibson J. J. (2015) The ecological approach to visual perception. Psychology Press, New York. Originally published in 1979. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Glanville R. (2007) Design prepositions. In: Verbeke J. & Belderbos M. (eds.) The unthinkable doctorate. Hogeschool voor Wetenschap & Kunst and Chalmers University of Technology, Brussels: 115–126. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Glanville R. (2009) The Black Boox. Volume 3: 39 Steps. Edition Echoraum, Vienna. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Goldbeck-Wood S. (1999) Evidence on peer review: Scientific quality control or smokescreen? British Medical Journal 318(2): 44–45. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Goodman N. (1960) The way the world is. Review of Metaphysics 14(1): 48–56. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Jonassen D. H. (1994) Thinking technology: Toward a constructivist design model. Educational Technology 9(2): 7–26. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Jonassen D. H., Howland J., Marra R. & Crismond D. (1995) Constructivism and computer-mediated communication in distance education. American Journal of Distance Education 9(2): 7–26. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Kjørup S. (2006) Another way of knowing: Baumgarten, aesthetics, and the concept of sensuous cognition. Bergen National Academy of the Arts, Norway. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Kodama M. (2007) Knowledge innovation: Strategic management as practice. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Krčma E. (2007) Drawing time. Trace, materiality, and the body in drawing after 1940. Ph.D thesis. University College London. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Latour B. (2004) Why has critique run out of steam? From matters of fact to matters of concern. Critical Inquiry 30: 225–248. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Latour B. (2014) Some advantages of the notion of “critical zone” for geopolitics. Procedia Earth and Planetary Science 10: 3–6. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878522014000642
Lave J. & Wenger E. (1991) Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Lefoe G. (1998) Creating constructivist learning environments on the web: The challenge in higher education. In: ASCILITE98 Conference Proceedings. University of Wollongong, Wollongong: 453–464. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Lesage D. (2009) Who’s afraid of artistic research? On measuring artistic research output. Art & Research. A Journal of Ideas, Contexts and Methods 2(2) http://www.artandresearch.org.uk/v2n2/lesage.html
Massumi B. (2010) On critique. Inflexions 4: 337–340. http://www.inflexions.org/n4_Brian-Massumi-on-Critique.pdf
Peeters J. & Michiels S. (eds.) (2010) I am serious now. BLD 2. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Perkins D. N. (1996) Foreword: Minds in the hood. In: Wilson B. G. (ed.) Constructivist learning environments: Case studies in instructional design. Educational Technology Publications, Englewood Cliffs NJ: v–ix. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Polanyi M. (1958) Personal knowledge. The University of Chicago press, Chicago. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Polanyi M. (1966) The tacit dimension. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Politis J. D. (2003) The connection between trust and knowledge management: What are its implications for team performance. Journal of Knowledge Management 7(5): 55–66. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Rancière J. (2004) The politics of aesthetics. Continuum, London. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Rattenbury K. (2014) Revealing secrets. Architecture Review Education (web publication only). http://www.architectural-education.club/revealing_secrets_kester_rattenbury
Smith H. & Dean R. (1997) Improvisation, hypermedia and the arts since 1945. Hardwood Academic Publishers, Amsterdam. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Smith R. (1999) Opening up BMJ peer review. A beginning that should lead to complete transparency. British Medical Journal 138(2): 4–5. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Stengers I. (2002) Beyond conversation: The risk of piece. In: Keller C. & Daniell A. (eds.) Process and difference: Between cosmological and poststructuralist postmodernism. SUNY Press, Albany: 235–255. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Stengers I. (2005) Introductory notes on an ecology of practices. Cultural Studies Review 11(1): 183–196. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
van Schaik L (2005) Mastering architecture, becoming a creative innovator in practice. Wiley & Sons, Chichester. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Verbeke J. & Stellingwerff M. (2001) {ACCOLADE}. TUDelft Press, Delft. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Verbeke J. (2013) This is research by design. In: Fraser M. (ed.) Design research in architecture: An overview. Ashgate, Burlington: 137–160. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Verbeke J., Van Den Biesen H. & Van Den Berghe J. (2014) Creative practice conference. Faculty of Architecture, KU Leuven, Belgium. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Vygotsky L. S. (1962) Thought and language. Translated by E. Hanfmann and G. Vakar. MIT Press, Cambridge MA. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Wilson B. G. (1996) Constructivist learning environments: Case studies in instructional design. Educational Technology Publications, Englewood Cliffs NJ. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar

Comments: 0

To stay informed about comments to this publication and post comments yourself, please log in first.