Monologues v. questions at conferences: how are they perceived? – observations of early career researchers

In this post we hear from CRADLE PhD student Ameena Payne as she introduces her joint publication in EduResearch Matters ‘Academics, we need useful dialogues not monologues’. The publication discusses the experience of question time at the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA) conference 2022.

Often at an academic conference members of the audience are given the chance to ask questions at the end of the presentation or keynote. This is for attendees to ask the speaker to elaborate on a point they’ve made, or to ask the speaker’s opinion on a topic related to their talk.

Occasionally, an audience member will use (or, rather, misuse) the opportunity to ask a question to instead provide their own (unsolicited) opinion or statement – or even to signpost their own research. Such statements often start with something along the lines of ‘I have a question. Well, less of a question and more of a comment.’ This expression is a standing joke in academia and monologues have become normalised behaviours at conferences; unfortunately, such comments detract from the discussion and steer focus away from the speaker.

Murdoch University Master of Education student Ashah Tanoa and I address and unpack this phenomenon in our recent EduResearch Matters opinion piece titled, ‘Academics, we need useful dialogues not monologues’. In raising the issue, we aim to productively discuss not only what we noticed at our first in-person conference but how we believe conference organisers, session chairs and audience members can improve the experience for presenters and attendees.

Have a read and see what you think. Does this reflect your experience? How can we all improve the conference experience?


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