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Thinking STEM, Teaching STEM: A Blog Series

Posted by on Thursday, February 12, 2015 in Resource.

By Vivian Finch, CFT Graduate Teaching Fellow

The CFT is now in the fourth week of the weekly blog series, “Thinking STEM, Teaching STEM,” as a way to spotlight some of the videos produced at Vanderbilt for the CIRTL MOOC course, “An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching,” which drew on the expertise of experienced STEM faculty, educational researchers, and representatives of university teaching centers.  As previously mentioned, the series will loosely follow the thematic trajectory of the course through the following topics:

  • Principles of Learning
  • Student Motivation
  • Inclusive Teaching
  • The Role of Lectures
  • Inquiry-Based Labs

If you would like to see other installments of this blog series, please click the tag “Thinking STEM, Teaching STEM” at the bottom of this post.  To access the videos featured in this series on YouTube, please the CFT’s YouTube channel or go directly to our blog playlist here.


Principles of Learning: Knowledge Organization

Week 4: Moving Towards the Big Picture (Part 2)

Last week we examined the nature of student knowledge organizations and possibilities for making those structures visible.  This week, we’re taking a look at how we can help our students move along the spectrum towards more robust and expert-based knowledge organization, i.e. big picture thinking.  Since the move towards big picture thinking and complex knowledge organization can sometimes be difficult for students, making their own processes visible not only to us, but also to the students themselves can be a valuable first step.  A second step towards helping our students understand big picture thinking is being transparent with our students about our own expert knowledge organizations and how we created them.

In this second video, Dr. Kathy Friedman, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University, and Dr. Jennifer Osterhage, Lecturer in Biology at the University of Kentucky, discuss how they applied the evidence they gathered from their concept maps towards their respective classroom structures and how this application helped move their students towards big picture disciplinary thinking.



For Dr. Friedman, the evidence generated by her students’ concept maps indicated that she could spend more time in class helping students make nuanced connections between major disciplinary ideas.  This lead to a gradual move toward the flipped classroom model, which allowed students to experience first exposure before class and work on the application of knowledge in the classroom, thereby making room for the development of those nuanced connections.

For Dr. Osterhage, the concept map structure provided the framework for how she organized the whole course.  As the course progressed, each class session was spent building the concept map incrementally and generating connections that would ultimately lead to students not only seeing the big picture, but also creating it for themselves.


Additional resources:

For more information on student representations of knowledge organizations, please see the video below, featuring our CFT Director, Derek Bruff.  For more information on the flipped classroom, check out the CFT’s Teaching Guide on the subject here.


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