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Thinking STEM, Teaching STEM: A Blog Series

Posted by on Thursday, February 19, 2015 in Resource.

By Vivian Finch, CFT Graduate Teaching Fellow

The CFT is now in the fifth 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: Application of Knowledge

Week 5: Putting Thinking into Practice (Part 1)

As students move along the learning spectrum towards adaptable expertise, it is important for instructors to recognize and support the different phases of their learning process, which can range from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence.  By recognizing where our students are in their learning process, we can better provide our students with opportunities to practice and apply what they are encountering in the classroom.  Creating a safe space in which students can practice allows them to process that information and build upon and adapt their existing knowledge structures.  In addition to practice, the feedback we provide our students is equally as important, as it gives students a better sense of where they are in their learning process.

Sometimes, creating the space for meaningful practice and feedback in our classrooms can be a difficult task, especially when we feel an urge to make sure to cover the topics we’ve laid out for our courses.  How do we create meaningful practice and feedback for our students? In the following video, Dr. Anita Mahadevan-Jansen, Professor of Biological Engineering at Vanderbilt University, addresses exactly that question, as well as some problems with the “content coverage” teaching approach.



Dr. Mahadevan-Jansen stresses the importance of providing context for the topics she discusses in her classrooms.  It is in the context that students grasp the importance of the topic both in terms of the discipline and in terms of their own lives.

Stay tuned next week for how Dr. Mahadevan-Jansen builds challenge cycles and feedback into her courses!

Additional resources:

For more information on practice, feedback, and mastery, please see the video below, featuring Dr. Michele DiPietro, Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Kennessaw State University.



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