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Thinking STEM, Teaching STEM: A Blog Series

Posted by on Thursday, May 14, 2015 in Resource.

By Vivian Finch, CFT Graduate Teaching Fellow

“Thinking STEM, Teaching STEM” is a blog series that spotlights some of the videos produced at Vanderbilt for the CIRTL MOOC course, “An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching.” This course 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.


The Role of Lectures

Week 16: Lectures and Visual Thinking

The dreaded PPT or Keynote lecture presentation.  More often than not in college classroom lectures, some sort of visual component accompanies an instructor’s verbal presentation.  That visual component usually takes the form of slides.  The struggle for instructors can come in the creation and subsequent of those slides:  How much information do you put on the slides?  When is it too much information?  Or to little?  What about their packaging?  Is it distracting/confusing/boring?  How many slides should there be in a lecture?  How do the slides interact with what you are saying?

The struggle for students can be traced back to those same questions:  What should you focus your attention on during the lecture: the instructor or the slides?  What information is important, if you don’t have enough time to write everything down?  What do you do if you miss something?  Striking the balance between verbal and visual communication streams during a lecture isn’t always that easy, and as a result, lecture presentations can pose a problem or cause anxiety for instructors and students alike.  So how can we as instructors better strike the verbal/visual balance in lectures, both for our students and ourselves?

In the following video*, Dr. Derek Bruff, Director of the Center for Teaching, discusses what that verbal/visual balance can look like, as well as some strategies for using visuals more effectively in STEM lectures.



Have you used or plan to use any of these strategies in your classroom?  If so, share your experiences and thoughts below!

Next week we’re jumping into our last topic of our blog series: Inquiry-Based Labs!


* If you thought this week’s featured video looked familiar, that’s because it is!  Dr. Bruff wrote a CFT blog post about it a couple of months ago.  To read it, click here.


Additional resources:

For more information on lectures and visuals, check out the CFT Teaching Guide: An Introduction to Lectures.

Reynolds, G. (2008). Presentation zen: Simple ideas on presentation design and delivery. Berkeley, CA: New Riders Pub.



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