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Teaching with VETs: Visual Engagement Techniques

Saturday, September 29, 2012
8:30-10:00 AM, WCC 236, Larson Meeting Room

Derek Bruff
Director, Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University

Teaching with Visual Engagement Techniques Prezi


Experts develop "knowledge organizations," complex mental models that represent connections among information, concepts, and examples in a given field. Students, as novices in a field, have less complex knowledge organizations, making it difficult to solve problems and think critically. Students can use visual tools to help themselves construct better mental models and share their knowledge organizations with others in order to receive feedback on their learning. Thus, in the tradition of CATs (classroom assessment techniques) and CoLTs (collaborative learning techniques), we present VETs: visual engagement techniques. (When your CATs and CoLTs are feeling a little sick, it's time to call a VET.)

Analog vs. Digital Exercise

  Exercise Exercise analog v. digital Analog v. Digital exercise

 Analog v. Digital exercise Exercise

Participants in this workshop learned about several VETs that have applications in a wide variety of teaching contexts, including VETs designed to help students map relationships among ideas and those that map relationships among data. Workshop participants worked in small groups to brainstorm ways they might use VETs in their teaching, and they "shared out" with the large group through doodles and sketches of their ideas. Participants also debated the merits of high-tech (digital) and low-tech (analog) implementations of VETs.

Derek Bruff is director of the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching and a senior lecturer in the Vanderbilt Department of Mathematics.  Bruff consults regularly with faculty in a variety of disciplines about educational technology and other teaching and learning topics.  Bruff’s research interests include classroom response systems (“clickers”), visual thinking, student motivation, and social pedagogies.  He blogs on these topics at, and his book, Teaching with Classroom Response Systems: Creating Active Learning Environments, was published by Jossey-Bass in 2009.  Bruff has taught at Harvard University and has a PhD in mathematics from Vanderbilt University. Degrees: Furman University, B.S.; Vanderbilt University, Ph.D.

Learn more:

Derek Bruff's Blog: Agile Learning
Teaching with Visual Engagement Techniques (#vizlearning12)

Highlights from Carleton College's Visual Learning Conference (Part 1)
Highlights from Carleton College's Visual Learning Conference (Part 2)


Andrea Nixon

Director of Curricular and Research Support, Carleton College