The Work Matters

A Guide for New Faculty Teaching at City Tech

Organizing Knowledge

How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know (Ambrose et al., 2010)

There are several strategies instructors can use to reveal and enhance knowledge organization in the course and discipline. Making connections from one topic to the next, and one concept to the next supports the construction of mental models.

Tip: Demonstrate the organizational structure of the course*

Strategy: Provide students with the organizational structure of the course.

Objective: By explicitly discussing the order of presentation of topics and concepts, the instructor shares the connections and accumulation of knowledge.

Process: Review the syllabus as a “road map”

  • Highlight the organization of the concepts
    • In the readings
    • In the topics
  • Discuss how the assignments serve as scaffolding for cumulative learning

Option: Connect this exercise with further discussion of the syllabus [see Strategy #24]

* Based on strategies suggested by Ambrose et al., 2010

Tip: Analyze tasks to identify the most appropriate knowledge organization*

Strategy: Explicitly share the organization of each lecture, lab, or discussion.

Objective: Students will develop formal working use of models of discipline-specific knowledge organization

Time: From 3-5 minutes, depending on the complexity of concept and amount of vocabulary

Materials: Assignments
Outline form for students to fill in

Process: For each 1) lecture, 2) discussion in class, and

3) each assignment – whether to be done at home, in class, or in lab

  • Instructor shares the organization of the task
  • May share an outline form initially, which students fill in
    • Students will then need to rewrite the words of the template in their own words
  • As students become skilled, the knowledge organization should be part of a discussion of the topic

Technique benefits:

  • Because the instructor shares the “form” of the organization of the topic students can make an outline and fill in knowledge
  • Students develop “templates” or models of how the instructor presents knowledge

* Based on strategies suggested by Ambrose et al., 2010

Tip: Develop multiple organizing structures*

Strategy: Students work with various organizing techniques

Objective: Students will develop fluid access to various organizing structures

Techniques: The instructor can:

  • Explicitly make connections among concepts
  • Explicitly highlight deep features
  • Use contrasting and boundary cases to highlight organizing features
  • Use concept maps to demonstrate the connections among topics
    • Create your own concept map to analyze your own knowledge organization
    • Ask students in groups of four or more to draw a concept map to expose their knowledge organizations


  • Use a categorization task to expose students’ knowledge organizations
  • Monitor students’ work for problems in their knowledge organization

*Based on strategies suggested by Ambrose et al., 2010

Dreyfuss, A.E., Jordan, J., Rajaram, K., Caka, M. (2014). (2nd Ed.). The work matters:
A guide for new faculty teaching at City Tech. New York City College of Technology, CUNY.
Online at

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The Work Matters: A guide for new faculty teaching at City Tech. New York City College of Technology, CUNY by A.E. Dreyfuss is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.