Bridging Pre-knowledge Gaps

Stefania Grecea, Bob Pirok, Lotte Schreuders, Jocelyne Vreede, Natasa Brouwer
Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Challenge and goal

Students enrolled in specific courses have broad pre-knowledge background and skills. This has influence on how they acquire, interpret and organise new knowledge. Mismatch between the student’s knowledge and lecturer’s expectation hampers the learning process of students. Therefore, some students cannot follow the course whilst others even fall. Diverse pre-knowledge background and skills are also challenging for the lecturer who has to teach while adapting to class fluctuations, all within a specific context. 

Topic of the user case

Prior knowledge, knowledge gaps, initial situation

Local context (specific)

Students entering the MSc Chemistry programme at the University of Amsterdam have broad pre-knowledge background and skills. This is because they come from different education programs all over the world. Also in the Netherlands, there are two types of higher education comprising higher professional education and university education. This leads to large differences in the pre-knowledge background of students. Yet, lecturers expect that students will have specific chemistry pre-knowledge that they need to study the courses in the master.

The aim of this user case is to increase the awareness of the lecturers concerning the diversity of the different student’s backgrounds in the classroom and facilitate learning in the conditions of the students' heterogeneous knowledge background without lowering the level of the courses in which they teach. 

Local educational scope (science, technology, engineering, math, science in society)

MSc Chemistry with different tracks

Pre-knowledge / Background of the participating local teaching staff

Most of the lecturers in this user case have achieved the Netherlands nationally recognized University Teaching Qualification certificate after following the UTQ programme organized at the Faculty of Science. Several lecturers are following the UTQ programme during this User case.

Local CPD goals

A. Create a microMOOC that will help fellow lecturers to improve the following skills:

  1. explain why it is necessary to know what pre-knowledge students have 
  2. set up a method to get and give insight in knowledge gaps
  3. make a list of pre-knowledge requirements
  4. create assignments for students to be able to fulfill the list of requirements at specific moments in the course (just in time teaching)

B. Make the fellow lecturers and educational managers aware that it is necessary to get insight in pre-knowledge of your students.

C. Community “Bridging the Pre-knowledge gaps” who use the microMOOC and meet to discuss this topic and to present each other solutions and discuss them.


Needs defined in STEM-CPD Roadmap

3 choose an appropriate assessment method for their course
6 cope with heterogeneous pre-knowledge of students
4 engage students and arouse interest for the discipline in the class
27 organize peer-assessment / peer-feedback in their courses
25 use interactive online boards for teaching and learning
3 inspire a positive attitude in their class.
5 be interested in their students' progress.
2 attending presentations about teaching approaches.
11 collaborating with a peer-lecturer on a redesign of a course.
12 getting peer-feedback on own teaching practice from a colleague.

CPD activities at the local university

Stage 1

The microMOOC development team meets every two weeks. A meeting with the programme directors of the Bachelor and Master programme takes place. 

Stage 2

The microMOOC is promoted among the lecturers teaching in BSc & MSc Chemistry programs of the UvA VU joint degree. Several meetings are organized.

Stage 3

The microMOOC is promoted to new members in the teaching staff once a year during a meeting.


Teaching and learning materials

microMOOC (link to the MOOC, list of literature, description/ course design):

Sustainable implementation

At the first stage of this user case, the lecturers who are developing the MOOC will learn collaboratively and prepare learning material / literature to share with fellow lecturers.
One meeting will be organized in collaboration with the programme director where they will promote the MOOC and present their developments.

In the second stage it is expected that several lecturers will join the community “Bridging pre-knowledge gaps”. The members of the community will meet several times and the new lecturers will use the microMOOC.

In the third stage once a year there will be a meeting about “Bridging pre-knowledge gaps” to keep paying attention to this issue and each time several new lecturers will join this community.


Expected impact of the CPD User Case

Implementation of the method how to get insight and give insight in knowledge gaps to students and how tackle pre-knowledge gaps in the MSc Chemistry programme.

Plans for eventual continuation of the CPD within the same topic

Share knowledge and experience with other programms.


Constructive alignment, Engagement and motivation, facilitation discipline specific learning, Organize peer-feedback, collaborative learning, Use of digital tools for a pedagogical goal (type P1-1, P1-3b, P1-3d, P1-4a)

This CPD scenario describes a User case in which lecturers develop their competence in sound course design and how to engage and motivate students and how to facilitate discipline specific thinking and organizing peer-feedback and collaborative learning and how to use specific digital tools in teaching for a pedagogical goal and develop attitudes in supporting student development and enabling students’ well-being in a learning process and inclusivity.
The approximate duration of a User case that follows this scenario is several weeks.
In this CPD scenario the participants are using a very short open online course, a micro mooc (μmooc) and professionalize in a close connection to their own teaching practice (at their workplace) and meet in person on location with the training staff and with other participants.

Learning environment
Several weeks

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