The Flipped Classroom: an experiment

I have been moving in this direction for the past year, but after a discussion with my Saturday students this week, I’ve finally decided to more formally adopt a flipped classroom. For an overview of the flipped model, check out “The Flipped Classroom Infographic”.

The following definition is from Michigan State University’s Office of Faculty and Organizational Development:

In “flipped classes” students use technology at home to watch online video lectures, demonstrations, and explanations of assignments.  Class time is spent doing what is traditionally called “homework.”  The teacher in a flipped classroom is a learning facilitator, able to work one-to-one with students, clarify assignments, and offer help as needed.  Classmates can work together on in-class assignments, engage in discussions, or collaborate on projects.

A major benefit is that teachers spend more time working directly with students instead of lecturing to them.  The downside is the need for access to technology and the student’s own motivation to watch the videos.

On the MSU page cited above, you can find several resources about the flipped classroom with specific reference to higher education.

I started the process last year by developing in-depth, weekly quizzes that varied each week. The goal was to engage students more in the reading process (see previous post from the ACCESS blog). Sometimes the weekly quizzes included a collaborative project, sometimes they included a small group discussion or team work. In each case, individual students had to write their own answers to the quiz questions. I found this to be tremendously engaging. Students worked very hard on these quizzes and spent extended periods of time deeply engaged with course material.

I’ve presented this idea at various conferences and the usual questions that come from fellow instructors include:

  1. Are you concerned about spending so much class time on quizzes?
  2. How do you create and grade all those quizzes in addition to all the other assignments?

These questions are valid and I’ve spent the last year or so thinking about them. What I have found is that students really focus during that quiz time – more so than any lecture I’ve done, and more so than any other collaborative project I’ve designed. I think the combination of the active component to the quiz as well as the individual quiz score per student seems to motivate each student to participate in the activity and try their best to write it up for the quiz answers. In terms of planning, the time I used to spend in planning my lecture and class activities goes in to designing an active quiz with the sole purpose of engaging students in the material. So far, I have not seen a huge increase in the amount of time I spend in planning.

Grading does take time and this is always a challenge for me! However, I am using a rubric that focuses on the strength of the writing (more on that later). This has helped me to concentrate my feedback on students’ ability to communicate their thoughts rather than on testing them for specific content criteria. The students have described this as:

This kind of quiz is more of a learning experience.

It doesn’t feel like a regular test. It feels more like learning.

The quotes above were taken from reflection papers written by students last semester (fall 2012).

At this point, based on encouragement from my students, I am now experimenting with using short, informational videos about specific assignments and course content and posting them each week to our Blackboard site and perhaps to this blog. The idea is that students can watch these videos at home, or on campus and review them as needed in order to fully understand the content as well as the expectations for each assignment. I just posted my first 2-minute video on Saturday and it didn’t take that much time. It was a re-play of what I had just discussed that day but it is typically something I need to repeat many times until the assignment is due.

What I hope is that students will look at it as needed and perhaps it will cut down on the number of times I say the same thing about a specific assignment during class. The theory is that this will free our time together and allow me to work more closely, one-on-one with students on anything they need at the time including explanations of content and targeted feedback on their writing. We will see if this pans out.

After discussing the flipped classroom model with the students Saturday morning, they encouraged me to give it a try. I am always amazed at how willing Child Development students are to try something new especially if they think it will help them to learn and grow. I’m very proud of them for that kind of attitude. Becoming a teacher means deciding to be a lifelong learner and these students are already demonstrating their willingness to keep learning.

The least I can do is keep learning new things too, so here we go!

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2 Responses to The Flipped Classroom: an experiment

  1. Pingback: The Flipped Classroom: an experiment | The Harold Lounge

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