Flipping the Class: Part 3

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How to start flipping your course: part 3

Originally posted by Rebecca Celik, Ph.D.

What’s the most important part of an experiment? Results. Flipping a course should be treated like any other scientific investigation, and the best way to measure its effectiveness is by analyzing student outcomes. In the final installment of this series, Dr. Amanda Brindley, University of California, Irvine, shares her results and how her flipped general chemistry course altered the engagement and success of her students.

Flipped classrooms engage students in active learning

Most students are used to vegging out in lecture, especially in a huge lecture hall. A flipped classroom really forces them out of their comfort zones. On in-class assignments, they all work together with at least one other person. . . but that has been problematic. The first time I taught this way, I had a lot of difficulty getting them to consistently collaborate with classmates, and one of the main complaints on the midterm evaluations was that “the people next to me won’t talk to me.”

But now I make a big deal of the fact that if your neighbor refuses to work with you it’s your responsibility to move and find new classmates to sit with. Discussing the concepts with peers is a big part of the learning process. I’m fine with a little bit of chaos and moving around to make sure that happens. What I end up with are a group of individuals in the back left corner of the room who refuse to interact; you are never going to eliminate that completely in a 400 person class. I do spend extra time up there trying to engage them, but they only stay on task if I am in the general vicinity.

The rest of the class does commit to working together. And that’s much better for me, too, because when questions arise, there will be five people in a group who have the same problem. I’m not trying to get around to 400 individuals. I can more quickly identify topics that everyone is stuck on by talking to a handful of groups; and then I can stop and address the entire class to help clarify and move things along. So, everyone gets a lot more accomplished.

Assessing for accountability

One of the biggest problems I have with the flipped classroom is accountability, in part because of the very large size of the lectures I teach. I’m currently trying to deal with that issue by using pop i>clicker quizzes, but there are a few things I dislike about that approach. First, clicker quizzes take up valuable class time. Also, I have caught some students sharing clickers or taking clicker quizzes for other people. I’m sure there are others doing the same thing.

What I’d like to do in the future is make a low-difficulty Sapling Learning assignment to go with each video lecture that students would do on their own outside of class after watching. The feedback the system offers and the opportunity to take as much time as needed to think about quiz questions and even go back to re-watch parts of the videos would even the playing field for the students and allow me make the quizzes worth enough to encourage more students to do the assigned pre-lecture preparation.

What did the teaching evaluations say?

It’s funny, because in terms of teaching evaluations, I got the same numbers in both my flipped and regular classes; but I got a lot of whining in the comments about the flipped classroom style. A large number of them made it clear that they didn’t actually like it, however many made it clear that they did. It was very mixed. But that didn’t really surprise me.

My colleague did a survey with her flipped classroom students, and they responded that they didn’t prefer flipped classroom to traditional lecture, but that they would recommend flipped classroom to a friend. I’ve also seen a variety of polls from other groups of students presented at conferences, and the results are always pretty similar.

Students complain about flipped classrooms, but they do learn more and end up more successful in the course, and they do recommend it to others. The second [time] was much more positive, but still divided. I attribute much of this to discussions I had with them (read How to start flipping your course: part 1), but also because the student makeup consisted of more at risk and underprepared students. The flipped class method seemed to resonate much better with students who know that they do not learn well in traditional classroom settings.

Numbers speak louder than words

Follow up discussions with students from the second course were much more positive. They enjoyed the class more, and while many still said the flipped class method wasn’t their preferred method of learning, the students who spoke negatively of it did so from a “personal opinion” standpoint.

I showed them the class average for the first midterm from the previous quarter, when I’d taught with a flipped classroom, and the average from an earlier quarter taught the traditional way. It’s tough to argue with a 69% average versus a 60% average.

Want to learn more about flipping your course? Visit FlippedChemistry.com and join the community of flipped chemistry educators, today!