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An Interview with Heath Giesbrecht, Part 2
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[originally posted spring 2015]
Heath Giesbrecht teaches at Houston Community College, and who has produced over 1100 videos for his classes. His YouTube channel, ProfessorHeath, is a valuable resource for flipped classrooms in first- and second-year chemistry. In the earlier posts in this series, Heath wrote about video production, and about tailoring class presentations to different learning styles. In this final installment, we shift to a discussion of in-class procedures:
Which of your classes do you flip?
Introductory Chemistry, General Chemistry I and II, and Organic I can all be flipped solely with the video content I have created. I am also working on completing the set of Organic II videos and I envision that I will be able to flip it within the next couple of semesters.
How do you handle textbooks? Are they central to your class?
The textbook is definitely central to the class. I prefer the students to come to class prepared by having read the section in the text that we will cover beforehand. Usually, after a few weeks, the student will be diligent in reading the textbook, but they are often still having a hard time understanding how to apply the information. It is at that point they usually start to ask to increase the time allotted for problem solving and cut down on formal lecture time. Essentially flipping the class for me.
How do you handle the flipped portion of the class? Do you direct the problem solving yourself, or is it more heavily group work? What’s the classroom dynamic?
In handling the flipped portion of the class, I have written extra problem sets that are lecture specific. After formal lecture, for the 25 students in the class I put them in groups of 5 and give each a problem set; at this time I walk around and answer questions. It reminds me a lot of my recitation sections as a TA back in grad school, where the instructor is on the front-line helping the student actualize his/her potential.
It is this atmosphere of peer-to-peer idea generation and collaboration that is the most exciting part of the class period, and the students respond with enthusiasm. It allows students to bounce concepts off of their classmates before coming to a collective decision on a problem without the fear of having their grade marked down. It also allows me the opportunity to identify common student misconceptions and errors in logic, which are almost impossible to discover when holding a traditional lecture. Easily corrected problems are resolved, and the students feel more confident going into the exams. It is especially helpful because the student is immediately reinforcing concepts that they were recently exposed to in lecture, and previously through reading the text. The classroom transforms into learning space, for both the students and the instructor.
In the traditional format, we take that practice time away from the students when we lecture at them, removing the autonomy that is essential to human trial and error type learning. Traditionally, the only chance for students to get critical feedback with their work is through graded assessments, or attending office hours. Often this is too late, not only for the student to correct their errors, but for the instructor to recount the lecture material in full to the student. Additionally, a bad assessment is unforgiving when it comes to diminishing student enthusiasm. Giving the student the chance to learn because they got something right (the quintessential “light bulb moment”) or wrong in an environment conducive to learning is essential for their future confidence and autonomy.
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