Flipped Chemistry at Merced College

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The Low Down

My flipped chemistry experiment at Merced College continues.  Since learning about the flipped pedagogy in Spring 2015, I have flipped my General Chemistry II, Introductory Chemistry and Pre-algebra courses.  This coming Fall semester I will flip my Intro. Chem and Intermediate Algebra  and during the Spring semester, I will flip my General Chemistry II and Statistics courses.  Students have performed better in the flipped courses than in my previous traditionally taught courses.  Last Fall, in the flipped Introductory Chemistry class, the D/F rate dropped by 50% as compared to my 5-year class average at Merced College.  Of my General Chemistry II sections taking the departmental final exam, the students in the flipped class earned the highest average thus far.  Student response to the flipping has also been very positive.  The biggest complaint that I received was from students feeling like I placed the responsibility of learning upon them and that I did not give enough time to answer questions in class.  I now remind students daily not only to write questions down, but to make sure that they get answered either in class or during the lab.


I am currently in the middle of team-teaching three sections of Introductory Chemistry during the summer session.  My portion of the session will be completed soon, but so far (3 weeks into the term), students have not only kept up with the material, but have remained engaged and are performing well.


Going well 

The biggest benefit of flipping, outside of increased student success, has been the level of engagement students show during lecture.  My polling software of choice – iClicker student app Polling.  An in-class survey given last semester indicated that 87% of students preferred the iClicker student app Polling over Socrative.  the iClicker student app Polling not only requires little setup time for the instructor, but it also serves as a great study tool for students.  Students have a record of all questions asked during the lecture.  One student indicated that the iClicker student app Polling uses cellular phone batteries more efficiently than Socrative and students have reported that the iClicker student app Polling does not require much data.


Needs Improvement

Now that the first set of courses have been flipped, I am faced with the dilemma of when to start re-doing the content videos.  My first set of videos were completely hand-written and recorded ad-lib.   Many of the videos were recorded the day I asked students to view them.  Some of them turned out well, but others need updating.   I want to include more examples and streamline the content, yet keep the videos under 10 minutes long.  I also want to tie in current course learning objectives to the videos and in-class problems.


Another aspect of the course that needs improvement is in terms of the campus infrastructure.  The Wifi networks at Merced College limit how many students are logged in at any point in time and many students are being bumped during the class time.  I estimate that this affects about 10% of the class during each lecture.  In the iClicker student app, it is clear that something is going on, as the number of logged-in participants is always changing.  The campus administration agreed to look into this matter and  I will be experimenting with allowing students to use either the iClicker student app Polling or i>clickers during this coming Fall term.  The Student Success office on campus has also graciously agreed to let me pilot an i>clicker loaning program for students without an internet-enabled smart device. 

About the Author
Brandon Tenn earned his Bachelor's of Science degree in Math and Chemistry from the University of Hawai`i at Manoa in 2001 and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from UC Davis in 2009. Between 2006 and 2010 he taught at both Sierra College and the California Maritime Academy. Since 2011 he has taught math and chemistry at Merced College. He is very interested in teaching developmental and introductory science and math courses utilizing an active learning approach. He has flipped every math and chemistry course he taught since Spring 2015 and continues to research best practices for the technique based on his target student populations.