Hello Class

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It's fall. It's Monday morning. The semester is fresh. The sleepy faces in front of you are staring up with trepidation, with hope, or with quiet expectancy. For most of them it is their very first college class. Guess what? It's flipped. What do you tell them?

Hello class. Welcome to <name of class here>. I am <your name here> and I am your instructor for the semester.

We will be using a flipped classroom. This means that I will not be lecturing. You will be introduced to the material by reading assignments and on line homework. In class, we will have quizzes and do worksheets in groups.

Before we get into specifics, I suppose you are wondering why I am doing the class this way. The short answer is because it works. Studies have shown that students, you, learn better by doing worksheets and talking about the material than by listening to me sing and dance at the front of the class. My own experience is that my sections, the flipped sections, usually do better on the exams and alway do better on the comprehensive final exam than the sections where the professors lecture.

Why does flipping work? Spending time working problems and talking about it with other students helps you learn better than me telling you a bunch of stuff and letting you figure out how to work the problems on your own.

Also, there is the aspect of repetition. Who has a favorite song? Do you know all the words to the song? Did you know all the words to the song after you heard it for the first time? No, of course not, it took six or seven times hearing the song before you got all the words down. In this flipped class, I'm going to give you several opportunities to think about the material, which means several opportunities to learn.

The opportunities are:

  • The reading
  • The on line homework
  • The group quiz at the beginning of class
  • A group worksheet
  • Homework problems that repeat the previous worksheets ideas.
  • Quiz problems from the previous worksheet

So I can give you six opportunities to learn the important material before you sit down to cram for the tests. Then, when it comes time to cram, you will find that you already know a lot of the stuff. Big win for you.

Does this work? If you were weightlifter, how would you prepare for a meet? Would you do nothing until the night before then go to the gym and pump weights all night long? If you did that, would you expect to win?

If you were a weightlifter, you would lift every day, gradually increasing your weight and skills until the day of the meet. I want you to be preparing for your exams the same way, a little at a time, every day, until it is time to study for the exams. Then, your study is really a tune up and not a marathon effort to learn every single thing for the first time.

You might have noticed that this class is about you learning, not about me putting on a show. My job here is not to be a talking head in front of the class, but to guide you through the course and to explain the ideas to you when you get stuck.

Why not just explain the ideas to everyone all at once? Everyone learns at a different rate. At some point, the group that you are working with will be stuck on a certain idea or problem. You need help. You ask me. When you ask me, you want to know the answer right then. You are receptive to the answer and when I help you with it, it will stick with you better. A group that is proceeding a little more slowly, would not be ready for the answer at the same time. So I help you when you ask and I don't care if I answer the same question multiple times, I will help you when you are ready.

If you need extra help, I have office hours Monday through Thursday 1:00-2:00 pm. If you don't want to come in individually, I have tutorials Monday and Wednesday 5:00-6:00 pm. I will work problems from the worksheets, the homework, or explain ideas that may be troubling you. If your class or work schedule won't let you come to my scheduled office hours, then send me an email and I'll set up a special time to see you. I will sit with you as long as it takes. The class is about you learning. I'm here to help.

College is all about learning how to learn. Each of you must find your own set of tools that will help you learn. There are the learning opportunities built in to the class, there are my office hours, and my tutorials. What else can you do to help yourself?

Here are some ideas (See also What Students Do to Help Themselves😞

  • This course has a Special Instruction tutor, <insert name here>, who has posted hours, usually about six per week.
  • The tutor center in the library has a chemistry tutor <insert name here> who is available about ten hours per week.
  • The worksheets have links to videos when I can find suitable ones. The videos are from the on line homework, from Khan academy, or from random sources if they are good.
  • Your standard search engines can help you find explanations.
  • The American Chemistry Study guide is a good source of problems and exercises.
  • The textbook has a study guide at the end of each chapter and problems at the end of the chapters, half of which are answered.

There is no lack of help for you in this course. The first homework is due at 6:00 am before the next class. The class schedule and the assignment sheet for the next class are posted on Blackboard. See you in class.

About the Author
John Osterhout received his B.S. in Biochemistry from Rice University and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Texas at Austin. John was a member of the Rowland Institute for Science in Cambridge Massachusetts for thirteen years before moving to the University of Arizona. Since 2008 John has been Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas. John's research interests are in protein folding, Trojan horse inhibitors for HIV and snake venom proteins. He teaches general chemistry and biophysical chemistry. John uses flipped classrooms for both courses.