Flipping the Classroom Fellowship: Working in Groups

During the 2013-14 academic year, the CIT led the Flipping the Classroom Faculty Fellowship.  Twelve faculty from a variety of disciplines shared experiences and learned about using active learning techniques in their classrooms.

In this first in a series of blog posts about the Fellows experiences, two of the faculty discuss how they used group activities in their course, anchored by materials that the students access before class.

Group activities can be structured in a variety of formats that the faculty explored during the Fellowship.  Students might be asked to “think, pair, share“, for example, where they are presented with a scenario or problem on their own, then discuss their answers in groups of two, then discuss the results with the larger class.

If you are interested in getting ideas to bring more active learning into your own class, contact the CIT to talk with a consultant.

Prof. Liz TurnerLiz Turner
Assistant Professor
Biostatistics and Bioinformatics and Global Health

My flipped course is an introductory biostatistics and epidemiology methods course for the MSc in Global Health program, which I taught for the first time in fall 2013. I use a team-based learning format, which pretty much perfectly follows the prescribed format. The class consists of 11 modules, each with a theme and clear learning objectives that we address in approximately 2 75 minute class sessions per module. During those sessions students work in their teams of about 4-5, which they work with all semester. Students prepare outside of class by watching required videos and readings from a textbook and/or articles relevant to global health research and practice. The first class contact session of the module focuses on assessing that the students understand the basic material and are prepared. It begins with the individual readiness assessment, where students respond to approximately 10 multiple choice questions on Sakai, followed by the same quiz in their team, with immediate feedback via scratch-off cards. We then review concepts and try to ensure that everyone has the basic concepts. The second class session revolves around team activities than aim to test higher level learning, and application of the work. In parallel, students participate in a lab where they analyze data using Stata software. The whole process is accompanied by peer feedback of team performance.

Prof. Charlotte ClarkCharlotte Clark
Assistant Professor of the Practice
in Sustainability Education
Nicholas School of the Environment

I had several favorite activities. One was to teach how to conduct team-based analysis of qualitative data. Ahead of time, they read materials on how to do these types of analyses. I provided true public comment on an environmental rule and had the students first “analyze” a very small amount individually using paper and pencil. Then they were placed in groups of 4 to discuss their themes or “nodes,” and develop a consensual framework of these themes. When each group had an organized theme framework, they wrote the frameworks publicly on whiteboard. Then we went around through each group, and they presented the reasons for their organization, and noted which ones caused the most discussion/angst.  A second activity involved their thinking about what is the definition of community-engaged research (prior readings provided the theoretical point of view). From another source, I had various descriptions of research involving impacted communities, and these descriptions were deliberatively provocative. For example, one engaged only advocacy groups in the community and begged the question of how one defines “the¨ community.” Another had the researcher pretending  to involve the community, but if you read carefully, they always had the research control. Teams of 2 discussed each description, and then we went into the hall and they placed themselves on a spectrum from most- to least- truly community engaged. Then we went down the line with student teams having to support/debate their place in the line; students could move to different places in the line as they heard reasons.

2 thoughts on “Flipping the Classroom Fellowship: Working in Groups

  1. John

    Some great ideas from both Charlotte and Liz! I’ve always enjoyed the classroom setting when teamwork was involved because sitting there solo makes it so boring and I fall asleep… If every teacher did this, even in gradeschool and highschool, it would be so beneficial. Not only do the students get some good teamwork lessons, but they also get a short course on public speaking in a way.

  2. William

    Liz and Charlotte- Amazing insights on the importance of a collaborative learning environment that emphasizes teamwork! As John said, it is easy to get bored when you are working alone, however, when people work in teams, you are able to feed off of each others energy and passion. I think the concept of teamwork and working cross-functionally needs to be more widespread throughout collegiate level learning.

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