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 post in our series about the Fellowship, faculty in the program describe different ways they redesigned their courses for active learning and what they gained from participating in the Fellowship.
Assistant Professor of the Practice
Department of Chemistry
The flipped organic chemistry course in Spring 2014 had about 150 students working in groups of 6 (with subgroups of 3 students.) Students were provided with Unit Plans that contain desired learning outcomes to guide their study, and they were often asked to complete specific problems prior to the class meeting to prepare them to engage in higher order problems. Video lectures, readings, and problem sets including online “drill” problems for points were completed outside of class, while the class time was used to apply that knowledge to solve additional problems and generate new ideas with small group discussion. Large group time was used for reinforcing the big picture, emphasizing important points, and clarifying more difficult concepts.
One of the first things I learned during participation in the fellowship meetings was how to better structure my learning outcomes to emphasize the most important topics. Faculty and CIT staff at the learning community meetings gave me ideas about how to encourage students to complete the outside of class tasks by holding them accountable in different ways for their own learning.
New activity ideas presented or generated at the meetings have also given me topics to think about moving forward in terms of how to better structure individual classes and the course as a whole. Attending the classes of two colleagues through the teaching triangles exercise was terrific. Through that I saw great examples of how to better control group time on tasks in class and how to use real world open source media (short documentaries, for example) to engage the students with the material on multiple levels.
Department of Biomedical Engineering
My engineering course was partially flipped in Spring 2014. I used one of my weekly class lecture periods (Wednesday) for completing in-class problems where students worked individually for 5-7 mins, then in a small group for 5-7 mins, followed by an entire class discussion on the problem for 3-5 mins. This structure was repeated for several problems until class time ran out.
The class lecture period that followed (Friday) was very similar to a traditional engineering lecture where I taught using Powerpoint (primarily for images or graphs) or board work for mathematical descriptions. The traditional lectures were not completely passive as I would have the students complete an in-class activity for about 10 minutes at some point during the lecture.
Between the Friday and Wednesday lectures, the students were asked to watch a lecture video (45-60 minutes long) and complete a Sakai Quiz that applied concepts from the lecture video. Only one-sixth of the lecture videos were new material for that semester, as the majority of videos were from the previous semester. I used Panopto to capture my lectures from the previous year in the event that I could use them for any future flipped class. This decision saved me a great deal of time once I opted to teach a partially flipped class. Thus, using previous videos really saved me a lot of time. While creating the quizzes associated with the lecture videos, I found that some of the topics that I discussed in the lecture could not be applied into questions very easily and were not critical to the learning outcomes of the course. Thus, this experience helped me realize that certain lecture material should be altered to maintain the focus on the desired learning outcomes.
In addition, when working on the in-class problems on Wednesday, I was able to closely observe student discussions and thought processes when completing the problems. This opportunity enabled me to give positive reinforcement when they were on the right track, but more importantly, allowed me to find the areas that they were struggling with in real-time. The ability to stop the student, group, or entire class and get them on the right track through further clarifications about the material or by providing alternative explanations on the topic was a very powerful teaching experience. Both the student comments that I have received and the feeling I have after every Wednesday class fuels me to attempt flipped lectures for all my courses in the years to come.