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Author Topic: Help me flip my classroom  (Read 84060 times)
cc_alan
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« on: April 01, 2012, 9:47:29 PM »

I'm going to flip my chemistry course this summer but I need some help. I know Polly does inverted classroom work with her science for education majors class so I thought I'd draw on some of her experience and others who have tried it/do it.

I was resistant to it because I'm used to the modified lecture format (mainly lecture but I ask questions as we work through the topics). My main concern was simply getting through the proper amount of material for it to be a general chemistry I class because I have *just* enough time to get through everything. I didn't know how I would encourage the students to do even more in the classroom. I have them for about 4 hours of lecture and 3 hours of lab each week for 10 weeks (no recitation).

And then I realized that I wasn't necessarily asking the students to do more but to change when they do the work. What helped me see this was a student I had last year. Essentially, he was not passing and when he came to me for advice, I gave him my typical advice about working ahead and not waiting until I was done with the section before trying to do the homework and understand it. I told him he needed to see it first before I did it in class. And he did it and he did incredibly well.

So if I understand the "flipping" process, I'm not necessarily asking the typical student to put more time into it but to rearrange when the time is spent. Spend more time before class instead of all the time spent after class before the exam. Spend time in class giving them a chance to work through certain topics in small groups with me doing some lecture.

These are my initial thoughts-

1. I've already spoken to my dean and he's interested in my doing it. I want to use this on the first day as a Jedi mind trick to let the students know that they don't have a choice. I'll get both my dean and chair to back me that way if anyone complains because they don't like the format, then they won't find any allies to help them in the administration. But I don't want it to sound like that. I want it to sound encouraging.

2. I need to find a way to redistribute points. I'm sticking with 75%/25% between lecture/lab. I currently have 8 exams which I'd like to continue since this makes each exam a smaller stake and allows students to recover from a poor performance on an exam. I have short quizzes and homework along with another reading assignment over a book but I'm thinking about eliminating the quizzes. See the next point!

3. Some coworkers went to a seminar recently (I wasn't able to go) and the suggestion was to make homework and class participation worth a lot. The idea is to assign students work that will be due at the beginning of each class period and then check it for completion (ie very quick check to see if that day's assignment was done). Those that complete it then split up into groups to try and learn more advanced concepts. Those that didn't do the assigned work (the homework), get separated off to work on it and when they finish it, they then can join a group. The points for the day are split into the homework and class participation points. Anyone who doesn't turn in the homework may still earn those points by completing the assignment but they don't get the participation points since they weren't ready for class.

I believe to make this work the percentage needs to be hefty for the participation points in order to encourage students to actually do the homework and be ready for class.

I have most of my class lectures on podcasts (typically 5-10 minutes for each one) so I can have some (or a lot) of the homework come from them.

Any thoughts/advice at this point?

Alan
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« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2012, 10:21:53 PM »

I've been trying to add more in-class activities for my students.  I try to have one per lecture topic and try to construct it so that the material is something that we haven't specifically gone over yet (but, IF they did the reading it should be familiar) but simple to work-through.  I collect the exercises after 10-15 minutes and go over the them immediately.  Usually (hopefully) most of the students are getting the right answers (though I'm discovering some of my questions need to be worded better; what's obvious in a question to me is not necessarily obvious to them).  Then I ask them "So, what was they point of this?" and show how it's related to the day's topic.  Obviously, the idea is to help them make connections and to see that these ideas are not so difficult after all. 

Even though they're doing well on these exercises (I grade them on a 3-point scale and just about everything is a 3), I haven't seen a big improvement in test scores yet, despite my using similar questions and ideas.  Perhaps it's just they are not making or holding onto the connections.  Perhaps it's that I'm not writing good exercise or test questions.  At the very least, the exercises allow the students some respite from my endless lecturing and gives them results that (hopefully) make them feel good about their work in the course.

Perhaps this wasn't what you're looking for, but I think it's in the spirit of what you're hoping to do.
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mountainguy
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« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2012, 10:49:04 PM »

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cc_alan
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« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2012, 10:58:20 PM »

Perhaps this wasn't what you're looking for, but I think it's in the spirit of what you're hoping to do.

Yes, it is. Thank you!

Alan
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nocurving
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« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2012, 11:11:21 PM »

I've attended a couple of seminars regarding these type of setups and I'm still summoning the courage to make a go of it.  One thing they advised if you're starting out is to just do some parts (for ex., a couple of topics per chapter).  That way, you'll have time to see what works and what not and adjust.  As with all things new, you'll get some resistance as not every student will like it.  Be ready to quote some data in case you get some inquiring mind who wants to know if the method is really better.
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mystictechgal
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« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2012, 11:47:31 PM »

I recently (like in the last couple of weeks) watched a segment on some show (maybe 60 Minutes?) about Khan academy, and they talked with some middle-school and HS teachers about how they were using it and other on-line programs in their math and chem classes. Essentially, flipping the classroom is exactly what they have done. The students watch the videos at home and spend their class time working through problem sets. The teacher roams around helping (&/or checks their progress online) and uses what s/he discovers as common problems to deliver mini-lectures to the group as a whole, as necessary. The kids said it took some getting used to--the idea that they were responsible for listening to lectures at home and doing "home work" at school--but it seems to be working really well--at least with the groups they talked to.

I know that the few times my chem and algebra classes have primarily focused on working problems rather than strictly on lecture I've found it really helpful--but, I sometimes wish we had more time to work some of them on our own instead of in a group. That happens, but not as often as would really be helpful. Time is likely the issue, there, since our classes haven't been flipped.

What you're talking about is pretty much what I was doing with your podcasts--that and using them to reinforce our lectures or to learn the material in a slightly different way. I got hung up on something and haven't quite gotten back in synch--where I was essentially one lecture ahead by way of your podcasts, but I'm working to get back to that point again. It really did help. I think your podcasts are just about perfect for your purpose, at least for some of the material. When I haven't been able to get it from your videos, I've found others--on Khan or elsewhere--that have helped, and I know that some of my classmates go to YouTube to find explanations, too, so it's not an entirely new concept for everyone.

Good luck. I'll be interested to hear how it goes.
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cc_alan
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« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2012, 12:19:00 AM »

What you're talking about is pretty much what I was doing with your podcasts--that and using them to reinforce our lectures or to learn the material in a slightly different way. I got hung up on something and haven't quite gotten back in synch--where I was essentially one lecture ahead by way of your podcasts, but I'm working to get back to that point again. It really did help. I think your podcasts are just about perfect for your purpose, at least for some of the material. When I haven't been able to get it from your videos, I've found others--on Khan or elsewhere--that have helped, and I know that some of my classmates go to YouTube to find explanations, too, so it's not an entirely new concept for everyone.

And that's where the switch flipped for me. Something my coworkers said was important was to make sure the students have the needed information by way of textbooks and online material for them to be able to do the needed homework before each class session. My podcasts would be useful for that purpose. I did have one student who remarked that he didn't have a computer but that wouldn't stop him from watching the podcasts on a school or library computer. And students wouldn't *have* to use them but they would be available to those who did want to use them.

My current nugget of an idea is to have daily worksheets that focus on any important definitions along with basic work to get them ready for more advanced work during the class time.

For example- instead of spending time on defining the "mole", assign it as part of the homework along with molar mass and conversions between mass and moles. Touch upon it at the beginning of the class period and then turn them loose to do more advanced work with it. Then talk about something related and turn them loose to do more work.

Something that I need to think about is the group work-

I know that the few times my chem and algebra classes have primarily focused on working problems rather than strictly on lecture I've found it really helpful--but, I sometimes wish we had more time to work some of them on our own instead of in a group. That happens, but not as often as would really be helpful. Time is likely the issue, there, since our classes haven't been flipped.

As a student, I wouldn't want to always do group work. And I certainly wouldn't want to find myself paired-up constantly with people I didn't like or were slackers or needed a *lot* of help that I wasn't always willing to offer. Something I can do is write up a script to randomly assign people to groups.

Alan
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mystictechgal
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« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2012, 1:01:45 AM »

In re: your first point. One of the benefits that the teachers they talked with on the show I watched listed was that they no longer had to spend time lecturing to the class, as a whole, about something that most of them grasped from having watched the videos. They did have to spend some one-on-one (or whatever) time with a few students who were still struggling with it, but at least parts of the classes moved at a faster pace. They were able to concentrate on teaching the material that the students truly struggled with, instead of lecturing for an hour on the assumption that they would struggle. I believe one of the forumites (CG? Conjugate?) reported something similar on the Victories thread with respect to how he'd handled review material--very similar to this--for a math class they were teaching this term.

In re: the second point. When I referred to group work I meant just that. We aren't split into any kind of sub-group. Most problems we work through as a total group--usually with the professor either simply working through it, or with various students contributing pieces. Only sometimes are we given a few minutes to work it out ourselves, and when that happens we are free to discuss it with whomever we please. There are no set groups of any kind. I find the former helpful to a point, but there comes a time when I'd like to try to do it on my own. I find myself rushing to get a head start on trying it, or trying to ignore what is being contributed by others in an attempt to do it on my own. That's fine if I do get it, but if I find myself stuck I have to then try to reconstruct what I've missed from what's written on the board. Or, worse, I get stuck and then find it necessary (from a time perspective) to simply go with the flow rather than get the one piece I need to get started again and then finish on my own. When we can do it alone or with others I prefer not to consult, unless necessary to get past a stuck part, because I tend to doubt myself and am too willing to cede the lead to others, even if they're going in a direction I'm fairly sure is wrong. I assume that I can't possibly be right. I'd rather those exercises be more of the think-pair-share type (even if "pair" is loosely defined) instead of the semi-free-for-all that they end up being. Again, time is the constraint. By the time I've worked it out myself there's no time for consultation. It becomes a choice of one or the other, and something gets lost, for me, no matter which of the two is chosen. Either I stay stuck and am wrong and don't, ultimately, know why/where/how, or I'm right but couldn't swear that I could do it again, or identify exactly where I'd be stuck if I tried.
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cc_alan
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« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2012, 1:55:35 AM »

In re: the second point. When I referred to group work I meant just that. We aren't split into any kind of sub-group. Most problems we work through as a total group--usually with the professor either simply working through it, or with various students contributing pieces. Only sometimes are we given a few minutes to work it out ourselves, and when that happens we are free to discuss it with whomever we please. There are no set groups of any kind. I find the former helpful to a point, but there comes a time when I'd like to try to do it on my own. I find myself rushing to get a head start on trying it, or trying to ignore what is being contributed by others in an attempt to do it on my own. That's fine if I do get it, but if I find myself stuck I have to then try to reconstruct what I've missed from what's written on the board. Or, worse, I get stuck and then find it necessary (from a time perspective) to simply go with the flow rather than get the one piece I need to get started again and then finish on my own. When we can do it alone or with others I prefer not to consult, unless necessary to get past a stuck part, because I tend to doubt myself and am too willing to cede the lead to others, even if they're going in a direction I'm fairly sure is wrong. I assume that I can't possibly be right. I'd rather those exercises be more of the think-pair-share type (even if "pair" is loosely defined) instead of the semi-free-for-all that they end up being. Again, time is the constraint. By the time I've worked it out myself there's no time for consultation. It becomes a choice of one or the other, and something gets lost, for me, no matter which of the two is chosen. Either I stay stuck and am wrong and don't, ultimately, know why/where/how, or I'm right but couldn't swear that I could do it again, or identify exactly where I'd be stuck if I tried.

Your first point is basically how I do the problem-solving part of my lectures. It isn't me just telling them what to do but leading them through it (like how I talk through the podcasts but with student interaction) with some interaction from students. I'm aiming for a lot of think-pair-share type of work over the quarter.

A coworker has made an Excel spreadsheet for his labs which automatically assigns students "randomly" to groups based on the desired size of the group and whoever is there. That's what I'm thinking about for assigning the groups. Pull up the spreadsheet/page on the overhead projector and let students move based on their groups.

And you're right in that time is a severe constraint. If I can get more students to time-shift their studying like you are doing, then I can spend more time on the more challenging topics.

Alan
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quietly
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« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2012, 6:21:45 AM »



I believe to make this work the percentage needs to be hefty for the participation points in order to encourage students to actually do the homework and be ready for class.

Any thoughts/advice at this point?

Alan

I've been doing something like what Polly does in my science for ed majors class too.  This year I finally took the plunge and started doing it with majors.

I am shocked.  They LOVE it.  Like you, I was anxious about buy-in from the students, especially as I knew from experience that many students hate this format.  So I explained what I was doing at the start of the course and that they would have the chance, after the first exam, to vote on whether they wanted to continue.  The "vote" was actually a multi-question Likert survey about whether the method was accomplishing better learning, and I admit it was a bit of a push-poll.  But it didn't need to be.  Every single student strongly agreed they wanted to keep the inverted format, were learning better and enjoying it more.

Now, for what it's worth, these are upper division students.  Freshmen would probably be more of a mixed bag, especially since many as I'm sure you know/experience don't stick around for the next year in the major.   

But I'm seriously considering ways to make it work with freshmen, and other folks in the department are interested too.

I highlighted the line above because I've made this work in two ways.  First, the students work on team problems in class (not for grade) and give each other participation points.  There are three rounds of participation points, and I tell them they're stepped: the first is 20% of their participation grade, then 30%, then 50%.  This encourages them to be honest early on to help their teammates improve with lower penalties.

Second, while the in-class work and out-of-class homework doesn't count for points, students start every class with a quiz.  They take it individually first on a scan-tron and then hand that in and complete it again as a group, for half the grade of the individual quiz.  The quiz is closely linked to the HW problems.  And 50% of the exam questions, I tell them, come from the HW, quiz or in-class questions (not hard b/c by the time the exam rolls around you've written a LOT of questions).

Finally, I think one thing the students are liking is that I'm using the PPT audio function as well as a podcast format.  I record lecture sound accompanying each individual slide, so they can skip around within PPT if they want.  Not all the students have a new enough version of ppt for this to work so I also have to record a podcast, which is a pain in the butt, as is the size of the PPT files (MS must treat them as movies!).  But students like it, so for now...

So each day goes like this:

Before class: students listen to lecture online (30-50 minutes) and do HW (1 hour)
In class: individual quiz (5-10 minutes), then group quiz (5-10 minutes) then team discussion questions (remainder of class)

Anyone considering this should realize, though: it's a LOT more work for me than just teaching a normally structured class would be.  Writing all those HW, quiz and discussion questions is very time-consuming, not to mention adapting the lectures and recording them in two formats.  I kind of can't believe I've kept up with it.  But next year...

Q.
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marigolds
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« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2012, 6:46:20 AM »


A coworker has made an Excel spreadsheet for his labs which automatically assigns students "randomly" to groups based on the desired size of the group and whoever is there. That's what I'm thinking about for assigning the groups. Pull up the spreadsheet/page on the overhead projector and let students move based on their groups.

And you're right in that time is a severe constraint. If I can get more students to time-shift their studying like you are doing, then I can spend more time on the more challenging topics.

Alan

Depending on how big your classes are, the simple moving-around time to join a new group every day could take up 5-10 minutes of class time!

Perhaps make a rule that students have to sit in a different seat or row each day, beside someone they haven't sat beside this week, at the start of class? That way you wouldn't have to move them in the middle of class.

I'm interested to see the expertise on this come out--I've been teaching flipped (essentially) for several years now, but I'm in the humanities, so it's not as extreme.

Re: student buy-in: I just tell them on the first day what the class setup is, and it's never occurred to me that they wouldn't like it. They all seem just fine with it.  As long as there's lots of accountability (daily quiz at the beginning of class for me, which also takes care of attendance issues--I drop three, and if you're not there, or if you're late, it's self-penalizing) I think students aren't surprised by these methods anymore and it works great. 
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quietly
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« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2012, 7:31:16 AM »



Depending on how big your classes are, the simple moving-around time to join a new group every day could take up 5-10 minutes of class time!


Agreed.  I don't like mixing groups up day to day--they learn a lot of interpersonal skills from working with the same people throughout the term.  Plus, I do set the groups up based on past achievement--you need a reliable anchoring A student or two for each group, or the group runs a high chance of getting derailed.  Finally, participation points are much harder if you must assign them.

I do what Marigold does: drop three quizzes.

Q.
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« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2012, 8:16:47 AM »

Something that I need to think about is the group work-

I know that the few times my chem and algebra classes have primarily focused on working problems rather than strictly on lecture I've found it really helpful--but, I sometimes wish we had more time to work some of them on our own instead of in a group. That happens, but not as often as would really be helpful. Time is likely the issue, there, since our classes haven't been flipped.

As a student, I wouldn't want to always do group work. And I certainly wouldn't want to find myself paired-up constantly with people I didn't like or were slackers or needed a *lot* of help that I wasn't always willing to offer. Something I can do is write up a script to randomly assign people to groups.

Alan

What's the benefit of randomization?  I'm not being snarky; I'm curious about the logic.

FWIW, the only time groups are even pseudorandom in my classes is the first day when I know nothing about anyone and students can choose to sit with their friends or get stuck next to strangers who happen to be sitting next to open seats.  This is by my choice since, while I know the benefits of a good group, I also know the pain of having been the only one who did the homework and being glommed by leeches.  After the first week or so, students will shake out into groups by their choices and you can then tell what groups are working and which ones are not.  I reorg the groups after every test.  I base the reorgs on what I see.  Sometimes students are reluctant to ditch their leechy friends or their whiny friends, but I can help by breaking up a failing group.  Amazingly, when people get back together with their friends after having had to do more work or deal with people who aren't sympathetic to whining about everything, the friendly groups are stronger.

As for MTG's suggestion about getting time to work alone, I often build that in for the first in-class view of a complex problem.  Work for five minutes by oneself.  Want to consult the group?  Go ahead, five minutes with the group.  Now, let's have a whole class discussion.  MTG is right that that time to think is valuable, particularly if the situation is applying math in a new way.  That time to think is also valuable so that not only is the fastest math person the group leader.  I often see the people who struggle with the math point out where the example is in the book.  They may not know what to do with the example or get very far through matching with the example, but after the time to think, they are ready to have someone (often me) explain how to work through that example.  The time to think was key in them being ready for the help.

Another thing I do in situations where a quarter to a third of the class will struggle greatly, but half the class has no problem is break up what the class is doing.  I say, "Whoever wants to work through the problems with me, come up front to the board.  Whoever wants to give it a go in groups, go to the back."  That way, the A and B students are working together and getting the benefit of the group without the detriment of having to deal with teaching when they didn't sign up to teach, while those who need extreme step-by-step instruction get it.  Usually, this is a set of problems that will take much of the class so no one is on a time limit, but the people who just plow can finish and leave.
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« Reply #13 on: April 02, 2012, 9:03:07 AM »

Something that I need to think about is the group work-

I know that the few times my chem and algebra classes have primarily focused on working problems rather than strictly on lecture I've found it really helpful--but, I sometimes wish we had more time to work some of them on our own instead of in a group. That happens, but not as often as would really be helpful. Time is likely the issue, there, since our classes haven't been flipped.

As a student, I wouldn't want to always do group work. And I certainly wouldn't want to find myself paired-up constantly with people I didn't like or were slackers or needed a *lot* of help that I wasn't always willing to offer. Something I can do is write up a script to randomly assign people to groups.

Alan

What's the benefit of randomization?  I'm not being snarky; I'm curious about the logic.


Ditto. 

And while I would have strongly felt the same (and did) about group work when I was in college, I have found over the years of doing this kind of thing in classes that most of my students are not like me.  I'm very smart, and an introvert, and both of these things have made being a lab scientist good for me.  But most of my students are: a) not as smart as I am (though many are plenty intelligent!); and, b) more extroverted. 

It's not fair of me to favor the preferences of the tiny minority who is like me.  Plus, I've found in post-school life I have to work all the time with people who slack off (university service much?).   Real life often judges us by the collective achievements of groups we participate in, and learning early on to navigate those situations productively is valuable.  I point this out explicitly to students, telling them that I would have hated group work in college.  And they all frantically shake their heads when I say that, indicating how much they love it.

As a teacher I've realized how much better I know something after explaining it to someone else, so I think it benefits the smart students in this way too.

Finally, I've read about Polly's way of doing things: switching up groups after the first exam.  I do see benefits to this and have sometimes offered students the chance to signal whether they want to shuffle or not. When I do, 95% say they desperately want to keep the same group.  I have, though, sometimes broken up problem groups or moved a particular student from one group to another.

Q.
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« Reply #14 on: April 02, 2012, 9:55:10 AM »

One benefit of randomizing groups would be you are exposed to different ideas.  Whether it is content or how others approach the question.  I can see why one may not want to do this every time group work is done, but every few weeks.

I had students who hated working in groups (written on their evaluations), but learned that it gave them different insights to the problem and said in the end they liked it.
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