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Author Topic: Inverted classroom experience?  (Read 13269 times)
ranganathan
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« on: May 27, 2011, 12:14:04 PM »

Has anyone used the inverted classroom approach? (See http://wp.wpi.edu/atc-ttl/2009/09/23/turn-your-classroom-upside-down/ for a description)  A fora search found threads from people considering using it, but not actual experience.

I've read through the scholarly articles and informal blog posts and am intrigued.  The courses I teach focus on critical thinking and I never have enough time for the applied activities I have planned.

I've talked to a few professors with more teaching experience than me, and they are cautiously encouraging.  Our students are notoriously bad about getting outside-of-class work done, so I'd have to strictly enforce rules about getting the outside work done beforehand.   I think it could succeed if students had to pass a quiz on the lecture before being allowed to come to class.  (A good chunk of their grades is tied to participation, so passing requires decent attendance.) I foresee some strong pushback from the students, as a sizable minority seem to believe that passively sitting through a lecture should be all that is expected from them.

I'm teaching a special cohort in the fall that might need a little more help than average.  On the one hand, I think this method could instill some needed study and academic skills in them, and their future professors would thank me! :)  On the other hand, this method does stress independent learning, and is that best?  And on the third hand (grin): I've seen many colleagues just give up on expecting students to do outside work, and I feel myself slipping that way. This could be good for me too.

Okay, now I'm just thinking out loud.

Any and all thoughts are welcome.

 
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zharkov
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« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2011, 12:32:33 PM »


WPI is a pretty strong engineering school, and while I did not go there, I have worked (in industry) with WPI grads.  So I a prof told a WPI class to read chapter X and do homework problems A, B, and C for class next week, I expect that most of them would just do so.

With that in mind, this inverted approach may not fly with a class that needs extra help.  But personally, I think it would be worth experimenting with, but then I like experiments.

I've done something similar with grad classes, telling them that I don't "cover material" in class.  That works for many, but not all, a small minority who complain that I don't "teach."  (That is, they are looking for a straight didactic approach.)  I use class time for case analysis and student presentations, which we then discuss.
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Adapting Zharkov a bit to this situation, ignorance and confusion can explain a lot.
quietly
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« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2011, 1:39:56 PM »

I've done a lot of this over the past ~8 years, both with majors and non-majors, motivated and not motivated (and the first two don't necessarily align with the second!).  I was heavily mentored by a colleague who does a tremendous amount more than I do.  I've never heard it called "inverted classroom," but whatever. 

In my experience, you have to make the students accountable for the outside work.  For me this has meant daily "pre-class" HW assignments that are either handed in, or, in recent years, as Bb assignments.  To deter copying, I've created pools of questions from which Bb randomly chooses and I let students do it up to 3 times.  When not using Bb, I usually reserve the first ~10-20 min of class for students to discuss their HW questions in peer groups, and make corrections to their homeworks in different-colored pens that I provide, so that they have to hand in both what they had done before and after.  Detailed participation rubrics are done three times during the course so peers evaluate their group members, and I share anonymous summaries with each student so they have a chance to improve over subsequent peer evals.

In class, we do guided inquiries, perform activities/simulations and/or have discussions on the more sophisticated concepts.  I try to make these group-based too, so accountability is also included in the participation evals.  Students are surprisingly responsive to this--peer pressure is a significant motivator, especially in the less grade-motivated class (the audience I do this the most with are academically detached K-8 ed majors).  And they will actually give negative evals, if the rubrics are detailed and they understand that the person gets three chances to improve.

This requires an ENORMOUS amount of advance preparation.  I have literally written the equivalent of multiple workbooks-approaching-textbooks, and find I have to modify them continuously.  I also find I have to actively teach study skills in the classroom and provide them with numerous handouts about how to study on their own ("highlighting isn't studying," "here's how to make a flashcard," etc.). 

In the 100% "inverted class," few students, especially the most academically engaged and the kinetic learners, love it.  Many others hate it, and my evals show it.  They complain that I'm not actually doing anything (ha!), that there's too much out-of-class work and that I test on things we didn't cover in class.  I've begun to question whether it's worth it, and am thinking about reverting to a year of the traditional lecture but using the same tests to see if it actually is improving learning.

In most classes I use the technique less, say every 2-3 weeks and always centered around a real-world problem that students must read up on through guided worksheets and reading material before class so they can complete group exercises in class.  The rest of my days are traditional lectures.  Here, students react much more favorably.

I'd say start with that, and work your way to something more comprehensive if it's working out.  Definitely don't dive into an immersion situation, especially if you're pre-tenure.  Recognize that it works best in material that requires a large knowledge base in order to comprehend and apply ("do your vocab outside of class"), and/or one in which mastery of practice problems is key. 

It definitely is excellent for improving study skills, though whether they take them forward is questionable, as is whether the study skills can't be taught independently of this "inversion."  In one freshman class, I do have traditional lectures AND required pre-HWs, so students get the info twice.  And sometimes I can just say, here's a list of vocab words but you already know them, don't you? And move on.

Q.
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biologist_
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« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2011, 3:20:01 PM »

Has anyone tried the inverted classroom approach in a class that is already accompanied by a lab.  I think the limitations of traditional lecture are mitigated when students spend several hours per week doing hands-on work in the lab.

I could imagine some benefits of doing an occasional inverted lecture (~3-5 times per semester) with a podcast followed by a problem-solving session in the lecture.  On the other hand, there are a lot of calculations and problem-solving accompanying the lab already and the lab sections are half the size of the lecture.
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quietly
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« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2011, 3:46:25 PM »

Has anyone tried the inverted classroom approach in a class that is already accompanied by a lab.  I think the limitations of traditional lecture are mitigated when students spend several hours per week doing hands-on work in the lab.

I could imagine some benefits of doing an occasional inverted lecture (~3-5 times per semester) with a podcast followed by a problem-solving session in the lecture.  On the other hand, there are a lot of calculations and problem-solving accompanying the lab already and the lab sections are half the size of the lecture.

Almost all my classes (see above) have labs.  In the 100% "inverted" class I've managed to get lecture and lab scheduled back-to-back in the same [lab] room so that it's all seamless.  I'm also in biology.

Whether lab can replace the kind of higher order thinking advocated by these strategies really depends on the lab, and the concepts.  Dissecting research papers (majors) or discussing evolution (non-majors) aren't really "lab" activities, and likewise determining dominance and epistasis of a trait by mating some model organism is very valuable but doing a dozen progressively harder unique problems on the topic and discussing them with peers is valuable in a different way.

Q.
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_touchedbyanoodle_
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« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2011, 3:54:27 PM »

I teach my writing courses in computer labs and I've structured my courses this way for years. I didn't know it was called an "inverted classroom." The content is dealt with outside of the courses, and the classroom is for practice, group work, consulting, etc.
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mountainguy
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« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2011, 4:01:59 PM »

I like the idea in theory, but it seems like it would take an enormous investment of time to set up and run. I like Biologist's suggestion to start with doing it 3-5 times per semester and to go from there.
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mystictechgal
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One step at a time


« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2011, 4:36:26 PM »

I have had a few classes that have been taught that way, or in a kind of hybrid manner that includes some of these components. The professors that I've had that use the technique don't use textbooks and take the position that their job is to guide us and get us excited about some aspect of the material (these are all majors classes), ourvjob is to read, learn, teach ourselves, and help to teach and inform the others in the class. We do have some lectures, but often they are student run. I like it, but I have also heard complaints from others that the professor "isn't doing their job". I suspect that they take some hits on their evals, too, and I further suspect that some of the Chairs haven't quite bought into it.

For a class I'm taking at the moment, we were each just given a flash drive (courtesy, I see now, of one of the banks) with all of the lectures, Powerpoints, readings, videos, etc. pre-loaded. Twenty-four folders-worth of information. During this week it is our job to read through the material and choose the one focus area that most interests us. During the rest of the course that is the area that we will focus on most intently (but not to the exclusion of the rest), and the area we will focus our research and service learning projects around. By the end of the semester we will be expected to demonstrate some level of advanced expertise in our chosen area. Gonna be interesting. I need to get it all uploaded to the cloud or to Dropbox, though. I'll take my iPad camping with me, but I'm not interested in lugging my laptop along if I can avoid it.
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ranganathan
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« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2011, 8:50:29 PM »

Thanks for the feedback so far!  I think you all are right to start small; I don't lecture every class anyway.  I might also try using the inverted method when I cancel classes for conferences. If I can point out that the lecture and exercises can be done during the usual class time (since students meet with me for about 15 minutes each), that could assuage some of the "it takes too much time" complaints I'm sure to get.  Luckily, I'm in a position in which student evaluations are not a huge concern, but the never-ending whining does get old!   
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changinggears
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« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2011, 10:54:07 PM »

I'm trying out the inverted method in my summer classes in order to do a trial run before going full-throttle in the Fall (or not).  So far, I like the results but I think it has to be done carefully and does, indeed, require much more initial prep than traditional courses (but relatively less during the actual running of the course).

One thing I like is that I don't have to reinvent the wheel--if there's a good video out there on YouTube or somewhere else, I use it.  And they're usually much more glitzy and entertaining than anything I can produce without purchasing camtasia.  I have found it a challenge to create interactive lectures when I can't find ready-made resources but I also find that I can do more with video lectures (like give them a link to an internet source and have them use it in some way).

The most beneficial aspect of flipping the class is that students don't have to rely on their notetaking for lecture information.  They have the lectures in a place where they can access them whenever and however they want, multiple times.  They can go back and review or locate a specific point that they missed the first time through.

I have had to monitor student's "homework" with some type of product, but I don't have to rely solely on quizzes.  Sometimes I have them write a summary of the lecture material or create their own quiz question and submit it to me electronically.  I then collate the quiz questions and everyone takes the student-generated quiz at the beginning of class as a review before we start the in-class activities.  I also create polls that require application of the concepts covered in the "homework" so that students can see what percentage of the class chose the same answer as them.  We can then review the poll results as a way to kickstart class.  Having multiple low-stakes assignments attached to the "homework" encourages the students to stay engaged.

One of the best results is the increased amount of class time  I can now dedicate to discussion, group work, and hands-on practice.  We do a lot of think-pair-share activities, peer review, or one-on-one formative feedback.  I can now have one group exchange papers with another and then write a response or counterargument to the other group's paper.  And sometimes there's even enough time for the other group to respond to the counterargument.
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marigolds
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i had fun once and it was awful


« Reply #10 on: May 28, 2011, 7:49:11 AM »

I teach my writing courses in computer labs and I've structured my courses this way for years. I didn't know it was called an "inverted classroom." The content is dealt with outside of the courses, and the classroom is for practice, group work, consulting, etc.

Yep, this.

I think anakin has done a lot of this style of teaching in the sciences; you could PM and ask her to come join the thread.

To the evals issue: I have to get meta with them and articulate what they're learning, why we do it this way (research into learning), and ask them questions on my own in-class evals that help them make the connections about what they are learning.
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polly_mer
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Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2011, 8:13:21 AM »

I read Quietly's posts and wondered if I had an alter ego about which I didn't know.  Then, I read the biology part and was relieved.

I do this with my science for teachers classes.  Yes, to tons of prep.  Yes, to scheduling the labs with the lecture to have a 2-hour block three times a week.  Yes, to cracking the whip to enforce out-of-class work.  Yes, to having severe student resistance.

I see three groups of students:

1) the ones who came from weak schools who really get into the activities and benefit a lot from guided inquiry
2) the ones who are academically strong who do very well and learn more by being pushed to think deeply via the activities
3) the ones who are good at going through the motions of being a student, but equate having a good memory with learning.  Those ones tank my evaluations, even after they have stopped complaining in class.  Those are the ones who stop asking questions of me, but I can hear them say things like, "She never teaches us anything.  This class is impossible."  

Group 3 tanks the evaluations, but the written comments are of the sort that make knowledgeable people smile because they indicate that I'm doing my job of making students think and learn how to do science.
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changinggears
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« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2011, 11:00:53 AM »

polly and others make a very good point about evals.  While I do worry about evals, I can't let them dictate my teaching methods.  If it increases/encourages student learning, I do it, even if I suspect/know it will bring my evals down.  Honestly, is there anything we can do to ensure 100% satisfaction?  Perhaps, but it probably would not be something we were proud of or that would truly benefit the students.  I say try it out, whether in small increments or wholesale, and focus on the learning outcomes you observe rather than evals. (and try to get valid student feedback via self-administered evals, like polly does).  I think what we observe actually happening in the classroom throughout the semester is a much better way to gauge student satisfaction than an end-of-the-term set of questions that usually don't address the type of learning that actually went on and are posed in such a vague way that students don't really understand the questions they're answering.
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dr_starbucks
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« Reply #13 on: May 28, 2011, 11:58:18 AM »

To avoid bad evals, I use the first half of the semester for atypical approaches and begin to revert to a traditional methodology in the second half with some mixture throughout.
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quietly
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« Reply #14 on: May 28, 2011, 12:28:44 PM »

I read Quietly's posts and wondered if I had an alter ego about which I didn't know.  Then, I read the biology part and was relieved.

I do this with my science for teachers classes.  Yes, to tons of prep.  Yes, to scheduling the labs with the lecture to have a 2-hour block three times a week.  Yes, to cracking the whip to enforce out-of-class work.  Yes, to having severe student resistance.

I see three groups of students:

1) the ones who came from weak schools who really get into the activities and benefit a lot from guided inquiry
2) the ones who are academically strong who do very well and learn more by being pushed to think deeply via the activities
3) the ones who are good at going through the motions of being a student, but equate having a good memory with learning.  Those ones tank my evaluations, even after they have stopped complaining in class.  Those are the ones who stop asking questions of me, but I can hear them say things like, "She never teaches us anything.  This class is impossible."  

Group 3 tanks the evaluations, but the written comments are of the sort that make knowledgeable people smile because they indicate that I'm doing my job of making students think and learn how to do science.

Agreed 100%, and well-articulated.  Wow, Polly, it's great to know someone else is facing these challenges.  There's a real deficit of science-for-teachers resources, and it's such a difficult population.  Sometimes I've thought it would be better if only I could get my counterparts in physical sciences and math to do what I'm doing, I wouldn't get such push-back, but I'm not sure that's true, and anyway, this approach definitely isn't for every teacher's personality. 

Q.
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