Frosti Backflip

This semester, my 2nd year students and I have agreed to ‘flip the teaching’. In other words, instead of me giving a lecture and then the students working on tasks until our next class, they have all week to watch the video, prepare their materials and then during class we go into more depth about their tasks (individual research, scenario-based learning etc.).

Although the students have only been involved in this project for 2 weeks, it seems to be okay so far. It may be partly due to having students who have had me teach a similar course last year and so are already aware of the expectations. I would like to think that it’s also partly due to the incredible amount of time I spent making the materials in the first place which (I hope) are engaging the students effectively.

Not one to rest on my laurels, though, I’m keen to ensure my students get the most from this ‘flipped teaching’ experience and I want to dig deeper, finding out how they are engaging with the materials.

Robert Talbert (Mathematics Department, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan) is clearly doing something similar with his 1st year undergraduate calculus class. Like me, he is keeping a blog about what he (and presumably his students) are learning. His latest blog (The biggest lesson from the flipped classroom may not be about math) makes an interesting point about the difficulties his students are having so far. It’s time and task management, not the course content, which seems to be the biggest issue.

Prof Talbert writes, “The brain is an excellent tool for processing information but a terrible one for storing information. A fair point if my memory is anything to go by. He continues, “In their [the students’] minds, it’s not one project but half a dozen disconnected tasks.” Now this interests me. Do my students see their tasks on our Moodle site as disconnected or interconnected? Does their perception impact the way they complete the tasks? Does it change the way they understand the underlying concepts behind the tasks?

I’ll ask them during my next class (or perhaps they’ll read this blog and answer me here). You never know … Either way, I think a bit of input won’t go amiss.


7 thoughts on “Flip Teaching, Time Management and Connected Learning

  1. Interesting enough Graeme, didn’t realise that there were other courses using flip teaching that we could compare with. In my opinion I don’t think that we have been facing the same problems mentioned by the other courses (in particular the connection between lecture and tasks). I feel that since our tasks have a link already (such as upload a paper based on what you have seen in the lecture), it helps to prevent this. However, one slight criticism could be that it is unsure for yourself to gauge if students have watched the lecture, as anyone could just tick the box and say they’ve watched it. A solution to this could be having groups summarise the lecture at the start of class or to highlight what they thought was the most interesting point from the lecture and discuss with the group. Alternatively you could ask a question on Moodle based on the lecture in a multi choice format perhaps which would also prepare us for the new child development exam. But so far so good with the flip teaching – it’s gone down really well with the class and makes me find regular classes boring as they are not as engaging as this. Guess you could say it suits an innovative learner like myself. Keep up the good work.
    Andrew Reid

  2. Thanks for the comments, Andrew. It’s interesting that you’ve identified an issue which was raised waaaay back last term (May, I think) when this was being discussed. A colleague in the School of Business had tried flip teaching with his class and, to ensure they had done the work, created a quiz which had to be done before each class.

    When I was planning the flip teaching for my classes, I thought I would do the same thing and started to create these quizzes. However, I decided against it. Here’s why:

    I’ve suggested that students should do the work on Moodle in order. So, students should watch the video first then read the pages of the textbook, complete the online reading (via the reading list), find a professional journal article and create a glossary entry which summarises the findings and, finally, complete the scenario-based learning.

    You will have probably already realised that the videos match the textbook pages. So if students don’t watch the video and only read the textbook, they’ll be fine. Mostly. They’ll miss my deeper explanations of certain complicated concepts (and they’ll miss my awesome cheesy music) but it won’t be the end of the world. (I should point out that the opposite is not true. Watching only the video and not the textbook would be disastrous. The video compliments the reading—not the other way around.)

    More importantly, though, if students don’t watch the video/do the work, they are going to have a difficult time in the classes. They are going to be woefully unprepared for their presentation and exam and, in all likelihood, they’re going to fail.

    I want to trust my students. I want to trust that they will put as much effort into their learning as I put into my teaching. And you know what? So far, I’m pretty proud of them because they haven’t let me down (at least, not so far!).

    1. I feel that the quiz could be productive in keeping everyone on task and you could even incorporate it with the class dojo resource so that there is some sort of incentive to do well, positive behaviour management and all that. It is fine as it is though but I do think that an element of competition may encourage some of the more lackadaisical members of the class to participate. The trust between the tutor and pupils is an excellent point. This shows good practice for us as students as it highlights what can be achieved when this trust is in place and this is the type of relationship we should look to build in our own teaching. We’ll keep trying to help the flip teaching work for the course as so far it’s been really engaging, well for myself anyway.

  3. The quiz would be a good idea, Andrew, but I am slightly concerned that another activity to complete might be putting an unnecessary strain on students’ workload. As for incentive, I would have thought that passing would be a reasonable incentive—grin—but I take your point.

  4. Having discussed flip teaching as a result of this blog we agreed that having the lecture online is a really useful resource. We feel it will be particularly useful when it comes to exam time and being able to review the information as we carry out the weeks work is great.

    In terms of connectivity we sometimes find it difficult to consolidate the information in the textbook and lecture to the work we are doing. While the lecture is very informative, it is not as interactive as last year and while we have an awareness of information after the video we do not feel that we necessarily have the same level of understanding. As a result of this we find it harder to complete the journal summaries and the SBL as our understanding of the topic is not as great. One idea that we had is perhaps the todaysmeet stream could last for a week, starting from the day of the lecture upload and could be used by all to discuss, as the forum seems more formal and for larger issues rather than small questions.

    We’ve also agreed that the new way of spending our lecture time in a more seminar like manner is really productive and we are really engaging during the classes. The discussion of SBLs in particular is really useful as it allows us a greater insight into the different strategies and points of view offered by other students.

    Rachel and Agapi

    1. That’s very interesting, Rachel/Agapi. The todaysmeet stream could certainly last longer although this would make it more of a challenge for me to save the conversation after the class and then post the PDF of it onto Moodle.

      It’s interesting that there is a perception that the forum is more formal and for larger issues. One of the reasons I created a forum for each week of the course was to allow people to focus on the issues for that particular week (and avoid having a forum with conversations from various weeks all muddled together).

      Do you think people would use a todaymeet/twitter stream to discuss issues — or would it be worthwhile to try to change the perception of the forums?

      I can see there are a number of interesting avenues for discussion during next week’s class! 🙂

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