Exam Wrappers = Great Reflection

One of the most important aspects of guiding students in the learning process is reflection.  However, many instructors either don’t know how to incorporate reflection or just don’t understand the benefits.  Grant it, some courses lend themselves more to reflection.  STEM courses normally do not.

Flipping my classes has given me more opportunities to talk to students one-on-one.  Our conversations have given me better insight into their learning processes.  In addition to not knowing how to take notes, students spend even less time reflecting and summarizing what they learned and how they learned what they learned (or didn’t learn).  In a recent publication, I came across the idea of Exam Wrappers.   I used information from both Purdue University and Carnegie Mellon University to design an exam wrapper that will help students “learn FROM the test”.  Here is what I use as my exam wrapper.

After a test is graded, I return the test along with an exam wrapper.  I print the exam wrapper on colored paper so that students are less likely to lose it.  Students are directed to complete the wrapper by the next class meeting.  I review the exam wrapper and give students up to 5 points on the test for completing it.  The more reflection, the greater the points.

I make copies of the exam wrappers and write the test score on each copy of the wrapper for future reference.  Many of my students really find it beneficial not only to guide them through the test, but help them know what to do to prepare for the next test.  Here a few comments from the first test exam wrappers.  The first comment is from a student repeating the course.

2015-02-18 09.10.04  2015-02-23 12.08.072015-02-18 09.10.14

The exam wrappers are also a huge benefit to me.  Students are given the opportunity to give suggestions to me.  Instead of waiting until the end of the semester for feedback, I hear it from the students during the semester and I can address any concerns now instead of later.  I am able to give the student feedback on the exam wrapper about their learning.  Exam wrappers are a win-win for both the student and me.  If you haven’t thought about student reflection, exam wrappers are a great tool to try.


The #Highered #Flipclass: Lessons Learned

I’ve been blogging about flipping at an open-enrollment college for about 2 years.  When I began flipping my general chemistry course 3 years ago, I made some huge assumptions about student learning.  Interestingly, I realized that I didn’t understand HOW students learned until I began flipping my course.

Every student learns differently and at different paces depending on the material.  Most students are not aware of how they learn, but yet think they know how to learn.  By flipping my class, I am now able to learn how each of my students learn and give them better support and direction to become more self-regulated learners.

Lessons Learned:

1.  ORGANIZED.  Be VERY organized in what students are to do at home.  Students need step-by-step instructions that are not only clear, but require the students to be active learners.

2.  REQUIRE note-taking.  Guide students in the note-taking process.

3.  FEEDBACK.  Collect the notes and provide comments on EVERY students’ notes.

4.  NOT “FLIPPED”.  I do not label my learning environment as “flipped”.  Tout the benefits and the past successes of students  who learned using this strategy.   I tell students that I have been teaching for 20 years and this “structure” has produced the best grades AND long term retention of material.

5.  GUIDE. I try to talk to every student during my face-to-face time.  My stronger students tend to want to monopolize my time, but I go out of my way to seek out my weaker students.  I encourage them to get help from me outside of class.  I want them to know that I want them to be successful.

6.  STUDENT CHOICE.  This is college… those students who don’t need my help and finish early, I tell them they can leave.  This is their time with me and they are paying for it.  If they don’t need help, they don’t need to stay in class.  This makes students feel like they are in control of their learning.  Most really appreciate this and end up staying for class.

7.  ACCEPTANCE.  Get students on board with the structure early on.  Tell them that you know this is new for them and that it will take some getting used to.  I make sure I tell students that my goal for the semester is for every student to earn an A.  I will do what I can to help them learn the material.

8.  CLARIFICATION.  Always start the class with an example problem or go over a “muddy point”.  It sets the tone for the class time and helps clear up any misconceptions.

I will never go back to lecture-only.  Some students say they do not “prefer” this method, but by the end of the semester, they realize how much they remember.  A student from the fall semester summed it up the best.  He told me that he could not believe how much he learned and that he hardly had to study for the final exam.  He did not have to cram because he knew the content.  In my years of lecture-only teaching, no student ever said this.

Strategies for Students who “Don’t watch the videos” #FlipClass

It’s been a few months since my last blog entry.  Since several students found my blog and were reading my entries, I felt it was not appropriate to comment or reflect on the teaching and learning.  Now since the semester is complete and grades are earned, it’s time for me to update my blog.

In a nutshell, I believe that this semester’s flipped classroom iteration was by far the most successful.  The “success” can be quantified using overall class grades and also my perspective in terms of student attitudes and perceptions of the flipped classroom.  Similar to the Spring 2014 semester, I did not label how I was teaching as the “flipped classroom”; I continued “Stealth Flipping”.  However, since many of the Spring 14 students indicated that they did not take notes on the vodcasts, or simply did not know how to take notes, I implemented a structured note-taking template based upon the Cornell note-taking method.  I also added “exam wrappers” which promoted reflection on student learning and preparation.

The addition of these two self-regulation tools seemed to have added to the success of the stealth flip structure.  As you can see from the graph below, the overall course grades were higher over all 4 student categories.

ClassRank vs Grades


Students who graduated in the top third of their high school class made the greatest gains in course success.  The results from students graduating in the bottom third of their high school class is a bit misleading as there were only two of the seven students graduating in the bottom third of their HS class enrolled in General Chemistry who completed the course.  One of these students earned an A, but had already earned a BS degree.  The low retention of the bottom 1/3 students is ongoing regardless of the learning environment.  However, it appears that the bottom 1/3 students withdraw earlier in the semester in a flipped classroom.  Learning in a flipped classroom requires a great deal of self-regulated learning and many just don’t want to do the work.

Interestingly, the bottom 1/3 students were the ones who consistently did not submit in class problems or notes from the vodcasts.  Nor did they take the online quizzes.  Many of these students just came to class and seldom engaged in the learning process.  Others did not even make it to class.  As an instructor, this is very frustrating, but I can only do so much and ultimately the student needs to decide become vested in their learning.

Overall, the addition of SRL tools helped those students who graduated in the top and middle third of his or her graduating high school class.  SRL tools also helped non-traditional students (or those in the “other” category).  I plan to continue teaching students how to take notes and reflect on their learning.  Hopefully many will see the advantages and continue to use SRL tools in all their classes.

My next blog will include student comments on the implementation of the Cornell Note-taking methods when viewing the vodcasts.

Self-Regulation Tools and the #Flipclass

The first test in General Chemistry has been graded.  The test assessed similar topics to the first test from the Spring 2014 semester except for the addition of naming.  The overall average from the Spring 2014 class was a 60%.  The Fall 2014 class average on Test 1 is a 76%.  Unbelievable!  However, I prefer not to look at overall class averages because the student population changes each semester.  Examining the student average in terms of High School Class rank (top 1/3, middle 1/3, and bottom 1/3) gives a better indication of achievement/success in different learning environments.

Here’s a look at the data:

Class Rank Fall 2014 Test 1 Average Spring 2014 Test 1 Average
1 89.4 68.4
2 71.5 58.25
3 49.8 49.25
Not Given/GED 76.4 61.1

The highest achieving students (top 1/3 of their graduating high school class) in the Fall 2014 class were almost 20% more successful on Test 1 than in the Spring 2014 class.  The middle achievers (middle 1/3 of their graduating HS class) were 23% in the Fall 2014 class more successful on Test 1 than in the Spring 2014 class.  Students whose class rank were not given (mostly non-traditional students) were 15% more successful this semester.  Interestingly, those students graduating in the bottom 1/3 of their high school class were not more or less successful this semester versus in the Spring 2014 semester.

What is different?
I believe asking students to take notes using the Cornell Note-taking method is the main reason students are much more successful in this semester’s flipped class.  From past observations and student comments, many students did not take notes, or did not know how to take good notes, or simply did not watch the vodcasts.

Another difference is that students are working in groups of four in class with tables in a square arrangement.  In past iterations of the flipped class, the learning space was in rows.  This group arrangement is conducive to peer instruction. I am also encouraging them to teach each other by showing data that indicates deeper learning when students explain concepts and help each other with problem solving.  Many of my students are making a conscientious effort to teach each other.  As a result, the students have formed a learning community with me as the facilitator.  The learning community is positive because there are mature students in this class who take responsibility for their learning.

What to do with the lowest achieving student?

Students graduating in the bottom third of their high school class show no difference in achievement in a flipped class with implemented self-regulation tools.  Ironically, these students have not submitted their Cornell notes.  Even with the self-regulation tools as a requirement, positive classroom environment, and peer instruction, students with little motivation in high school are not likely to change their habits or self-efficacy in college.  Not surprising.

The flipped classroom with Cornell Notes promotes a significantly higher level of success amongst higher achievers (students graduating in the top and middle third of their high school class).  Overall, the implementation of Cornell notes and group learning space has increased the Test 1 average by 16%.  I deem this a success!!




Student-Centered Learning and Attention Disorders

The first test is graded.  However, the totals have not been tallied due to the addition of an “exam wrapper”.  More on this in future blogs, but Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation has great information about these reflection tools.

I would like to address several comments students have made.  Regarding using technology to deliver content:  A freshman told me that she expected college teachers to use technology in the classroom.  She used Moodle in high school and expected most college professors to use the learning management system and technology to deliver content.  This was interesting as I have not seen this expectation from high school students prior to this year.  I believe K-12 teachers are now harnessing the power of e-learning.  Great news!  However, many of my colleagues are not.

Several students told me that they really like having the “lecture” recorded.  Their main reason was the ability to have this information readily available to review.

Several students told me that the “collected and graded” notes were extremely beneficial because it forced them to take notes on the videos and actually watch them!  One repeating student indicated that he was watching them this time and preparing for class.  Bingo!

Other students have expressed that they are having difficulties in class concentrating on the problems because they need silence.  The room is not loud, but when you have 40 students in a small room, the cumulative discussion becomes loud.  Some students have attention disorders and even the smallest distractions become disorienting.  I have not seen any other flipped classroom instructor/blogger comment on this.  My students are not unique so I am sure this is not an isolated issue.  Any suggestions on how to address this will be appreciated. Please feel free to comment below.

Slowly, slowly, slowly, my flipped classroom is becoming highly functional.  It’s not an easy transition, but one I feel is necessary to increase student learning and retention.  If nothing else, the engagement in class has increased and students are not falling asleep.


#FlipClass and #Cornell Notes: A perfect combination

The fall semester is 1/4 over.  I am teaching general chemistry again in a flipped classroom learning environment.  I continue to structure the class as I did during the Spring 2014 semester.  You can read about it here.  The structure seemed to be conducive to student learning in that most knew what was expected before class.  However, expectations and actually completing the activities were very different.  One of the biggest issues was that most students did not watch the videos, let alone interact with them in a meaningful way.  You can read about this here.

I decided to implement Cornell Note-taking method into my pre-class activities.  The Lessons templates were distributed during the first class and available to students upon request. These notes are then collected periodically and unannounced.  I have collected the first two chapters and was amazed that 85% of the students not only filled in the template, but took amazingly detailed notes.  Most students went beyond my expectations; highlighting and color coding ideas and topics.  The comments students have made to me have been very positive:  They like the structure.  It makes them take notes more carefully.  One said that knowing they would be collected is key.

As a result of taking good notes and completing the pre-class lesson activities, the in class sessions are more positive.  Most students are ready to do the more complex problems and are willing to help each other.  The questions students are asking are at a higher level which indicates a deeper level of understanding.  Now, this atmosphere may just be my luck of the draw.  I have a really dynamic, focused group of students who are willing to help each other.  But, I do think the implementation of the Notes template has solved the problem of the students not watching the videos.  In fact, “watching” is not really what the students are doing.  The are interacting with the content in meaningful ways.  That’s the piece of this flipped class puzzle I have been trying to find.  The flipped classroom is “not about the video”, rather it’s about actively interacting with the content so that knowledge is constructed.

My next blog entry will occur after the first exam.  I am cautiously optimistic about the students’ success.

Thanks @Northcentral! Goal Accomplished!

It’s been a few months since I last posted a blog entry.  The end of the semester brought a flurry of deadlines.  I participated in the online ACS ConfChem where a paper about Flipping at an Open-Enrollment College was presented (more on this in upcoming blogs).  More importantly, I ran my statistics on the data from my dissertation study.  Over the summer months I revised the dissertation, and yesterday I defended and earned the title of Dr. Butzler!

When I began my journey towards a doctoral degree, I researched a variety of institutions.  I was looking for a degree in education with an emphasis in e-learning or online learning.  Most importantly, I needed a degree plan that was flexible and convenient and ONLINE.  Surprisingly there were few institutions that offered such a degree.  I found Northcentral University located physically in Arizona.  I was apprehensive, but as I dug deeper into the degree structure, I knew that this would be a good fit with my busy schedule.

I started in April of 2011 taking courses in 12 week intervals.  I could overlap courses; start a second at about week 4 of the prior course.  I could end early and pick up more classes.  A year and a half of course work was followed by comprehensive exams.  Then came the dissertation courses.  Although frustrating at times, this experience was PERFECT for my busy life… full time job and 4 kids!  I applaud Northcentral for designing and offering degrees that are tailored for adults like me.  I learned so much and as a result, I am a better educator and researcher.  And writer!

Online learning is not for everyone.  A doctoral degree is not for everyone.  You need to be self-disciplined and a self-directed learner.  Above all else, you need to be humble.  The mentors, chairs, and committee members know more than you.  Take their advice and learn from it.  Thank you Northcentral!  My goal of obtaining a doctoral degree has been accomplished!