Monthly Archives: August 2013

#Flipclass Week 2: I am a Learning Coach

Week 2 of flipping…. I’ll start with Forensics.  I have two sections where one has 8 students and the other 15 students.  I feel the flipped classroom is working great in Forensics. I gave students the opportunity to give anonymous feedback on a note card.  Almost every student said they really liked it.  They liked being able to ask me a question immediately.  One student did not like that some students were not coming prepared.  From my point of view, students are spending more quality time answering the questions.  I anticipate huge improvements on test scores.

My gen chem class has a different dynamic.  There are 50 students in one class.  I also have students at VERY different math levels.  Some are in calculus while others just completed remedial math.  This has always posed a problem in Gen Chem.  Trying to teach to all levels is difficult.  In reality, I should adopt #Mastery Flipping, but the structure of higher ed is not conducive to this approach.  Labs are completely separate so students could not complete labs after mastering content.  I would like to hear from my #highered colleagues who have adopted the #flipmastery.

I also only meet with them two days/week.  This poses problems establishing a community of learners.  I just don’t get to know them very well and the students certainly don’t get to know each other.  As a result, I asked students to give their feedback on note cards.  I also asked them to tell me what concepts were still confusing (muddy points).

After reading their feedback, I was able to address most of the issues in an email.  Honestly, most students felt overwhelmed with what was expected of them.  Between “vodcast” assignments, vodcast quizzes, Connect homework, and a new LMS, they were disoriented and very concerned they were not going to be prepared.  I made a conscientious effort to streamline all assignments. This new way of learning AND teaching takes some time to adjust.  I have to admit I am spending MUCH MORE TIME preparing for the flipped classroom.  Lecturing is easy after 15 years.  All I had to do is walk into the classroom, pull up a ppt, and start talking.  As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t even need a ppt.

Today’s class went much better!  I gave them a chapter quiz.  I did a bit of “lecturing” and “flipping”.  Good questions were asked by students which allowed me to focus on the “muddy” concepts.  The students were loosening up and relaxing.  They seemed more willing to talk to their partners and help each other.  I am going to use the chapter quiz results to restructure the partners/groups.  OR I even thought about identifying some “peer tutors” and have them roam the room with me.

Overall, I think this is going to work.  I just have to be patient and not get frustrated.  I have to remain positive and encouraging towards my students.  I will take the approach of a motivating coach or parent.  Find the positive in each student’s progress and encourage them to find the learning that works for them.  You can now call me Coach Butzler 🙂

Flipped class and Academic Integrity

I have been teaching Forensics for about 8 years.  In past semesters, I asked students to come to class having read the chapter and the end-of-chapter questions completed.  I started class by checking each students’ answers to the questions.  I only checked for completeness, not correctness… students were able to collaborate in class on the answers.  I followed the collaboration period with a question/answer session on any concept that stumped them.  Seldom did students have questions.  I went right into the next chapter lecture thinking they understood everything they read from the previous chapter.  I really knew they didn’t, but I didn’t want to push it… they were college students who should be self-regulated learners.  The unit exams were never good.

Now using the flipped classroom learning environment, students come in with notes taken from the vodcast.  Questions that were normally done as homework are now completed in groups of 4-5.  Last week and again today, a student came with the questions already done.  Hmmmm… no the student did not have notes from the vodcast and the vodcast quiz clearly indicated that the chapter was not read.  How could the student have the answers to these questions completed?  I probed a bit…. the student indicated that she misunderstood the “homework” assignment.  Really?  Twice?

I’m not that naive not to realize that students were “sharing” homework question answers.  However,  I believe it was worse than I had imagined.  Now with the flipped classroom, students are forced to be accountable for their OWN answers.  They can’t hide behind cheating.

Week One #Flipclass

I am pleased with how the first week of flipping both forensics and gen chem went.

A few quick observations:

When I entered the forensics classroom on Friday, the students had already gotten into their groups and were working on the questions.  Wow!  (I wasn’t late either).  It was great to see them moving naturally into this collaborative learning experience.  I did ask them if they would rather work with a partner instead of groups of 4-5.  They all said that this arrangement worked.

Regarding my Gen Chem class…. I have found them to be mostly on task and prepared for this learning experience.  BUT, I had one student not able to find the vodcasts after I showed the class where to access them.  I also have several students who have not even logged into the LMS let alone view the vodcasts.  I think we need to realize that even though this is the “Net Generation” not all students are digital experts.  I made a quick Camtasia screencast that showed how to navigate the LMS to find the vodcasts.  Worked like a charm!

More to come this week as we enter Week 2 of flipping.

First #Flipclass day

I am exhausted!  Thankfully, I’m not one to wear heals or uncomfortable shoes.  Since I have a carpeted classroom, I even went one step further… I took my shoes off.

I have 50 General Chemistry students jammed into one smallish classroom.  The table/desk arrangement is traditional:  long tables with chairs.  I meet with these students on Tuesdays and Thursdays for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Not much time with them and 5 days between meetings.  Unfortunately, I can’t just assign a 10 minute video for each class.  Instead, I assigned them 40 minutes videos and told them that they do not have to view them at one sitting.  I did not group students in 3-4 as the tables are too difficult to move around.  Instead, I suggested just working in pairs then compare their answers with a pair next to them.  It seemed to work!

I began today by answering their questions from the video lecture.  They had several.  It was a great way to review the vodcast and really focus on what they wanted to learn.  I followed this with a partner “vodcast quiz”.  This worked really well as they were able to learn from each other without the pressure of a “first assessment”.  I explained to them that this was “low stakes” and that I wanted them to hone in on what they did not really understand.

After finishing the quiz, students began working on the “in-class problem packet”.  I compiled chemistry problems by chapter in one packet that they will work on during class.  Here is when my running began.  I went from one end of the room to the other.  I stopped the class whenever I had more than one group confused about the same problem.  It was great!  We could focus on the tough stuff and I was able to address their confusion and provide them feedback immediately.

I had one student break out into song.  Another provided a way for students to remember significant figures (Atlantic and Pacific… never heard that one so I learned something new too!).  I learned most of their names ON THE SECOND DAY OF CLASS!  The class was loud and their personalities emerged.  No one slept.

I did miss visiting a few groups.  I need to make sure I give all groups attention, not just those who are raising their hands.  I need to make sure I ask each student if they need help.  I think we will all be more efficient in this process as we get more comfortable.  I am excited that I didn’t have to talk TO them today.  And they had the opportunity to talk to ME.

Really excited for next week!!

Before the Flip Begins

Today is the first day of classes. I am teaching forensic science and general chemistry and flipping both classes.

Students in my forensics class choose this class as their science elective course. Only paralegal students take it as part of their majors.  So, for the most part, students take it based upon interest in the course. Students in general chemistry are mostly pre-physician assistants.  General chemistry is a required course and admission to the program is partly dependent on the grades earned.  Basically, students in forensics are not as concerned about “getting an A” as students in general chemistry.

Prior to any class, I send students a Welcome Email.  This semester I sent both classes a Welcome email with an overview of the flipped classroom.  I also had students in both classes post an introduction to the discussion board including any concerns they had.

Students began posting Introductions last week.  I have made a very interesting observation.  Many students taking Gen Chem list the “flipped classroom teaching style” as their biggest concern.  In fact, one student already emailed me wanting to find another section that is taught traditionally.  This student commented that their admission to the PA program was dependent on the grade in gen chem and did not feel comfortable learning this way.

While a few forensics students listed the flipped classroom as a concern, this did not occur to the extent it did in the gen chem class.  My hypothesis is that students who are focused on grades versus learning (extrinsically motivated versus intrinsically motivated to learn) do not want to move out of their comfort zone. Listening to a teacher lecture has worked for them.  I can’t blame them for being nervous…. this is a huge change from what they have experienced for 13 years.

I have not met with my gen chem students yet.  I am looking forward to talking with my gen chem students about how they will learn in the flipped classroom.  After meeting with my forensics classes today, I think most of their apprehension is gone or at the very least, minimized.  I am anxious to hear their thoughts on Friday when I ask them to reflect about their experiences.


New School Year: Reflecting on the Past

As the weeks passed from grading the last final exam, I have had time to reflect on the semester.  We often ask our students to reflect on their learning experiences and milestones.   This has been found to be an ideal activity for the learner.  “Because learning is so often subconscious, we don’t realize we’ve actually gained new knowledge or understanding until we stop to contemplate a particular activity” (Tap into Learning, 2000, p. 1). Because my online courses are designed in a constructivist framework, many of the activities involve some type of reflection.  However, my face-to-face courses lack this conscious activity of reflection.

Cumulative final exams end up as my only reflective activity.  My students have told me that they can’t believe how much they remember from the beginning of the semester.  I would like them to think about what the learned, not what they don’t know.  I’m not sure how to get them to do this.

As an instructor, reflection is equally important.  Again, I should do more of this.  I end the semester reflecting on things-gone-wrong instead of things-gone-right.   Reflection, as defined by Schon refers to self-awareness of one’s own repertoire of knowledge and skills in combination with present circumstances to form new understandings.  What can I do to make my teaching more effective?  Upon critical reflection over the past few weeks, these are the competencies I want to improve next year.   

1. Guide students to be more self-directed.

2.  Ask for student feedback intermittently throughout the semester using an anonymous survey.

3.  Don’t necessarily “be there” for students 24/7.

4.  Guide students in the critical thinking process which will in turn integrate more reflective activities.

“In an old paradigm of teaching in higher education, knowledge transferred to students by persons who have a PhD in their field of study; students passively accept and learn new facts within a traditional classroom setting.  Unfortunately, this paradigm may not adequately prepare students for the professional workplace where employers value skills and qualities such as emotional intelligence, self-regulation, and therapeutic use of self” (Zimmerman, Hanson, Stube, Jedlicka, and Fox, 2007, p. 1). 

We owe it to students to not only teach them content, but to teach them to become professionals.   We owe it to our profession to reflect after each semester so that we become better facilitators of learning. 

Online and Engaged?

Is there a way to have an interactive, online environment? I have heard from many that the constructivist approach cannot be taught via online learning. I have found this statement to be false. I will give you my experiences and then link to several sources that not only support the idea of constructivism online, but provide empirical evidence that online discussions can be BETTER than F2F discussions.

I have discussions in most of my online courses. I use the discussion boards to a greater extent in Chemistry and Society and Introduction to Forensic Science. Both of these courses lend themselves very well to the online DB.

This is what I have found:
1. Students are more willing to engage in debate and discussion online than in the classroom.
2. All students contribute to the discussion.
3. Students have time to reflect and research when engaged in an online discussion.
4. I have the ability to reach out to all students online either privately through email or publicly through a DB post.
5. Students are more willing to share their opinions and ideas online.

Not surprisingly, these findings are also cited in the literature. MacKnight (2000) supports the use of online discussions to promote critical thinking. “With the availability of online discussion and presentation tools, faculty can engage their students in a wide range of activities that can contribute to intellectual growth” (MacKnight, 2000, p. 38).

As I have experienced, online discussions can be more robust than in the F2F setting. “Discussing topics online, asynchronously, can be just as beneficial (if not more) as traditional, synchronous, in-class discussion” (California State University, 2009, p. 1).

“The majority of students do not want to participate in classroom discussions” (Maurino, 2006, p. 3).

“A larger proportion of students participate (online) and they appear to do so more often than in the (F2F) classroom. This increased interaction could be caused by any number of factors. Among them would be the fact that most instructors require online participation in threaded discussions and enforce penalties for non-participants. Further, students may feel more of a need to connect to other students and the teacher due to the nature of the online environment. Increased interaction may be an effort to counteract the potentiality for misunderstanding caused by transaction distance” (Maurino, 2006, p. 3).

Reflection is the key. Many students don’t “think on the fly”. They need time to think about ideas, research different points of view, and draw conclusions. In a F2F environment, students (and the instructor!!) don’t have this time. In order to teach students to think critically, we need to teach them to reflect. An online environment is more conducive to reflection.

Introverted students are more willing to share opinions and ideas online. Normal class discussions are dominated by the extroverts.  Not all students are engaged in discussion in the F2F classroom.

There are some disadvantages to online discussions. There is not a way to “see” body language or “hear” voice inflection. These visual and verbal cues are important to conversation. However, with the use of emoticons 🙂 😉 😦 students and the instructor can express feelings to some extent.

Here are links to the sources cited above that support my observations. Please feel free to read them.

Teaching Critical Thinking 
Discussion Board Best Practices
Online vs. Traditional This article provides data that supports discussions online. (you will need to scroll down and go next page to read full article)

Our students are engaged online using social media.  They interact with their friends through Instagram, Kik, SnapChat, Facebook, Vine, and “old fashioned” texting.  Maybe we should take a peek into their world for a moment and view how they are connected in learning.