Monthly Archives: September 2013

After the test….#flipclass week 6

Gave test 1 in Forensics this week.  The grades were not statistically different from the lecture group from semesters prior.  There were, however, more passing grades.  Therefore, the flipped classroom is helping those more motivated students learn more (observation only).  Those students who are not as motivated seem to have a difficult time no matter which classroom environment they are in.  I plan on testing my hypothesis on the “Effects of Motivation on Achievement and Satisfaction in a Flipped Classroom Environment” in my dissertation study.  I just got word that my dissertation proposal was approved!  So excited!

Moving on to Gen Chem… I believe we had some breakthroughs this week.  Test 1 grades seem to be the impetus needed to make some of these students change the way they are interacting with the content.  Students came to class more prepared.  (I can tell by the questions they are asking).  The newly formed groups are mostly working better.  There seems to be more peer-to-peer interaction and support.  Students are also becoming more comfortable with the flipped classroom environment and seem to be less intimidated by me (not that I ever acted intimidating) and their classmates.

I hesitate to paint a glowing picture of the effectiveness of the flipped class or student satisfaction with this learning environment.  Most students seem to be adjusting, even enjoying this constructivist, social learning environment. There are others that are clearly not comfortable learning in this environment.  Just this week, two students are blaming the flip class on their poor performance on test 1.

This is the problem….  the flip class gives under prepared and less motivated students an excuse for not achieving their goals (grades).  Those students who are willing to talk to me about changing their learning have come a long way.  Those who are unwilling to adjust or change their learning strategies are almost antagonistic towards me and are resistant to student-centered learning.  Body language and tone of voice is telling.

So what do I do?  The flipped classroom is not hurting student achievement (test 1 scores are similar to lecture-only).  Students are not sleeping in class.  Students are starting to ask me questions that reflect a deeper-learning.  I desperately want to retain those lower performing students, but they are resistant to change their approach to learning.  How do I convince these low performing students that the change needs to come from them?  (comments and suggestions welcome!!)

As a way to encourage more student-centered learning, I implemented a new policy.  A few students found mistakes I had made in my vodcast (recording made with a live lecture class and not edited) when explaining concepts to  my lecture class.  Based on a suggestion from a colleague, I implemented “B” (for Butzler) points as a way to encourage “mistake-finding”. If a student catches a mistake, I will give them a point on their next test.  My colleague’s son’s high school teacher did this and it was a hit.  Likewise, my students perked up and were very excited about the opportunity to find my mistakes and earn points.  Hey, if it causes students to listen to my vodcasts more closely, student learning should increase.  Hopefully, students will begin to question their own understanding of the material.  At this point, I am trying whatever tactic I can to move them to be more self-regulated learners.

I am looking forward to the next several weeks of teaching and learning in the flipped classsroom.  The upcoming content is my favorite (Lewis structures and molecular shape).  Hopefully, my students will share my enthusiasm.  🙂

#Flipclass #GeneralChemistry Test 1

Test 1 Reflections

Grades are in for Test 1 in General Chemistry.  The class averages for test 1 from Fall 2012 (lecture) and test 1 from Fall 2013 (flipped) are not significantly different.  Additionally, the ranges of grades from the two semesters are not statistically different.  However, when I analyzed the grade frequency graph from Fall 2013, there is an almost perfect bimodal grade distribution.

Since Penn College is an open enrollment college, all students must take a math placement test before scheduling classes (see Appendix at end of blog for math level placement descriptions).  The Fall 2012 students (lecture) had an overall higher math placement level than the Fall 2013 students.  The Fall 2013 students are having more difficulties with mathematics than with actual chemistry.  Over half the students in my class are at or below math level 3 which requires a student to take remedial mathematics courses.

Upon running the statistics, there is a correlation between math level and performance on test 1.  This is what I expected.  All students must take MTH 006 (Elementary Algebra II) as a pre-requisite for general chemistry. This solves some of the problems, but students need more math experience to hone those reasoning skills required in chemistry.  It’s not just about solving problems in chemistry.  It’s about looking at a problem and reasoning through it AND looking at an answer to see if it SEEMS correct.  I had students report 2.14 atoms are in 7.18 g of copper!

Besides math level, another difference between Fall 2012 and Fall 2013 is that there are 40+ students in one classroom.  During the Fall 2012 semester, I had two sections of approximately 20 students.  Considering these variables (lower class size and higher math level for Fall 2012), I am pleased that the average on Test 1 in the flipped classroom (Fall 2013) is about the same as in the lecture classroom (Fall 2012).

In addition to math skills, those students who are self-regulated learners (observation only) are doing well in this environment.  They come prepared, ask questions, interact with, and teach their classmates.  Those students who are less self-regulated or do not know how to learn, are struggling in this environment.  Unfortunately, I believe the flipped classroom is widening the gap between the self-regulated learner and those who simply lack study skills (or do not want to put much effort into out-of-class learning).  Further, less prepared, less motivated, and less self-regulated learners are now using the flipped classroom as an excuse for their poor performance.  I am also much more aware of these deficiencies as I walk around the room helping students.  The flipped classroom has exposed deficiencies in student learning and mathematical preparedness.

How will I change what I am doing to accommodate my observations? 

I know my students pretty well now.  I looked at test performance and personality and assigned in class groups.  I even arranged my groups to be in close proximity to other groups that might work well together.  My classroom learning environment is not conducive to group work (long tables situated in rows), so I will cluster the groups along corners of the tables front and back.  It is my hope that the new groups help build supportive learning networks and the higher performing, more self-regulated students will model how they learn and think.  I can talk and talk to my students about how to study, learn, solve problems, but they will learn more from watching how their classmate learn and interact with the content.



Placement One

Students have a weak current working knowledge of basic arithmetic. Students will need to complete prerequisite, developmental course(s) before attempting any certificate- or degree-level mathematics course. Typically, students assigned to this placement have experienced difficulty with mathematics throughout their education or have been away from mathematics for an extended period of time.

Placement Two

Students’ basic arithmetic skills are adequate, but current working knowledge of elementary algebra, which is required for success in all degree-level mathematics courses, is weak. Students will need to complete prerequisite, developmental course(s) before attempting any degree-level mathematics course. Typically, students assigned to this placement have not taken an algebra course, have experienced difficulty with algebra, or have forgotten algebra concepts because they have not used algebra for a significant length of time.

Placement Three

Students’ elementary algebra skills are adequate and current working knowledge of intermediate algebra is sufficient for success in some college math courses, but not adequate for the College Algebra I level and above. Typically, students who receive this placement have taken at least two high school algebra courses, but may have experienced difficulty with those courses or may have forgotten some algebra concepts because they have not used algebra for a significant length of time.

Students in this placement may begin mathematics courses with MTH113, MTH124, MTH151, MTH153, MTH160, or MTH172. If MTH180 is required for your major, you will be required to take MTH006 to prepare for MTH180.

Placement Four or Five

Students’ current working knowledge of intermediate algebra is sufficient for beginning college math courses up to and including the College Algebra I level, but not Pre-Calculus and above. Typically, students who are assigned to this placement have experienced success in high school Algebra I and II, may have taken a course(s) beyond the Algebra II level, and have usually scored well on the math portion of the SATs.

Students in these placements may begin mathematics courses with any of the math courses mentioned under Placement 3, plus MTH180.

Placement Six

Students’ current working knowledge of algebra is sufficient for all beginning college math courses below the level of Calculus. Typically, students assigned to this placement have experienced success beyond the level of high school Algebra II, may have taken a trigonometry course, and usually have scored very well on the math portion of the SATs.

Students in this placement may begin mathematics courses with any of the courses mentioned under placement 3, 4, or 5, plus MTH190.

Placement Seven

Students’ current working knowledge of algebra and trigonometry is very good. Their skills are sufficient for all beginning college math courses including Calculus I. Typically, students assigned this placement have experienced success in high school algebra, trigonometry, and possibly high school calculus. They usually have earned high grades in these courses and have a strong SAT/ACT score in mathematics.

#Flipclass Week 4

I know my titles are not catchy.  Sorry.  I am so worn out, my creativity is lacking.  Flipping is tough.  It’s so much more difficult than lecturing.  I just hope all this hard work is worth it.

We diverged a bit from the “normal” schedule this week in Forensics.  I have guest speakers come into my class to speak about their professions that are related to forensic science.  This week we discussed a local case that involved Dr. Richard Illes and the murder of his wife, Miriam.  We viewed the CourtTV episode of the case and then Mr. Mike Dinges came in to fill in the gaps.  Friday we spent discussing the case and started looking at the “final assessment” in this course, the Crime Scene Project (description can be found on my Wiki).  In years past, I waited until the last month to begin talking about it.  This semester I decided to use my flipped class discussion time to have students work on the final assessment incrementally.  I really think these students are going to do great work!

Teaching chemistry in the flipped classroom learning environment is definitely more challenging.  The content is different, students are more extrinsically motivated to learn the material (more focused on grades than learning for the sake of learning), the class size is triple that of forensics, and the students have a wide range of mathematical abilities.

The one thing I do notice is that some students are not doing many problems on their own outside of class.  I have online problem sets due, but most wait until the due date to complete them.  I had to remind them that we may not get to all the “in class” problems in class therefore they should work on them outside of class.  Again, 2.5 hours is not enough time.  I am begging them to see me during office hours.

One student visited me during office hours yesterday.  We talked for awhile about test anxiety and her crazy schedule as a student athlete.  I gave her a few suggestions to help alleviate test anxiety.  During the course of the conversation, she mentioned that she would rather I vodcast my lectures in my office.  She thought this would focus her more on the content.  She said she almost feels like a second party looking in rather me talking to her.  She also said that because the lectures were recorded in a live classroom, student questions make the focus diverge.  Interesting…. I assumed students would prefer this.

I used MediaSite to classroom capture my lectures last fall thinking that the students would prefer hearing a “real” lecture in a classroom with students versus a “simulated” one-way lecture of me talking to a computer screen.  I asked her if she would like me to provide links to other professors lecturing on Khan Academy or YouTube.  She said no.  She wants to hear me.  So, I will lecture capture the next few chapters in my office and see if students prefer this over the MediaSite recordings of my “real-time” classroom lectures.

For now, students are giving me great feedback on the flipped classroom!  Most coincides what the “flipped experts” suggest.  Students want to hear their own professor explain the concepts rather than someone else.  The first exam is next Thursday.  I am anxious to see how they do.  I anticipate the performance will be identical to that of my lecture class from semesters prior.  We will see.  

Educating the #NetGeneration

Who is the Net Generation?  Those who were born sometime in the last decade of the 20th century are considered the Net Generation.  Other names that may apply are:  Millenials, Generation Y, or “digital natives”.

What makes this group of people unique? Net Geners or “digital natives” were born connected; connected by technology such as the Internet, ipods, text messaging, mobile phones, You Tube and social media.  This generation didn’t have to learn how to use technology, rather it has been part of their world.  Marc Prensky coined the name “digital natives” to describe this generation of learners.  In his paper Do They Really Think Differently, Prensky (2001) suggested that the Digital Natives’ brains are physically different than the brains of earlier generations.  This difference is the result of the digital input the Net Gener received growing up (Prensky, 2001).  Don Tapscott’s books Growing up digital:  The rise of the Net Generation and Grown up digital are excellent reads.  OR just listen/watch Tapscott’s TED Talk.

Why should educators care?  The Net Gener learns differently.  Barnes, Marateo, and Ferris (2008) stated that by the time a Net Gener has reached 21 years of age, he or she will have spent:

·         10,000 hours playing video games,
·         200,000 e-mails,
·         20,000 hours watching TV,
·         10,000 hours on cell phones, and
·         under 5,000 hours reading

 Should we change the way we teach?  Oblinger and Hagner (2005) observed that Net Geners seek out different ways of expressing themselves through a variety of communications.  Net Geners also reported that traditional ways of teaching bore them.  I also found a very good NPR segment and ebook by Oblinger and Oblinger on teaching to the Net Gen student.

We as educators should acknowledge that these students don’t learn the way we did.  We should not make them conform to how we learned.  We should give them multiple resources for learning so that they can choose how to learn and exploit the skills students have developed in the digital age. 

But, the Net Gen student should not expect instant gratification and constant entertainment.  The Net Gen student should be taught how to think more deeply about topics and communicate professionally.  

We can meet the students half way–incorporate their technology to teach them how to critically think and communicate professionally– teach them how to learn using their tools.  In turn, maybe we could even learn something from the Net Geners!

Week 3 #Flipclass: Lecture or Student-Guided Teaching?

Another week of flipping, teaching, and learning completed.  Forensics is going great!  (well at least from my perspective).  Only issue is that some students are not taking notes on the vodcast/reading.  In fact, several students (2-3) come in with the in-class questions completed and no notes.  Again, I don’t understand this.  Why not do what I ask them?  It leads me to believe that they are getting the answers from another source so that they have to do nothing in class or out of class.  I did “check notes” for a quiz grade and the students who had the questions done and no notes received a zero.  I am interested in seeing if this changes their behaviors.  Hate to use a “stick” to “make” students complete tasks in a certain way, but it’s also not fair to those students who are really working hard.

General Chemistry is not going quite as well.  It’s not bad… it’s just that I find myself “talking” too much.  I do the “review” at the beginning of class (today was electron configurations and quantum numbers).  The review ends up being 45 minutes!  BUT, the students ask the questions and we only focus on the concepts they don’t “get”.  So, even though I’m “lecturing”, I feel as though the students are guiding the lecture.  They are constantly asking for clarification during this “lecture”.  I would rather call it “student-guided teaching” versus a lecture.

After the “review”, I give them a “vodcast/reading” quiz to assess whether they completed the vodcast/reading.  I allow students to use their notes.  I will also do a “check note” assessment.  I plan on eventually doing what the “flipped experts” do and give a quiz right after the vodcast online.  This should save me tons of class time.


It seems as though I have a greater number of students who struggle with mathematics and critical reasoning skills.  I am aware of a great number of students who are accustomed to just memorizing.  I hope this is just because of the one-on-one interaction flipping has provided and not because our students are becoming less and less prepared for the rigors of college.  I have to make sure I “visit” the students who are not struggling.  They deserve one-on-one interaction also.