Monthly Archives: December 2013

#Flipclass #Reflections: Assumptions about #CollegeStudents

It has taken me a few days to really reflect on this semester’s experiences with the flipped classroom.  During the semester, I decided to make major changes next semester on the implementation of the flipped classroom and vodcasts based on student input and my observations.  I will give you the list of my changes after my reflections.

About half the class tolerated and saw value to the flipped classroom.  The other half vehemently (and I use this strong descriptor based on course evaluation comments) opposed this method of learning.  “Hate the flipped classroom”, “Horrible experience”, and “She doesn’t teach” are just a few comments from students.  Others saw value in the process, but stated that in class there were so many students off task and “not prepared” which resulted in class distractions.  Whole lectures had to be repeated because students did not come in prepared.  Yes, I gave them a quiz on the reading/vodcast upon entering.  This did not seem to encourage them to come prepared.  Students viewed the flipped classroom as my crazy idea and lashed out at me personally for making them learn this way.

The vodcasts were MediaSite recorded classroom captured lectures from a previous semester.  Students complained that they were “poor quality” and difficult to follow because of the student questioning in class.  Students said they were too long.  I ASSUMED that students would prefer a more authentic lecture… me in front of students…  rather than a “lecture” in an office.  I ASSUMED college students could pay attention for more than 10 minutes to a vodcast since they have to pay attention in other college classes sometimes up to 75 minutes.  Changing the vodcast presentation and length will be the biggest change in the upcoming semester.

These are the changes I plan on making:

I have two sections of gen chem with under 20 students in each.  With my one section, I will explain that this flipped classroom idea is not my crazy idea.  This is a national trend in education.  There is a body of evidence that supports this learning environment.  I am hoping this gives me credibility.  With my other section, I plan on being a “stealth flipper”.  No need to make it seem like this is anything new or different.  This is the way I teach because it is best for the student.  

Each chapter will consist of 3-8 lessons.  Each lesson will include a series of vodcasts, virtual lectures, section reading, before class problems, and a Gate Check.  This is a lot of work, but I will remind students that a 3 credit class = 1 hour in class/2 hours outside of class.

1.  Provide short vodcasts from a variety of sources (Bozeman Science, Tyler Dewitt, as well as my own vodcasts.   I just don’t have the time between semesters to produce all the quality vodcasts I need.  I am still wrestling with a good way to produce these.  I am leaning towards using a pdf annotator and capturing using Camtasia.

2.  In addition to the vodcasts, the new textbook I choose includes Mastering Chemistry.  Mastering Chemistry provides short video clips of problems being solved on a whiteboard.  I included these as part of each lesson and labeled them as “virtual lectures”.

3.  I assigned a few problems for the students to attempt BEFORE class.  I call these “before class problems” (not very creative).  I did this a few times during this past semester in lieu of the vodcast quiz.  Students seemed to find this more valuable than a vodcast quiz.

4.  Provide students with a Gate Check BEFORE class.  I plan to use Google forms as a way to assess whether students viewed the vodcast lessons.  Within the Gate check, I plan on asking students to write their muddy and clear points on the Gate Check.  I will begin each class showing their anonymous, aggregated, responses.  It is my hope that we can focus on the content that is most confusing.

During class, students will work on problems in groups from the text and Mastering chemistry.  I have a 3 hour lab so I don’t think I need to introduce any “hands-on” activities during class.  I might try a few POGIL activities if time permits.  Since so many of my students did not come prepared to class this past semester, we fell behind.  Most did not complete the in class problems during class because they could not even begin them.

I will also collect the in class problems for a grade.  I did not do this this past semester as I ASSUMED college students would complete them.  I was reminded that unless an activity is graded, some students will not complete it.

I will not give up on teaching in the flipped classroom!  My husband is encouraging me to “just lecture.  It’s what college students expect and want”.  I have never taken the easy road… I was a chemistry major!  I believe in this way of teaching.  I want my own children taught this way.

Even though most did not like the flipped classroom, I believe my students learned how to study..  When I asked them this question on a survey (did your study habits change?), they stated that they “had to study differently”, “find information outside the text”, “learn to take better notes”, “learn information on my own”, and “studied for the first time”.  They hated the flipped classroom, but many changed the way they studied and learned (or learned how to study… which is what many stated).

I am not here to win a popularity contest.  I teach to help students learn how to learn and love to learn to learn.  Hopefully, the skills they acquired (grudgingly) this semester will be useful throughout their academic careers and lifelong learning endeavors.

Final exams and #flipclass

The day has come… the final exam day in Gen Chem.  I am very excited to see how much they know and remember.  The class average going into the final exam is a 80%…. much higher than in previous years when I only lectured.  However, I doubt many students perceive their grade as high.   If the students have learned anything from gen chem and the flipped classroom, I think they are learning how to study and learn.

How do I know this?  I gave a “reflective” type of assignment last week that asked students to develop a strategic plan for preparing for finals (gen chem in particular).  You can view the assignment here.  Then I asked them to view the Angela Duckworth’s TED talk on Grit.  I asked students to reflect on grit in a personal way… do they have grit?  how do they react to a less than ideal situation?  The responses were amazing….and enlightening. About 90% of my traditional students indicated that they never had to study in high school.  They freely discussed how they had to change the way they learned.  Bingo!!

Another great take-away from their responses was the fact that those students who talked about grades and needing to learn for a grade were much more anxious in class and about the flipped classroom.  Those who expressed the desire to learn the material for their future careers and/or interest were those who are more successful and seem less anxious.  These responses clearly indicate that motivation towards learning–learning for the grade versus learning for the sake of learning– influences a student’s performance and overall satisfaction with the learning environment.

I replied to every student who submitted a response to the Finals and Grit assignment.  I gave many of them advice on how to approach their learning or confirmation that their approach was working!  Several students told me that they were not happy with the assignment at first (more work near the end of the semester), but thought it was the “best assignment ever” and I should “do this every semester”.  Many shared the TED talk with friends and family.

I love teaching in the flipped classroom.  But, what I love most about it is the relationships I now have with all of my students.  I know every single one of them in a meaningful way.  To those who are open to new learning strategies, I can give advice as to how to study because I know how they learn best.  The flipped classroom has provided me with the time to build those meaningful relationships and a learning community.  More than chemistry knowledge, it is my hope that their new learning strategies and Grit will serve them well in the years to come.

Success factors in the #Flipclass: #Grit and #Motivation

The semester is winding down and I am becoming a bit reflective.  I will post a final “semester of flipping” reflection in the weeks to come, but thought I would reflect on this last week in terms of student grit.

The end of the the semester reveals a student’s personality.  How does a student handle stress?  How does a student deal with life weaving into schoolwork?  And most importantly, how does a student communicate (verbally and using body language) with the instructor and their peers?  This week revealed several interesting observations.

The students who have been most successful in the flipped classroom are appear more calm, communicate well, and overall have a great attitude–they are still smiling.  Those who have been less successful are skipping class, appear angry in class, and are not completing the assignments or taking shortcuts when completing them.  

What does this all mean?  Well, I have indicated in previous posts that level of motivation seems to effect success and satisfaction in the flipped classroom.  I believe that is true as those who are intrinsically motivated (self-regulated learners, learn for the sake of learning) versus extrinsically motivated (not as self-regulated and learn for a grade), are performing better.  But, there is more to this:  the Grit Factor.

Grit research is fascinating and I wish I would have come across this prior to designing my dissertation study. Grit really encompasses many theories:  self-determination theory, goal-orientation theory, learning strategy theory, etc.

Grit is simply “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, and Kelly).  “Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress.  The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that is it time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course” (p. 1087-1088).

After Thanksgiving break, I plan on asking students to view the Angela Duckworth TED talk and reflect on how they plan on to approach final exams and their upcoming semesters. Success in the flipped classroom or even college is not about intelligence.  It’s about the amount of grit in a student.