#Flipclass not for Every Student

Throughout my entire journey to the flipped classroom, I maintained that the most important aspect of flipping is that the instructor can reach every student in every class.  I love teaching in this environment.  Currently, I am able to help those students in the class that are struggling.  But, I have two classes of about 16 students.  In the fall semester, my class size will again be at about 50 students.

Here lies the problem:

Because my institution is open-enrollment, there are many students who lack the study skills needed to reach high achievement in college.  Many of my students graduated at the mid- to bottom-third of their high school graduating class.  Additionally, the math level of most entering the college was at or below College Algebra.  Like many learners today, my students face learning disability challenges such as ADD and ADHD.  However, placed among these students are well-prepared, self-directed learners with the foundational skills needed to be successful.

My current students are really trying hard.  Most do what I ask them to do:  view the vodcast, read, complete the Gate Check, etc.  They are taking good notes.  They are respectful and really fun to have in class.  I absolutely love this group of students.  BUT…. they aren’t “getting it”.  I bring in relevance when I can…. “why they need to know this”….real-world examples of chemistry in action in healthcare and industry.  No help.  Many still don’t know how to convert grams to moles or that molecular weight is g/mol not just grams.

Many of my students get off-task.  They have a hard time focusing on the problems for 50 minutes.  Many of them need my help to the point where they want me to sit with them for the entire 50 minutes and guide them through every step of every problem.  I can devote time to them this semester because there are only 16 students in the class.  But, I won’t be able to give each student the time they need in the Fall when there are 50 students in one class (and no TA).  When the student can’t figure out a problem on his or her own, they turn to their neighbors who show them what to do.  They write it down, but don’t comprehend what they are doing.  OR the frustrated student sits there completely off-task doing nothing.  They become disruptive and bother those around them who are getting it and trying to focus.

I think the flipped classroom is dragging down those more prepared and academically motivated students.  And, honestly, the less prepared student isn’t understanding college chemistry any better in the flipped classroom. 

There I said it.

I am going to continue to flip my general chemistry class this semester because of the small class size and the ability to work one-on-one with the students.  But, come fall, I am going back to lecture (or a modified lecture) unless my current students really insist that they like this method of learning.


One thought on “#Flipclass not for Every Student

  1. kpeck2014

    Hi, Kelly. I feel your pain. I can tell that you care deeply about what your students learn, and I have great respect for the way you are searching for ways that serve your students well. It’s a tough problem that you are trying to crack. How to teach learners who don’t seem to have the motivation and/or prerequisites to be successful. The deck is stacked against you, and when you use the flipped model or cooperative learning models it seems that you are doing the brightest learners a disservice. Some say (but I’m not sure I believe) that the strong students actually do benefit from teaching to the others, so you might find some comfort in that. Perhaps you should ask some of your most capable students (ones who are confident enough or know you well enough to not feel threatened and as a result tell you what they think you want to hear) to tell you whether they believe that they are benefitting or being “dragged down” by the flipped classroom model? One more thought… Consider the probability that there are three (at least) categories of learners, rather than two, and that there is a group in the middle that IS benefitting. You might find that it’s a “zone of proximal development” thing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zone_of_proximal_development)… those with missing prerequisites and minimal motivation and who don’t see the relevance of what they are studying (perhaps because we educators have added chemistry into a program that really doesn’t require it) might not respond, but that there are those between the top group you described (who may “get it” no matter what approach we take) and those who are not ready and motivated. Let me know if you think that might be the case.

    Keep looking for better ways.


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