Tag Archives: Education

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.

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!!




Refining my #FlipClass

As part of my teaching position, I am evaluated by my school dean once every 3 years.  Even though I have “tenure”, we are continually observed in the classroom.  I welcome this opportunity as a way for me to get input from an outside observer.  I am very fortunate that my dean has several decades of teaching experience in both higher ed AND K-12.  He is a master teacher in mathematics and has been discussing the flipped classroom with me for several years.

His observations were aligned with my observations.  The in class activities (solving a list of problems) became more like a study hall.  Every student was working on their own even if they were grouped.  There was little conversation and this only occurred if someone didn’t get the “right” answer that was listed in the text.  I had to run around answering and guiding individual students sometimes repeating my response over and over.  The more prepared students finished quickly and either sat there or worked ahead.  The students who struggled could barely finish the assigned problems or stay on task.  The more prepared students didn’t want to spend time explaining to the struggling student nor did the struggling student want to ask them for help.

So my dean gave me an idea that he had observed another instructor do.  Each student got a number (1-4).  All number 1’s moved to meet together and work on two problems.  Each #1 student was responsible for knowing how to solve their two problems.  The numbered students returned to their original group tasked with teaching their group mates how to solve their two problems.  All students left having the information to solve all 8 problems.

I tried this today.  Students were at first resistant; giving me that look of “please don’t make me move”.  Once they were in their groups, they resorted back to doing the problems independently.  I had to stop at each group, question, and “ask” a member to explain their answer to their group members.  Then I heard it….   talking, teaching, and learning.  They asked each other to explain and heard my most quiet students explaining to others.  Everyone was on task; no phones; no straying conversations.  When the numbered groups finished their problems, I asked them to move back to their original groups.

In their original groups, each numbered student had to teach their group mates.  This also went very well as each was confident in their answers and were able to explain.  Everyone left having completed the same problems and feeling confident in their answers.

I am going to try this again.  It seems MUCH better than the “study hall” environment.  I also don’t have to run around and answer the same question 20 times. I can address one problem with four students.  I also think having a whiteboard with each group will help the students explain to their peers more easily than on paper.

The next issue is how to group students in their original group.  It was suggested that group them according to ability…. all weak together, middle together, and high together.  This seems counterintuitive to me.  I did attempt to place a low, middle, and high together last fall.  This didn’t work very well as the high performing student didn’t want to take the time to help a low achieving student and the low achieving student didn’t want to admit they didn’t know something or were not prepared.  How do you group students?

The next issue is the number of assigned “in class” problems.  Is less more?  I observed that most students do the problems to get the done rather than understanding them… rushing through them to “check off” that assignment.  Should I assign less problems so that students spend more quality time on them?  Maybe give “extra” problems for those who are motivated to do more?

I am determined to find the right balance and practices for implementing the flipped classroom.  I will not give up on this…  Just the other day a student asked me if (M1/M2) * V2 would give the same answers as M1V2/M2.  I would never have had this conversation with the student had it not been for the opportunities to talk with every student, everyday in the flipped classroom.

Different class, Same #FlipClass story

So excited about flipping my classes this semester!  Not sure what is causing the differences, but so far the overall atmosphere in the classroom is positive. I just read Robert Talbert’s blog post “The Inverted Calculus course” this morning in The Chronicle and found his story eerily similar to mine.

The changes made from last semester have been very well accepted by students.  As I told the students, they are good students.  Now I want to make them great learners.  What is the difference?  My students are good at coming to class, asking questions, doing what they are told to do…. all attributes of a good student.  They are preparing themselves well for the in class sessions of the class.  BUT, I have found that they don’t really know how to learn and prepare for those high-stakes assessments.

Test 1 was graded and the overall median was not very good.  I had a sit down discussion with them to try to figure out how they approached their learning.  They did what I told them to do prior to every class… watch the vodcasts, pause, rewind, take good notes.  Try the Gate check and before class problems.  In class, they worked collaboratively in groups on the assigned in class problems.  All these steps were directed by me, the teacher.

Then I asked them what they did to prepare for Test 1.  Almost every student told me that they re-watched the vodcasts, looked over notes, and read the textbook.  NOT ONE SINGLE student actively reworked any of the in class problems (the problems normally assigned for homework).  In other words, the students repeated the content acquisition yet none of them worked on the problem solving.  I was astounded!  I assumed they knew to do this.

As a result, I challenged the class to work together to improve the overall class average on the next test.  If the class increased their overall test average by 10%, I would add 10 points to each student’s grade on test 2.  They responded well to this.  I am trying to get them to support and work with each other collaboratively rather than against each other.  I also hope with this “team concept” for learning, they focus less on the grade and competing and more on the learning.  

The overall class atmosphere is very conducive to learning.  I am loving the positive interactions and working with these students.  I believe they really want to learn the material, they just didn’t know how to approach preparing for a high-stakes assessment.  I hope the “team concept” helps.

New Beginnings #Flipclass

I wanted to wait a few weeks into the Spring semester before I entered a new blog post about flipping my general chemistry and Forensics classes.  As you may have read in previous blog postings, I had difficulties with the flipped class structure in my general chemistry class last semester.  Basically, most students hated it.   To that end, I decided not to label the learning environment as the “flipped class” and just let students accept that this is the course structure… it is not special, or new, or an experiment.  It’s a method I believe will provide them with the best instruction.

Even though last semester was VERY challenging (and even discouraging), I learned A LOT and took some student suggestions and revamped the flipped class structure.  This is what I am doing now…..

I broke each chapter into Lessons.  Each lesson consists of 4 activities and I advised students to do them in order.

1.  View the vodcast (s).  I made my own (10-15 minutes in length) and also provided vodcasts from the internet (Bozeman Science, Tyler Dewitt, and Khan Academy were my favorites).  I told students they could watch me, any of the others, or all of them.

2.  Section readings that correspond to the vodcasts.

3.  Virtual lectures which is from Mastering Chemistry and consists of a whiteboard and narrator explaining and showing problem solving.

4.  Problems that should be done before class (check your understanding) and a Gate Check (Google form that is both a self-assessment and place for students to write Muddy and Clear points).

I explained the order as this….  Steps 1 and 2 are knowledge acquisition.  Step 3 is step-by-step show how to apply knowledge.  Step 4  is a way for students to try problems and self-assess their understanding.  The Gate Check is a way for me to check whether they have acquired the knowledge, determine what needs to be addressed, and whether the student did what they were supposed to do before class.

I start each class by going over the Gate Check.  I am going to try to cut this time down as students told me that they don’t want to spend this much time hearing me talk.  They want to get to the in class problems.  In class, I give them more problems to solve in groups.  They work on them together and get help from me as needed.

When a student is finished, I check their work and let them leave.  They were initially shocked that I let them leave class early.  I told them that this is their time with me.  If they understand everything, got all the problems correct, and don’t need me to explain any concepts to them, they can leave.  They are adults and are paying good money to learn.  I am not going to make them stay if they finished everything.  The students LOVED this!  In fact, I am seeing that even though they are finished, many are choosing to stay in class to discuss more or just collaborate with their peers.  Giving them the autonomy to make decisions about how they learn, when they learn, and time spent on learning seems to be motivating them to learn better (autonomy support).

I also eliminated the “high stakes” chapter quizzes that were taken in class.  Instead, students will take a quiz online in the LMS.  I adjusted each quiz to select 10 questions from a pool of 50-100 questions.  Students can take a quiz up to 3 times with the attempt with the highest score counting.  I encouraged students to take the quiz 3 times even though they earned a high grade on their first attempt.  By doing this, the focus of this summative assessment has moved from performance to learning.  It is my hope that less focus on performance will lower the test anxiety.

So many changes in my approach.  I hope that I see a marked improvement on student attitude and perceptions of the flipped classroom.

#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, Socratic.org) 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.