Faculty Reflection on the Flipped Classroom

Written by Berlin Fang

The Flipped Classroom model has been around for a while. As a matter of fact, teachers may have been doing it before the term was even coined. However, flipped experiences might flop without teachers being deliberate in the planning and implementation process.

In Fall 2014, David Christianson of Adams Center, Professor Laura Phillips and Professor Mark Phillips from the College of Business Administration, have been working with a group of our professors through a “flipped classroom” workshop, as well as ongoing mentoring, classroom observation, and feedback that came after the workshop.

In a recent progress review, Professor Karen Cukrowski and Professor Vic McCracken shared their experiences using the model. Here are a few takeaways from this session.

  1. “Just do it.” Students do not have to know you are trying a “flipped classroom” model. When they find that you are trying some new “gimmicks” in teaching, they may groan or even resist. However, a well-implemented flipped classroom experience, engaging and instructive, will be well received.

  2. Make it or Mix it. Online videos are often used for the flipped model. Students watch videos before coming to class for hands-on activities or discussions. It is a good option to use podcasting or screencasting tools to produce videos on your own. However, professors may also use or mix videos that already exist. When using existing videos, professors add value by screening, selecting and elaborating on the most effective videos. Most importantly, professors can project a strong professor’s voice throughout the teaching process even if videos are not produced locally.

  3. Design with the future in mind. When producing learning materials, be mindful of future uses of such materials. If intended for reuse, videos produced had better not include references to particular time, space or individuals that may make it difficult to use in the future.

  4. Make learning active. In the classroom, students should be actively involved in the learning process. Lecture out of necessity, but think of additional ways to make learning stick. Practice active learning mentally and even physically if need be. For instance, when discussing literal or metaphorical interpretation of the creation, Professor Cukrowski literally asked students to take a stand by moving to various areas in the classroom. She said students loved it.

  5. Use groups. Small groups can help a great deal in classroom activities. One special value it provides is that quiet students, when joining a small group, find it easier to talk. However, do not expect groups to just work. It is dangerous to assign students to groups without proper structure, guidance, or feedback. This could create the situation of “the blind leading the blind,” which both professors warned about. Good strategies for avoiding blind leading the blind include initial structuring or walking through, as well as “group reflection” for students to calibrate their position in the learning process. Providing rich learning resources is also a great way for students to learn when they are assigned to groups during the flipped classroom experience.

  6. Last but certainly not the least, value what students bring to the experience. With the use of group learning, learning communities among students can form in such flipped classroom experiences. Help shape such communities. There are times students bring great input to the process.  Make sure such highlights are captured. Structure for it, for instance, by asking students to present their discoveries after groups have an opportunity to work on problems.

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