Long ago (1988) I moved to Berkeley and started sending a monthly "newsletter" to my Boston friends. When I returned to Boston (1993), I continued the tradition for about five more years (or until I had kids). Looking back, I realize that I was actually blogging. Each newsletter contained anywhere from a few to several blog posts. Having been silent for the past decade or so, I've decided to resume these activities. Don't expect anything profound -- I tend to focus on what I find entertaining or amusing and perhaps sometimes informative. We shall see!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Missing Flipping

Since I'm back in more conventional lecturing, there isn't much newsworthy to report, so I want to highlight just two things.

First, I recently learned that one of my students is blogging the course! I was thrilled when she said I could link to her blog. She is far more poetic than I, and I love reading her entries.

Second, I was chatting with a colleague recently who said that she couldn't tell whether I liked flipping or not. I thought I had been making that clear, but just in case, the point isn't coming across. I'm going to rant for a bit on just how excited I am about flipping.

I am completely sold on the flipped classroom. I will talk at great length to anyone who will listen; I recently used flipping as the centerpiece in the session I did for our teaching practicum; I have yet to hear a compelling argument for why you would not want to flip (as long as you could figure out space issues for a large class). I believe that I have covered all the reasons I am so enthusiastic about it, but just to put them all in one place:

  • The teaching staff can focus time and energy on those students who need it the most rather than those who are most vocal.
  • Pre-class work gives me concrete data on how students are doing -- what they know, what confuses them, what they don't know.
  • Because the pre-class work is built into the class structure, I have a mechanism to obtain immediate feedback on most everything. I believe you could do this in a more conventional class as well, but it falls out naturally here.
  • The pre-class work also gives me a way of staying connected with each student. I regularly check in on how partnerships are doing. We had one pair on the brink of divorce, but it appears to have been salvaged. I will point out that I have never taught this course without having at least one divorce, and it currently appears that we will have no divorces, even though we have more students than we've had in a decade.
  • The physicists demonstrated that peer instruction works, and this confirms it. The students learn a lot from each other.
  • Flipping can be the great equalizer -- if students already know half the material, they can skip the audio decks on those topics rather than having to sit through a lecture on them, just to get what is in the second half of that lecture.
  • Preparing the coordinated materials makes me think much more deeply about what I'm teaching, how I'm teaching, and why I'm teaching. The end product is therefore better thought out.
  • I've discovered that one becomes very sloppy while lecturing. You can walk into a class with lecture notes and wing it. However, I cannot wing recording an audio track. Because I can revise each slide track by itself, I will re-record until I have a very crisp, tight, clear explanation. I think this is a big win.

All that said, flipping, like any other mode of teaching, can be done badly. I've certainly experienced that. I believe that the work to be done outside of class, the pre-class quizzes, and the in-class work must be tightly coordinated. I also believe that the instructional staff needs to be fully engaged during class.

Next: Anxiously Flipped (April 15, 2013)

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