Joshua Bowman tweeted the following question:
— Joshua Bowman (@Thalesdisciple) January 31, 2013
The underlying question is: should your first flipped class be a class you have taught before, or should it be a new class?
The argument for the former seems clear to me: it is smart to reduce the number of moving parts. If you have the content and assessments down, you can focus more on the pedagogy.
But I probably lean the other way: I think that it might be better to first flip a class you have not taught before. The reason: you don’t have the safety net of a pre-prepared lecture to fall back on, so you are forced to solely think about the class from a flipped perspective.
Of course, this might just be because of my personal experience. My first attempt at flipping a class was in linear algebra, which I had taught twice before. I had the students watch some Khan Academy videos and do problems out of the textbook before class, and we worked on problems during class.
The problem was that students would ask me questions in class, and I could immediately turn to all of my pet examples (which I had not reviewed beforehand) that I developed the two previous semesters. So the first third of the semester was as much a straight lecture as a flipped classroom. Once I realized this was happening, I rebooted the class to be a better version of a flipped classroom (but you never want to be forced to reboot anything).
Other people may not have this trouble, but I did. But it worked out: I taught real analysis—which I had not taught before—and the flipped classroom went well. There are a variety of reasons for this, but it helped that I did not already have a lecture-mindset for that class.
Anyway, here is my advice for anyone considering flipping a classroom:
- Start with a class you haven’t taught before.
- Use Peer Instruction (PI). Not only will it provide you with a great framework for your in-class work, but many people do it so you can borrow/steal a lot material. Best yet: even if you completely screw up the class, you will still be no worse off than a brilliantly-done lecture.
- Choose a class textbook that is readable for the students. Have the students read it before each class.
- Have some sort of mechanism for collecting the students’ questions prior to each class. Classroom management systems like Moodle/Blackboard/etc work, you could set up a class blog on wordpress.com and have them use the “comments” for their questions, or you could just use email.
- Get someone else’s PI “clicker questions” to use a foundation for your course.
- To prepare for a class, read through the section and create several clicker questions of your own before reading the clicker questions you stole from someone else (this is to get practice, but also to focus on what you think is important about the section). After you have written some of your own, merge them with the reference questions you got from someone else. This can be done well before the class actually meets.
- The morning before the class, look through your students’ questions. Pick the appropriate clicker questions from your reserve that will best answer their questions, writing new ones if needed (this is optional, especially if you have an 8 am class). Be sure to keep some questions on the most important topics, though, since students sometimes do not ask questions on this.
- Go to class, ask the questions, and have fun.
Notice that I did NOT recommend “creating videos.” I think that this is a nice thing to do for the students, but it is a lot of work. Students can definitely learn from a reasonable textbook.
As for “clickers,” I use TurningPoint, but only because that is what my campus decided on. Several people use iClicker, and Learning Catalytics is supposed to be awesome if you are sure that everyone has a device (and you have some money to spend). But do not discount low-tech solutions, either: I believe Andy Rundquist prefers colored notecards to electronic clickers (students raise a red notecard for option a, green for b, etc).
I am a big fan of the flipped classroom for most college-level classrooms. Please contact me if you are interested in getting started.
As always, please feel free to critique anything that I have said in the comments.
(photo “Flip” by flickr user SierraBlair, Creative Commons License)