A colleague and I have been flipping our Microbiology and Molecular Biology courses at the Loomis Chaffee School for the past two years and cannot imagine going back to a more “traditional” model. There have certainly been challenges along the way and adjustments that we have had to make, but by and large, the “experiment” has been a successful one. We spent a good deal of time on the front end explaining the rationale and pedagogical implications of the flipped model to our students and seek their feedback quite regularly about their learning and the learning environment we have created. I have written previously about specific aspects in our flipped classroom, posts of which can be found here, here and here.
I suggested/volunteered my colleague (she would say I volunteered her!) to do a presentation at an upcoming faculty in-service day about the flipped classroom in an effort to get the word out to our colleagues. I will be busy doing presentations on the use of Google docs, the use of clickers and Twitter for teachers so I “encouraged” her to lead the session on the flipped classroom. She wanted to include some data from the current students as well as some comments from them in the presentations so we created a google docs survey to get some feedback from the students. We use video lectures as our main content delivery method and try and limit our videos to 15 minutes in length. You can find most of them at our YouTube channel LC Microbiology. We are on spring break now so not all of the students have filled out the form but here are the “highlights” and a link to the entire survey in case you are interested in the results so far.
- The majority of students spend about 30 minutes watching and taking notes on a 15 minute video lesson.
- About one-half of the students will watch the video more than once before coming to class.
- Approximately 70% of the students will re-watch a video lecture prior to an in class assessment as review.
Here are a couple of the comments that students wrote in response to “what are the pros/advantages of the flipped classroom?”
“We are able to focus more on the lab work because of the flipped classroom and I believe it is a huge advantage for our bio class.”
“I can listen to one section of the lesson over and over. For example, I struggled with the buffer lessons at the beginning of the term, and I must have watched the video lesson in that section 8 times. Before long though, I understood buffers, and I never fell behind in the class.”
“Simple: I get to do more fun stuff in class.
Of course, there’s a bit more to it than that. My experience with science textbooks (and even textbooks in general) is that they are A) physically cumbersome and B) contain a few elements of pertinent information buried beneath clutter that, while interesting, has little to do with the course and dilutes the information that I actually need to know. Not only that, but teachers often find ways of teaching material that is more effective than the textbook, which means that the textbook is of little use as a resource because I learned the material in a different manner.”
Here are a few responses to what are the cons/disadvantages of the flipped classroom?”
“The con is that the homework is always important, so I can’t just skip it. I’m definately one of those kids that doesn’t do the homework if I don’t have to, but the video lessons are vital to the class the next day and I can never blow them off.”
“Sometimes, there is not enough time in class/too many things on the agenda to answer all of the questions/go through the video lecture thoroughly enough.”
“When I watch the videos outside of class, I write down questions and highlight confusing ideas, but learning the material off a computer is much different then learning material in class. I often struggle to know what I don’t know.”
The students made some suggestions for ways in which we could improve the model mainly focused on making sure we dedicate some time in class to going over material that was confusing from the video lectures. We have not been as good at reviewing content from the videos as we could be as we try and squeeze every possible minute out of our schedule either having the students working in the lab or wrestling with problems related to the topic at hand. The feedback has been valuable to us as teachers and will hopefully encourage out colleagues to learn more about the flipped classroom and perhaps even give it a try.
I will post a follow-up with thoughts and feedback from the faculty in-service day. Please do not hesitate to add your comments, thoughts or suggestions to the discussion.