I have some concerns about flipping courses. Maybe I’m just hung up on the name—flipping is what we do with pancakes. It’s a quick, fluid motion and looks easy to those of us waiting at the breakfast table. I’m not sure those connotations are good when associated with courses and that leads to what centers my concerns. I keep hearing what sounds to me like “flippant” attitudes about what’s involved.
One of the strengths of gamification is that it provides visible milestones of the student’s mastery of content in real time (when it is well designed). Too often in an instructional setting, the learner doesn’t know whether or not he or she really understands or can apply the knowledge they are learning. There is often no visible sign of mastery of the content or application of the content.
It used to be called team teaching, but that term is now used less often to describe the collaboration of colleagues when they jointly teach the same course. Multiple instructors may be involved in the course, each delivering a freestanding module; or two instructors may do the course together, each in class every day with all course activities and assignments integrated. And there are variations of each of these models.
It seems like everyone is talking about the flipped classroom. But how do you use this new model to construct lessons and assessments that reinforce student learning?
The July 2013 issue of Teaching of Psychology (40, 3) includes an “objective analysis” of the specifications and content coverage of 13 full-length introductory psychology textbooks. In six pages, teachers get a well-organized overview of introductory texts and a good feel for what those in the field consider important introductory course content. Scholarship like this makes a valuable contribution to the discipline.
I’m betting that many of you are in the midst of grading a large stack of papers, projects or other final assignments. Too often these end-of-course pieces of work don’t live up to our expectations or students’ potential. It’s easy for us (especially the elders among us) to bemoan the fact that students aren’t what they used to be. It’s better to use our discontent to consider whether our course assignments are effectively accomplishing our course goals.
Many of us who teach in higher education do not have a teaching background, nor do we have experience in curriculum development. We know our content areas and are experts in our fields, but structuring learning experiences for students may or may not be our strong suit. We’ve written a syllabus (or were handed one to use) and have developed some pretty impressive assessments, projects, and papers in order to evaluate our students’ progress through the content. Sometimes we discover that students either don’t perform well on the learning experiences we’ve designed or they experience a great deal of frustration with what they consider high stakes assignments. Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1978) proposes that it’s important to determine the area (zone) between what a student can accomplish unaided and what that same student can accomplish with assistance.
Not so long ago I challenged us to consider how our collections of active learning activities fit together and that has gotten me thinking about the collection of assignments we have students complete in a course. How do they fit together? Why have we chosen that particular group?
What does it take for an activity to qualify as active learning? How we define active learning makes a difference. For example, if participation is a perpendicular exchange where the teacher asks a question and one student answers, we know that one student had an active learning experience. We have to guess whether that exchange engaged other students.
I started thinking about this when I wondered in a previous blog whether the 5 or 10% that many of us give for participation was enough to motivate students, or whether being such a small part of the grade, it actually devalued what students contribute in class. Since then I’ve been thinking more about how we decide on the allocation of points or percentages for the various assignments students complete in a course. For many of us (that includes me), it isn’t as thoughtful of a process as it should be. Rather, we do what we’ve done before, or we ask around, get a general sense of what everybody else is doing and follow suit.