TA working with small group of students. May 19

Using a Flipped Classroom Approach and Just-in-Time Teaching to Engage Students

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Silvia Martins, an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology in Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, faced a challenge in her introductory epidemiology course, Principles of Epidemiology. She found that students needed more time to process the weekly lecture material before attending the follow-up seminar sessions with teaching assistants (TAs).

As a recipient of the Provost’s Hybrid Learning Course Redesign and Delivery grant, Martins worked with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) to develop a plan that would give students the opportunity to spend more time with lecture content as well as provide TAs with feedback on how students were absorbing the material. Over the course of several semesters Martins redesigned the course using the flipped classroom model and incorporated recorded video lectures and Just-in-Time-Teaching (JiTT) techniques that promote the use of class time for more active learning.


students collaborating on project May 3

Actively Learning to Teach

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Today I had an interesting experience while teaching my biochemistry class. I had students write the Krebs cycle on their digital whiteboards while keeping track of the specific carbons in the cycle intermediates. The point of this exercise was to have students understand how biochemists study metabolic pathways and to practice writing the chemistry of the cycle. To initiate the exercise, I explained the biochemical logic of the first reaction. After that, I let them go because we had already spent a lecture discussing the reactions. This produced a fairly lively classroom with students trying to understand the flow of both carbons and energy through the cycle. While they worked, I walked around commenting here and there as needed or when I saw a misconception arising. Clearly, learning was happening. But the weird thing was . . . I didn’t feel like I was teaching.

With active learning, we often discuss the culture shock that students feel. No longer is it sufficient for students to sit listening as passive consumers of information doled out by their instructor. An active learning class compels students to become actively engaged in applying the material and uncovering the consequences of their newly learned knowledge. But for those of us instructors who never had active learning modeled for us as students, the experience can be just as alien. It can be invigorating, as it was today when my students were working hard to understand the biochemical logic of the reactions. But for me, it also felt like was I wasn’t doing my job. I was reminded of those comments on my end-of-term course evaluations: “Haave didn’t teach us! We had to learn it ourselves!”

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tug of war May 2

Why Students Resist Active Learning

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The recent decades have seen growing faculty interest in learning. Increasingly, teaching is being understood in terms of how well it promotes and facilitates learning. Faculty are more familiar than ever with the evidence that favors active learning over lecture. And although many still lecture, most instructors acknowledge that they should be using more active learning. Change comes slowly to higher education, but it does come.

What hasn’t kept pace with changing faculty attitudes and practices is student interest in and understanding of themselves as learners. Student resistance to active learning is regularly reported. Part of this is resistance for understandable reasons. Active learning means more work for students. They aren’t getting a neat, comprehensive package of teacher-generated examples, but are having to come up with their own. They aren’t watching the teacher solve all the problems, but are being put into groups to collectively work on the problems. Passive learning is easier than active learning, but then passivity doesn’t always result in learning, especially learning that lasts and knowledge that can be applied.

Students also resist because active learning isn’t always effectively designed. Neither are lectures, but when the teacher drones on and the content wanders from here to there, students can tune out and pretend that they’re listening. Working with others to discuss what they need to know from the reading isn’t all that productive when group members are prepared to varying degrees and the discussion occurs without some teacher-provided context. Objections to poorly designed and implemented active learning are justified.

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active learning project March 4

Flipping Your Classroom without Flipping Out Your Introverted Students

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One of the central features of a flipped classroom is the active learning that takes place within it. When students come to class having viewed a short lecture or read materials in advance, then classroom time can be devoted to engaging with that material, focusing on challenging elements, and applying what has been learned. This requires careful planning as the role of the faculty member shifts from being a transmitter of information to a designer of learning activities.

When designing learning activities for your flipped classroom, it is vital to keep the needs of all of your students in mind. Many extroverted students will be delighted to see the lecture hall transformed into a place where group brainstorming, problem-solving, and collaborative learning become the norm. For students who sit further along the introversion end of the temperament spectrum, the lecture hall perfectly suits their preferred style of learning. They may be less delighted at the prospect of change.

So, before you begin flipping, it might be helpful to consider the implications of temperament on teaching and learning. The concepts of introversion and extroversion, originally conceived by Carl Jung, have been helpful ways of understanding basic differences in human temperament (Jung 1970). Jung proposed that this critical element of our personality affects how we engage in social activity and influences our preferred levels of external stimulation. Extroverts prefer higher levels of stimulation and are typically are energized by social interaction, whereas introverts are comfortable with quiet and can find connecting with large groups of unfamiliar people exhausting. They may have excellent social skills and enjoy meaningful friendships, but are quite happy in their own company.

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green umbrella standing out February 2

Nine Activities to Focus Student Learning

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Research in cognitive theory suggests that small, timely interventions in any type of classroom environment can maximize learning for our students. One approach to using such interventions would be to use them in the opening minutes of class, at the midway mark, and in the closing five minutes. The strategies, taken singly or together, can help students remember information, enhance their understanding of complex material, and understand how to transfer learning to new contexts. The strategies below can be implemented orally with individual students or in groups, through brief writing exercises, or through clickers or other classroom technology.

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group work in college classroom January 23

Bridging the Gap between Pre-Work and In-Class Sessions in the Flipped Classroom

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One of the challenges of the flipped classroom is building meaningful connections between the pre-work and the in-class sessions. Opponents of the flipped classroom argue that information overload can easily occur in flipped classrooms (Benitez, 2014). Furthermore, while many instructors prefer to use short videos or online modules for the delivery of the pre-work, active learning strategies in the classroom need not be tech heavy. The greatest benefit to using the flipped classroom is the implementation of active learning strategies within the repurposed class time (Michael, 2006; Jensen et al., 2015). The techniques provided here can all be completed in your class with whiteboards, markers, and/or chart paper. In this article, I will share four different strategies that can help your students connect with your classroom pre-work, and embrace a constructivist approach that will help them apply their new knowledge.



Top 11 articles on Faculty Focus December 16, 2016

Our Top 11 Teaching and Learning Articles of 2016

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It wouldn’t be the end of the year without a few top 10 lists. As we prepare to put 2016 in the rearview mirror, we’re offering up our own list, which goes to 11.

Throughout 2016, we published more than 200 articles. The articles covered a wide range of teaching and learning topics, including diversity and inclusion, critical thinking, peer feedback, assignment strategies, course design, flipped learning, online discussions, and grading policies.

In this post, we reveal the 11 articles that most resonated with our readers. Each article’s ranking is based on a combination of factors, including e-newsletter open and click rates, social shares, reader comments, web traffic, reprint requests, and other reader engagement metrics.


students working in group November 30, 2016

How Can I Structure a Flipped Lesson? [Transcript]

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There’s more to the flip than just telling students to complete the work before class and then turning them loose when they arrive in the classroom.

Chaos will emerge. Students will get frustrated. You will get overwhelmed. Learning will not happen.

It’s a simple lesson: if you want to flip to good effect, you have to have a strategy. Relieve some of your fears and concerns by using this four-part lesson plan model to organize your flipped classroom and ensure that you’re connecting the pre-class work to the flipped learning experience.

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