Monday, November 30, 2015

What's with the Flip? An Overview on Flipped Classrooms

Podcasts, videos, live streaming, – our world is engulfed in ways to send and obtain information.  So, the question on many college teacher’s minds is, why not utilize it?
Hence the birth of flipping classrooms, a way for teachers to provide lecture information to students in new ways outside of the classroom.  That’s right, lectures would take place outside of class time, freeing up the few hours a week you have with students to complete hands-on activities, involving them first-hand in their learning.
Flipping a classroom can be done by following these easy steps:

Plan: Decide on a lesson to flip and outline key learning outcomes to put together a rough plan.

Record: Instead of teaching your lesson as usual, record a video or podcast of your lecture.  Make sure  your lesson contains all the elements you would have if you were lecturing in person.  Make it interesting and engaging to watch and listen to.

Share: Share the video with your students and explain that its content will be discussed and used in class.

Group: Consider implementing discussion groups in your class in order to get students working with the topics for that day.  Give each group a task and a goal to work towards.

Regroup: Reconvene as a large group to share findings that students have discovered through their discussions.  Ask questions, offer opinions, and encourage discussion.

Then, Review, Revise, and Repeat!

While you might be thinking, “Well, that sounds great! Let’s do this!”  I do have to caution you on some of the issues that you might face if you do decide to give flipping a try.

Firstly, it requires a lot of extra preparation on your end.  Teachers have to set aside extra time in order to record, edit (if need be), and upload videos or podcasts of their lectures for student access, or finding supplementary materials and activities for students to work on outside of regular class time.  It is recommended that you don’t include your entire lecture in one video, but instead upload separate videos on each key term you’re covering so students may easily go back and re-watch specific content if they are confused or have questions.

Another thing to be aware of is the issue that students might have adjusting to the idea of a flipped classroom.  Because the concept of a class time used for lecture has been ingrained in their expectations, students might resist the change--questioning why they attend class at all.  You are also entrusting a large responsibility to them, trusting that they will take the time to watch or listen to your lectures outside of class.  And if students do complete the lectures outside of class, they might also believe that they don't need to attend class for the hands-on/activity-based portion.  Therefore, it's important for your to show research on how effective flipped classrooms can be when students put the effort forth.  Click here for 10 published results supporting the benefits of flipped learning.

Tip Provided By: Jessica Moser

Monday, November 23, 2015

Failure with a Capital F = Learning with a Capital L

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.  Failure is delay, not defeat.  It is a temporary detour, not a dead end.  Failure is something we can avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley

Mistakes are some of the most debilitating experiences to face, but they are also some of the most incredible and profound opportunities for learning.  Despite this realization and the constant recognition that failure is in fact, the best way to truly learn, we continue to operate in an educational tradition that encourages as few mistakes as possible.

In fact, I recently typed “fear of failure” into a Google search and was rewarded with 141 million hits in .67 seconds.  Sites that offer studies, statistics, and therapeutic ways to overcome this incredibly prevalent phobia.  This poses the question that I believe most people have: if learning from mistakes is such a natural phenomenon, even one that is encouraged in some instances, what happens when we put students in situations where they are required to avoid making any mistakes at all costs?

By the time students arrive to college, they have an ingrained sense of what education is about.  For most, this means they attend class, pay attention, write notes, take and pass assessments, and move on to a more elevated course.  Once the class is completed, there is little to no reflection on the material “learned” in it. If our focus remains on outcomes and not the learning process itself, we will continue to lose sight of the value of learning, and students will miss out on gaining a deeper understanding and use of course material.  However, in order to begin developing a more deeply dependent course on learning, there are several things you’ll have to consider. 

First, it means designing or redesigning a course that provides students with multiple opportunities to participate in low-stakes formative assessments.  This means you’ll have to work with corrective or prescriptive directions that demonstrate to students how to learn from mistakes that are made.  Ask yourself three questions concerning your course and the things you hope students to gain from completing it. 
  • How do I shift my focus to celebrating mistakes rather than eliminating them?
  • How can I encourage and reward mistakes for students that have demonstrated they have learned from the experience?
  • How many times should I allow students to make mistakes and then demonstrate they have learned form it as a measure of learning and success?
These are questions that you must answer yourself using your own teaching philosophy and the experiences you’ve witnessed in your classroom previously concerning student struggle, involved learning, and demonstration of knowledge.

To get you started, here are five ways to celebrate mistakes in your course (and have students recognize, reflect, and learn from them):
  1. Utilize repetition.  Break your projects or papers into pieces for check-points to be made.  These can be done via peer evaluation or by providing a checklist for students to assess on their own.  Have students keep these check-points as artifacts to discuss in a final reflection paper after completing the project.  Simply providing students with the opportunity to review assignments through the lens of reviewer can prove to be very insightful.
  2. Give several shorter exams/quizzes that are cumulative.  This is a great alternative to a single midterm or final exam because it considerably lessens stress placed on students to achieve highly on a single assessment.  Instead, repeated cumulative testing provides more exposure to content and relies on students being able to recall it for the entire semester, thus maintaining and building their understanding of it.
  3. Let the class correct themselves.  This can be done via polling, asking verbal questions, or providing small group discussion time.  Have students provide answers to a question at the beginning of class, and then give them guided questions to consider in small groups.  These questions should help them to consider the answers that were offered and make learned decisions on which one is actually correct.  This provides students with the opportunity to not only find the correct answer, but to determine why the other answers were incorrect.
  4. Purposefully make errors.  This can be done in lecture, on PowerPoints, on calculations, with polling or Clicker questions, whatever you prefer.  Encourage students to catch your mistakes. This creates a fun atmosphere where students are focused, reflective on knowledge they’ve accumulated about a topic, and encouraged to participate.
  5. Show them what they will learn.  At the beginning of the semester, provide students with an assignment (either ungraded or part of a participation grade) that they will be able to do at the end of the semester, but can’t yet.  This sparks their interest about the course, as well as their intrinsic motivation to discover what they will gain in order to solve the problem that you’ve provided to them.  Reference this assignment throughout the semester during key points of the course so students can reflect on changes they would make to their first attempt in order to reach success.  Finally, at the end of the semester, have them attempt the same assignment again.
Recognizing how to effectively learn from and move past mistakes is an important life skill.  Fostering this concept in your classroom will ultimately instill humility, responsibility, forgiveness, and accountability in students, and encourage them to drop their fear of failure and embrace an appreciation for the process of learning. 

Tip Provided By: Jessica Moser
Adapted from Berkeley University

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Life After Midterms

An often heard complaint in college classrooms is that from students pertaining to classroom exams.  Students are appalled at the fact that the exams they encounter don’t match up with lecture content word-for-word.  Most often, this is due to the fact that professors would prefer their exams to be more than just a simple test of route memorization, but more towards the experience of learning and applying that knowledge to new circumstances.

Bob Jacobsen, a Physics professor at Berkeley University states that there are just a few simple questions you can ask your students after they’ve completed an exam to encourage students to understand the material so that they can apply it in new and effective ways.

He spends one class period re-doing the exam with the students at the front of the class.  For each problem, he asks a series of questions that students must answer for that problem in order to explain its purpose and relevance on the exam itself.  They include:

1)      Why did I ask this question? 
2)      What were the big areas of understanding I was trying to assess? 
3)      What specific ideas, pitfalls, etc. were involved?
4)      What does a good solution look like? 
5)      What needs to be commented on, what can be written down, and what needs to be worked out? 
6)      How were points awarded or taken away?

Going through these questions illustrates to students how the content studied previous to the exam can be applied through understanding how to effectively use it in new circumstances.  Afterwards, Jacobsen mentions that he usually sees a positive change in approach from students in following exams and assessments.

Another way for students to actively consider an exam and its content in relation to course understanding is the following adaptation from Ed Nufler from Idaho State University. It’s helpful to complete this exercise a day or two after the exam has been handed back so students have had time to look over their answers, and consider the areas that they struggled with.

Then, ask students to bring their graded exams to class, and provide ten minutes or so to answer the following thee questions on 3 x 5 notecards that you provide.

1)      What did I do well on this test and why? 
2)      What did I do poorly on and why? 
3)      What am I going to do about this problem the next time?

You can make this exercise casual without requiring students to include their names on their cards, or you can include it as a small percentage of their grade for the course.  This also provides you with opportunities to summarize comments of importance in following classes.

Tip Provided By: Jessica Moser

Monday, November 9, 2015

Teaching Millennials: Bridging the Gap

Examples not working?  Jokes gone flat?  Seinfeld references missed faster than you can say, “No soup for you?”  Don’t worry, it’s not just you.

College faculty all around the nation are struggling with teaching to the millennial generation.  With a population steeped in YouTube videos, Tweeting what they had for breakfast, and asking Siri what the weather’s like, it’s no wonder you are beginning to hear nothing but crickets after your best punch lines.   

Here are some things you should know about millennials in order to better connect with them.
  1. Millennials are used to being protected.  They’re used to their parents hovering over them or sweeping in to save the day.  Terms like “helicopter” or “lawnmowerparents” are now truer than ever.  Keep that in mind. 
  2.  Millennials are team-oriented.  Crowdsourcing is something they’ve grown up with, so group work and relying on a team is nothing new to them. 
  3. Millennials are achievement-oriented.  Keep in mind that this generation above all others has been exposed to standardized testing and education movement.  This provides them with an internalized value of results far above the process of learning itself.
  4. Millennials are pressured.  Due to this focus on achievement, they’ve been feeling the pressure to be the best for quite some time.
Not only is it important to consider these elements in order to understand your students and the generalizations about their generation, but it’s also important to reflect on how we can move beyond these generalizations to build a pedagogical approach that benefits our courses, our students, and ourselves.  Consider these tips for teaching today’s college student:
  1. Get to know your students.  It’s impossible to connect with students on any level until you gain an understanding of what sort of knowledge and experience they are already bringing to your classroom.  Start out with a formative assessment of some kind to allow students to share what they know, and what gaps they may have in understanding your class content. 
  2. Show your students ways to organize and apply knowledge.  Millennials are used to getting information at lightning speed, and usually in various different ways, so teaching how to process all of this material is a good place to start.  Incorporating different types of materials for teaching each concept can be helpful as well.
  3. Discuss the value of failure.  Because this generation is so focused on achievement, they often lose sight of the ways in which failure can work as a good learning tool.  Provide opportunities in your classroom that are low stakes, and focus on working on the process involved in learning a concept rather than the product.  These could be group activities, discussion posts, or hypothesis-driven activities.  Emphasizing the importance of the learning process is also a good way to establish intrinsic motivation. 
If you’re still wondering what to do about those Seinfeld references whipping over your students’ heads, well, let’s just say we know what your first homework assignment should be.