Tag Archives: Student

The Flipped Classroom: Homework in Class and Lecture at Home

A couple of weeks ago, there was an article in The Atlantic that not only discussed the idea of a “flipped” classroom (homework in class, lecture at home), but actually had data on this idea. Before we get into the data, I wanted to talk a little bit about this idea of the flipped classroom.

As you know, I’m a big proponent of perspective-taking, so the idea of flipping the classroom on its head is intriguing. That’s not to say that I like being the devil’s advocate just for the fun of it, I think there is great value to having someone intentionally take the opposite perspective. Currently, most folks believe that education happens through lecturing in the classroom and students doing homework at home. So, what if we flipped that around. What if the students had lecture at home and did homework in the classroom?

On its face, the idea might sound a bit strange (how can one have lecture at home without the teacher!), but there are, of course, ways around that. So let’s get back to the study from the article. Do you think that you’d like to have taken part in a flipped classroom? That is, if you think back to your days as a student (or if you still are one), do you think you’d want to learn this way?

Well, the students who took part in the study certainly didn’t think that they’d want to learn this way: 75% of the students in 2012 said that they preferred lectures in class. Do you want to guess how many liked this method after trying it? 90%. That’s a 165-point swing! From 75% who preferred lectures in class to then 90% who preferred the new method.

Alright, so the students like it, but what about their performance? Did it improve?

The study examined three years of a foundational pharmaceutics course, required for all doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) students attending UNC. Overall, student performance improved between 2011 and 2013 by 5.1 percent.

Five percent is a substantial amount, especially when you consider that this method appears unorthodox. The second line of that paragraph causes me to raise an eyebrow: “…doctor of…” Meaning, the students who took part in this study were doctoral students.

Why is this significant?

Well, doctoral students are self-selected group of people who are highly motivated to pursue a graduate degree. This self-selected and highly motivated group is certainly not representative of all university students. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that there are undergraduate students who are like this sect of graduate students, but there are probably more students not like them than there are students who are like them.

This is certainly a great window into how a flipped classroom might succeed, but before I’d consider it a viable option for undergraduate classes, I’d want to see some evidence that the effect holds in that kind of a setting.


Musings on Improving Tests in Education: Less Writing, More Orating?

After having been in education settings for more than half of my life, I was thinking about ways to improve education. More specifically, I was thinking about ways to improve testing. Let’s take one of the classes that I’ve recently taught. In the class, there are two case assignments and two exams. The case assignments can be written at on one’s own time, so a great deal of time and effort can go into perfecting the structure, etc. The exams are taken during classtime, so there is a time limit. The students have until the end of class to finish the exam.

Presumably, the students could get through the entire semester and finish with an “A” in the class without having to say anything. I realize that a great deal of communication in today’s world is completed online and through writing, but isn’t our ability to communicating orally important, too? At least, shouldn’t there at least be some time spent on it?

I understand that some departments and professors are hampered by their ability to fidget too much with the deliverables of their courses (as certain standards and gates have to be met), but I was thinking about what it might be like to have an oral “meeting” at the end of the semester (instead of a final exam). I’d specifically call it a “meeting” to remove some of the stigma that some students place on “exam” or “test.” In this “meeting,” the student would have 3 (or maybe more, depending on the class size) minutes to convince the professor that they learned something during the semester (about the course material). The “meeting” could be recorded, in case the professor wanted to go back and watch the meeting, but presumably, they wouldn’t have to (they could just be grading as they went).

Some students would perform better as they would be used to public speaking, but the grade wouldn’t hinge on one’s ability to be a brilliant public speaker. Part of me thinks that having to convince the professor through speech, that one would have to know the material a bit better than they would for simply regurgitating answers on a test. To add another layer to this, there could be an option for students to record their “meeting” and send a link to the video. One of the stipulations would be that they couldn’t read a speech. Part of the purpose of this “meeting” would be for the students to know the material so well that they could speak about it conversationally. That is, speak about the material in a way that they could convince someone that they knew about it (or maybe teach someone something about what they know).

I’m sure that there are some professors out there who do this sort of test (especially at the graduate level), but I’d be interested to see it implemented at the undergraduate level. I think it’d be a great way to help develop the oratory skills of those who *think* they have less than stellar oratory skills. Plus, I think that the material would stay with the students a little longer than the length of the exam.

Communication: Do They Hear What You Say?

Earlier this morning, I spent some time trying to unclog the toilet (note: if you live in an old building, be sure to get a high-quality plunger!) and I was reminded of my time living in a residence hall. At first, I did a double-take because that was almost 10 years ago. In thinking about my time as a resident of a residence hall, I remembered my roommate and his accidental slip up.

This story’s not about anything scandalous — in fact, it could happen to anyone. We were coming up on the winter checkouts and I was planning on leaving the residence hall after he was. As a result, my roommate had taken care of his share of the cleaning duties and was about to leave. Simultaneously, our RA (Resident Assistant) was knocking on the door — he was about to tell us about the events coming up that week and probably remind us to sign-up for a time to checkout.

The RA noticed that my roommate was about to leave and asked him why he didn’t sign-up for a time to checkout. My roommate explained that I was leaving in a couple of days and that I’d “checkout” our room. The RA then explained that we each checkout — individually.


The RA thought that his communication materials (flyers, bulletin boards, etc.) had clearly stated that each resident needed to check-out, but my roommate (and to some extent, me) thought that just the room needed to be checked out.

So, what’s the lesson here?

No matter how clear you think your marketing materials are, always, always, always have multiple sets of eyes look them over. If it’s possible, it’s even better to have someone outside of your area of expertise look it over. Meaning, if our RA had asked one (or more) of his colleague(s) to look over the materials, there’s a better chance than not that none of them would have interpreted it like my roommate and I did. It would have been better for the RA to ask one of the residents (or someone maybe even someone outside of the residence hall) to look over the materials to make sure that the message the RA wanted to convey… was being conveyed.

Consider the last important bit of communication you were involved in sending. Are you certain that your recipient understood what you were trying to communicate?