Tag Archives: Undergraduate education

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.

Conscientiousness in the Classroom, Conscientiousness in Completion

I teach organizational behavior (OB) at the undergraduate level. Well, to be more specific, I’m a TA for OB at the undergraduate level, but because of the structure of the class, students rarely see the professor for the class and spend most of their time interacting with me as the person at the front of the classroom.

This past week we talked about individual differences — personality. Naturally, we spoke about the Big 5. In reviewing the dimensions of personality we read through some scenarios together and had to identify which personality dimension was implicated. In one of those scenarios, we read about someone faced with a dilemma:

It’s Friday and her friends have invited her out to a concert and she also has plans for Saturday/Sunday. However, she has assignments that are due on Monday.

For folks that know about the Big 5, this example is clearly implicating the Conscientiousness dimension of the Big 5. Why am I telling you all of this? Well, because this happened to me this weekend. It’s not completely surprising that this would happen to me because I usually score very high on conscientiousness, but I thought it was rather coincidental that it happened the same week that we were discussing this concept in class.

Both of the classes I have this semester occur on Monday (afternoon and evening). For both of these classes, I’ve got quite a bit of reading to do, which is okay, but since these classes are outside my field of expertise, some of the reading takes longer (as I have to look up words — from time-to-time — to contextualize my understanding).

If I think back to my days an undergrad, I’d often find myself reading on Sunday night/evening, to make sure I was prepared for class on Monday morning. This weekend, something different happened: I spent most of the day Friday and most of the day Saturday working — really hard. As a result, when I sat down to dinner on Saturday evening, I felt relaxed because I knew I had very little work to complete on Sunday. This feeling… is wonderful.