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Your students and the flipped classroom.

What is a flipped classroom anyway? 

It can mean a few things, for some background wikipedia is a place to start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flip_teaching (which mentions Eric Mazur's Peer Instruction).

Also see http://blog.peerinstruction.net and there is also this infographic: http://shanenuessler.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/infographic-for-flipped-classrooms.html

One place to start when asking this question is "What challenges am I currently facing in my teaching?". This will help you determine if the flipped model, or some variation, suits the learning needs of your students. The Discipline of Finance Banking and Accounting and myself ran a workshop recently and we started with that question. The photo of the whiteboard below captures the key challenges and teaching goals.


In summary the challenges staff face in their teaching were identified as:
  • students struggle with technical aspects on units, e.g investments, finance, etc
  • lecture attendance is low, often dropping off in the middle and climbing again toward the end of the unit (perhaps in the lead up to exams)
  • lack of student preparation for tutorials
  • students not collecting assessments and or the feedback attached
  • students having high workloads on and off campus
  • skills relating to language and scholarship
  • students need to be more self directed (e.g. not interested in their mistakes)
  • students struggle with new content because they didn't retain the underpinning knowledge from pre-requisite units.
  • students expect that lectures be audio and video recorded and made available online
The orange items are what BGL want to achieve:
  • we want students to be more self directed, 
  • we want students to be active and engaged during teaching sessions (online and/or F2F), and 
  • as teachers we want to design and facilitate the learning process.
The flipped classroom model as it turns out is rather well suited to these goals. The units chosen for piloting a flipped design (the design is being developed now) are: Investments, Accounting for managers, and Accounting systems and practices.

The why and how of the workshop are described below.

Why
As part of the SAFFIRE project the faculty of Business Government and Law will be implementing a number of innovations in teaching, one of which is the flipped classroom for 2014. The Discipline of Finance Banking and Accounting is one of the disciplines that was chosen as being a candidate for flipping. This meeting was about finding out to what extent colleagues knew about the "flipped classroom" model, the faculties plans, and to find out as a learning designer whether or not the "problem" was a fit for the "solution". Besides this, since I am one of the Ed Designers assigned to BGL, a number of staff had come to me individually to with the issues they had in their unit ideas for solving them. Rather than deal with many people individually I requested that the discipline hold a meeting, so that staff could all table and discuss their challenges and solutions as a group. 

How
After a short introduction of the why and the plan for the session, I handed coloured post-it notes and pens out to everyone in the room, and asked them to write down 3-5 most pressing teaching and learning related issues. Issues could range from students not collecting feedback, to low lecture attendance. This took about 10-15 minutes. I then asked them to write down what they were planning to do in response to these challenges.

A this point a colleague entered the meeting to present on her teaching model from the Winter term. This was unexpected for me, she had been invited by the Head of the discipline to talk about a model she had adopted for the Winter semester just gone, and it proved to be extremely good timing. Winter term is an intensive 7 week term, and the model presented was practically a flipped classroom model - just not pitched in those terms. Content and activities were made available to students, and drop-in sessions were scheduled each week (they became bi-weekly) for students to come in and work on problems with lecturer/tutor as facilitator (remarkably similar to the red outcomes on the board above). This session proved very important to the meeting outcomes, as it provided a real life model of the flipped classroom - one in which the failure rate decreased compared to previous years where it was run in a more traditional delivery mode.

After this presentation we continued with my session plan by going around the room and each person reading out their list of challenges. I listed the unique challenges on the board as shown. This proved to be a productive and surprisingly fun activity and very much team building. From the issues we distilled out the "key aims" as shown on the image above in red "we want students to be more self directed, we want students to be active and engaged during teaching sessions (online and/or F2F), and as teachers we want to design and facilitate the learning process". I had planned to go around the table and have people state their planned solutions too but to be honest the flipped model became a key talking point, and we ran out of time to explore the other ideas people had.

Outcomes
We made a decision to pilot flipping in three units (as a team) in the lead up to 2014. This serves a number of purposes.
  1. The design will be created by the team and so benefit from multiple perspectives and ideas.
  2. Since the whole discipline will be adopting the flipped model for 2014 the team based approach for the pilot will make sure everyone can learn from the design phase, and the running and evaluation phases. 
  3. The pilot evaluation will provide an evidence base to support the design decisions made for 2014 - ensuring that the major roll out and redesign has a good design that works in this context.

(post meeting photo)

Some points to consider:


  • If flipping to a workshop model do appropriate teaching spaces exist? If we are stuck with a tiered lecture theatre as a venue my colleague Alan Arnold asks would approaches such as Mazur's Peer Instruction be as effective? http://mazur.harvard.edu/research/detailspage.php?rowid=8
  • How would a workshop be designed such that students could be engaged remotely/online?
  • The meeting raised chunked lectures (5-10 minute topic based recordings) as a way of making sure staff generated lecture content was a) more reusable as opposed to 2 hour monolithic recorded lectures and b) made redoing outdated segments less time consuming.
  • To what extent can online services such as Lynda.com and Smarthinking.com play a role in supporting students knowledge and skills gaps.
  • The purpose and design of the workshops is key to improved learning and engagement.
    • In the case of the discipline above one purpose is to help students acquire skills highly technical skills in finance and accounting units, authentic real world activities will be devised (group and/or individual) and teaching staff will facilitate. These kind of tasks also help students to bridge theory<->practice.
    • Workshops also present a good opportunity to facilitate the learning of higher order thinking skills (see Bloom's Taxonomy).
    • Design Thinking approaches have also been used as a workshop model. This approach usually focuses on a particular subject (e.g. service design, AR, ePortfolios, etc). Examples if they exist are explored and participants devise a problem and solution around the subject. Some examples of the design thinking approach:


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