Monday, July 30, 2018
Flipping the Classroom—Put your Students Through Mental Gymnastics
The following post is by Steven Baicker-McKee (Duquesne) and is sponsored by West Academic.
Last semester, I realized with about a month to go in my first year Civil Procedure class that I had a good six weeks of material left to cover. Yikes! I have no idea how it happened—I do not have a set schedule or pace for my class; rather, I try to calibrate my pace to the class’s understanding, slowing down when I see that glazed look on their faces and moving more briskly when I see heads nodding. Usually, it works out fine and I end up right where I need to be, with only one class at the end where I speed talk or break out some war stories. But last semester …
My solution was to flip the classroom for the last month. It was a technique I had played around with a little and wanted to explore more, but life kept getting in the way. I decided to turn my pacing blunder into a pedagogical opportunity.
My normal teaching approach involves a combination of learning modalities. I use PowerPoint extensively and try to have lots of images and not a lot of words on my slides (except for when I am displaying rule text or hypos). The majority of classes involves some sort of interactive exchange, but there is also some component that is purely me conveying information. My flipped class approach entailed taking the lecture/information conveyance component of my class presentation and making a short (10-15 minute) video where I simply lectured from my PowerPoints. We use Panopto for video capture at Duquesne, which is extremely easy to use and allows you to either capture only the audio while displaying the slides or to include a box with a video of your head doing the talking—I chose the former! Panopto also allows you to see who watched the videos and how long they spent watching.
My class met twice per week, and I recorded a video before each of the remaining classes. It really didn’t take much time—I took my existing slide decks, picked out the ones where I did most of the talking, and put them in a new deck. Then, I essentially did what I otherwise would have done in class for those portions. I’m not a perfectionist, so I did virtually no editing or second takes. If I messed up badly in the first minute or two, I started over. Otherwise, I just went with it.
The beauty of the approach is that class becomes entirely interactive. If you are a devotee of cases, you can spend the entire time Socratically challenging your students. I use Learning Civil Procedure (which I co-author), and we focus more on hypos than on cases. I have also become a fan of small group discussions. So, I put a hypo on the board, have the class break into small groups to work through the hypo, poll the class to see how they did as a whole, call on someone or a group to explore their answer and reasoning, add or change a fact in the hypo to tease out more nuance (perhaps with another group), etc.
Flipping the classroom did two extremely positive things. First, it allowed me to get through the material I planned to cover within the remaining class time. Second, it made me feel less time pressure during class. I felt free to play around with the hypos more because I knew I had already conveyed the essential information in the videos. I felt like my class discussions were deeper, richer, and more successful, and the class feedback overwhelmingly confirmed my sense—the flipped classroom videos were commonly included under “What aspects of the instructors teaching were most effective?” and “even more videos” was a common theme under “How could this instructor improve his/her teaching effectiveness?” Students commented to me that they felt better prepared for class and got more out of the classroom discussion, and also that they used the videos again when studying for the final.
It’s my goal to record a flipped video for virtually every class this coming year. Unless life gets in the way …
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