This is my 5th year trying implement an effective model of the “inverted classroom” (Lage, Platt, & Treglia, 2000) in my AP Chemistry class. I say “trying” as that is exactly what the past 5 years can be reduced down to: an attempt. While class-time was opened up for student problem-solving, and the video responses and reflections were amplified via the use of a google form as a tracking device, students seemed to be passively learning the material, at best. For all the benefits of flip teaching with respect to class-time, I now realize the HUGE negative was not flip teaching as a pedagogy, but simply the order of learning activities. Students come to my class with a rich and diverse prior knowledge, derived form 17 years of living “in” the subject. In the previous model, while my focus was on using class-time effectively, I failed at giving my students an opportunity to access their prior knowledge, tackle their misconceptions actively, and work to construct their own meaning FIRST. Derek Muller explains this extremely well in his video Khan Academy and the Effectiveness of Science Videos.
To address this issue, my first step was to RE-ORDER the way my class is structured and give students an opportunity to construct their own ideas and models BEFORE learning anything directly from me. Because, I still passionately believe in the time-shifting benefits of flip teaching (added classroom time, catalog of basics, focus on problem solving, etc.), my goal was to merge inquiry learning with flip teaching to promote knowledge construction, while also opening up class-time by off-loading any aspects of direct instruction as homework via annotated screencasts. I am definitely a rookie in this regard, and given the pace, content, and high stakes nature of an AP Chemistry class, I decided to make a list of all things factual, mechanical, and low level (definitions, equations, few examples, etc.) and create instructional videos around those ideas only. All other forms of learning are incorporated in a Explore-Explain-Apply learning cycle. Because the “explain” portion is off-loaded to the homework setting, I refer to the cycle as “Explore-Flip-Apply”. Mayer (2004) articulates the goal of this process well: “Students need enough freedom to be cognitively active in the process of sense making, and students need enough guidance so that their cognitive activity results in the construction of useful knowledge.”
Basically, there are still things that I, as the instructor, want control over teaching. I just won’t be using class-time to teach those concepts. I fully accept that this is where the model diverges from a truly strident-driven inquiry learning cycle. Even though I do play an active role in the “flip” phase of the cycle, not front-loading students with content, as I did in the past, but rather giving them at least one opportunity to form their own models first, has felt like an effective merger of both pedagogies…for me. Anecdotally, my students seem to be much more invested in the laboratory activities, and more motivated to apply their knowledge towards complex problem solving given an initial phase of exploration. A student approached me today and I feel his comment sums this process up well. Word-for-word quote: “Mr. M. In all my other classes, we learn all this complicated %&$* first, then do boring labs. In this class, the labs kinda make me think, and then you help me understand during the vids. I guess it helps me understand what my answers mean, or something…” Beyond the Napoleon Dynamite esque lingo lies for me, subtle evidence that I am working towards a model of Flip Teaching that I feel is sustainable, effective, and respects the way my students naturally all “want” to learn.
Below is an example of one “Explore-Flip-Apply” cycle. I will be posting different examples frequently throughout this year, and conclude with an action research report on the efficacy of the project in May, with a midterm report in January. As an aside, this re-structuring has also opened the door for me to touch on a wide range of strategies, not solely the inverted classroom. Other strategies addressed in “Explore-Flip-Apply” include:
Explore-Flip-Apply (Example 1)
Day 1: Explore
Step 1: Opener (~ 10 minutes)
The following question is displayed: Why is salt placed on icy roads in the winter? I use a variation of Peer Instruction to facilitate this process: a) Students work for 3 minutes to answer the question individually on their opener sheet. b) Students then group up (3 or 4) and share their responses and agree on a collective answer. c) One student “buzzes” in answer from smart phone or computer device using agoogle form embedded in class website designed to collect both multiple choice and free response openers. d) I display the google spreadsheet where data is collected and we as a class investigate all answers, discussing trends, commonalities, etc. I never explicitly give them the solution to the opener when collected on Day 1, as the purpose is purely exploration of concepts.
Step 2: Lab Exploration (~ 65 minutes)
Students are given a lab worksheet (Yes, I love the old paper-based lab worksheet action!) where, after a pre-lab discussion, they work in groups to develop and outline a procedure to answer the following question: How does the addition of sodium chloride affect the boiling point of pure water? This is where aspects of Guided Inquiry enter as students are given a research question and asked to design their own procedure. Students were only given the following materials (temp probe/computer w/ LoggerPro, two beakers, glass stirring rod, table salt, hot plate).
In the “data” section of the lab worksheet, students are asked to provide both a data table and a graph. An example of a graph gathered from one group’s procedure is below:
Students then work together to write conclusions and provide and “explanation” of the phenomena in their lab worksheet. Explanations are translated onto class-whiteboards and we spend the last 10-15 minutes of class discussing their explanations group by group. This may bleed into the “application” phase the following day. I guide this process without ever actually revealing the correct answer to the initial question posed in the lab. Various group procedures are highlighted and trends between groups are noted. This process might continue into the next day, however I usually plan lab explorations to take about 45 minutes, allowing time for an opener and group presentations. My classes are 75 minutes long.
Night 1: Flip (Instructional Video)
Students watch a screencast instructional video where I introduce additional concepts, definitions/equations and provide two problem-solving examples that relate to the exploration that current day. The purpose is to build on their exploration by introducing more structured concepts, providing any mechanical knowledge (definitions and equations) and briefly model a few problems. I am still trying to figure out exactly how much information to include and what to leave out during this phase. I find myself falling into my old bad habits of providing too much information and not letting the inquiry, and subsequent application phase, play a larger role. Perhaps I need to reflect on this Clough and Kruse (2010) article more? In order to engage students in the video process, and also promote reflection, a google form is embedded DIRECTLY BELOW the video that asks the students to provide a structured summary of the video according to a guide I provide for them. Additionally, the video ends in the middle of the second example. Students are asked to complete the problem and provide the numerical answer in the box labeled #2. Click here for an example of the video and form layout. My hope is that by asking students to reflect via a summary, and complete a problem, I am addressing both the conceptual and algorithmic side of the concept, and also obtaining information about what students struggle with via their responses (they are asked to indicate something they did not understand or still have questions about). This is where aspects of JiTT enter.
Day 2: Apply
* Activities on the “application” day vary from more directed lab application tasks, to individual/group problem solving sessions, to challenge problems and class competitions. Students have problem sets we refer to as “Learning Packets” that house the majority of practice problems used during the “application” day often. Click here for an example of a Learning Packet designed around “Free Response #4” on the AP Chemistry examination. Below is an example of an application day that involved a more specific variation of the lab activity from the previous day described above. Guided Inquiry is used again, but informed by the screencast lecture.
Step 1: Opener (~ 10 minutes)
Follows the same Peer Instruction model described above. This time, the question is more specific (usually AP multiple choice question). After individual attempts and group discussion, groups buzz in answer and we collectively go over responses by displaying google spreadsheet. I highlight groups who obtained the correct answer and keep track of this as a motivational tool for the opener. We critique wrong answers and discuss logic behind test construction of that item (good and bad distractors, etc.). See spreadsheet below:
Step 2: Lab Application (~ 65 minutes)
Students are given a blank sheet of paper to show their work in route to answering the following question: What mass of sodium chloride do you have in your tray? Prior to the lab, I measured the same mass of sodium chloride for all groups (50 grams). Students are instructed NOT to use a balance, but instead, the concepts they learned in the night’s lecture to obtain the mass of sodium chloride provided. Although students’ lab procedures ended up being fairly similar to the prior exploration, the specific task of determining the actual mass of sodium chloride, forced merger of skills constructed in the exploration phase and applications learned in the instructional video. Students were only given the following materials (temp probe/computer w/ LoggerPro, two beakers, glass stirring rod, to plate and 50 grams of sodium chloride):
Night 2: Prepare for Quiz
Students prepare for a quiz the next day by finishing problems in their Learning Packets. Quizzes usually have a total of four questions and ask students to apply and synthesize concepts from the application day. Quizzes are standards based, and I allow students to reassess as they strive towards mastery of the standards (many different versions of the quizzes are made to facilitate the re-assessment process). Students must wait at least one day after meeting with me for additional instruction before reassessment. Click here for an excellent post that describes the logic behind separating the re-teaching and reassessment process. Although I provide opportunities for students to reassess, for me, I have a hard time merging the “Explore-Flip-Apply” with an asynchronous mastery learning system. Because emphasis is placed on student construction of knowledge during the “explore” phase prior to video instruction, I find it easier to keep all students on the same cycle, rather than monitoring which videos each student has progressed through, and making certain that they were exposed to the laboratory BEFORE each video. To keep this cycle in-tact, I publish each video sequentially, as the associated exploration phase ends. To keep advanced students motivated, I scaffold the “application“ day to provide additional resources and challenge problems.
Day 3: Quiz and new cycle begins