CONVERSATIONS: The Flipped Classroom

Claudia Thompson’s (College of Wooster) review article on the “flipped classroom” generated four responses, each based on personal experiences of faculty who decided to “flip” their classes. Follow the links in the titles to access each article:



Creating Significant Learning Experiences for Students (Patrik Hultberg, Kalamazoo)

I began my transition to a flipped classroom approach approximately five years ago. The initial catalysts were L. Dee Fink’s book “Creating Significant Learning Experiences,” and José Bowen’s book “Teaching Naked.” Fink’s book convinced me that the task of a professor should be to create “significant learning experiences”; to be an instructional designer, not a lecturer. Bowen’s book emphasized the importance and scarcity of the face-to-face time that we have with students, and that we need to create value during those precious hours. Bowen suggested that we move technology out of the classroom and adjust our classrooms to focus “less on content and more on application of material to new contexts.” This idea appealed to me, and the flipped classroom approach, with content delivery pre-class and in-class active learning, seemed to incorporate perfectly these ideas. Consequently I made a concerted effort to flip my courses….

Breathing Life into “Dead” Languages (Elizabeth Manwell, Kalamazoo)

While most who “flip” their courses are scientists or social scientists, as Claudia Thompson observes, I am one of the minority—a language instructor, who has flipped her introductory Latin and Ancient Greek courses.  As “dead” languages, Latin and Ancient Greek tend not to be taught as modern languages; instead, instructors commonly lecture in English about points of grammar and syntax—an intensive and laborious process that leaves few opportunities for students to engage in varied course activities, or have access to a professor who can correct their errors as they grapple with new (and old) concepts.  While I have changed my teaching in many ways over the years, flipping the class has given me that most precious commodity—time….

Spurring Motivation to Learn (Jan Tobochnik, Kalamazoo)

In a typical flipped classroom students are expected to watch lectures online and then class time is spent in active learning. The Physics Department at Kalamazoo College has come to the conclusion that lectures, online or in person, have very limited value for most students. Thompson’s review also mentions this. Almost all true learning comes with active direct engagement with the material. We maximize this in our introductory physics sequence by using almost all class time giving quizzes and having students work in groups on physics problems involving paper and pencil calculations, short laboratory exercises, and computer simulations. While students are working on these activities they are continually questioned by the instructors and undergraduate teaching assistants. Students have reading and problems due for each class. Each quiz is concerned with a specific learning objective and is graded either mastery or striving. There is no partial credit. Students who don’t master the learning objective can redo it with an oral exam or redo it on the final exam which is individualized for each student. Using nationally normed pre and post testing we know our approach is working, though there is plenty of room for improvement. Our goal is that students change their way of thinking….

Flipping a History Classroom (Steve Volk, Oberlin) Some years ago, encouraged by the emerging literature regarding the “flipped classroom,” and particularly after having read about Eric Mazur’s work at Harvard, I thought (both naively and impulsively, as is my wont): why not try this for my lecture-formatted classes? I started with my survey of Latin American history and prepared videos to replace the bulk of the lectures (i.e., about 30+ per semester x two semesters), then moved on to replace those classes where I lectured more irregularly in intermediate-level classes (about 20 more). Each semester, I would update the videos where I could, or replace whole lectures if I thought that was necessary or unavoidable. I continued this until I retired at the end of the 2015-16 year (a retirement perhaps brought on by all this work???). Here are some brief observations on the experience for those who may be interested in adopting the “flipped” experience, with a particular relevance to the history classroom….





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