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by Janice Florent

dog stretched out on sidewalk refusing to walk with handler pulling the leash

As you know, the flipped classroom relies heavily on students being prepared and ready to engage in the learning activities. What do you do when students come to class unprepared? Do you give a quick lecture to recap the pre-class content so everyone is on the same page? Do you give the unprepared students an alternative assignment? Do you kick the unprepared students out of class? Depending on your teaching philosophy and the classroom environment you want to create, you probably want to pro-actively design the learning environment using strategies to promote learning and personal development instead of relying on punitive measures to change behavior.

In a recent Faculty Focus article, Dr. Barbi Honeycutt recommended five things you can do to motivate unprepared students in the flipped classroom. Her recommendations are:

  1. Have a conversation.
  2. Review your pre-class assignment.
  3. Proceed as planned.
  4. Re-think participation grades.
  5. Set up a corner.

You can read more in the article Five Ways to Motivate Unprepared Students in the Flipped Classroom.

The Faculty Communities of Teaching Scholars (FaCTS) initiative is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support faculty in planning and implementing innovative curriculum and/or pedagogical projects over the course of an academic year.

We would like to take a minute to congratulate the 2016 FaCTS Fellows. The Faculty Communities of Teaching Scholars (FaCTS) initiative is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support faculty in planning and implementing innovative curriculum and/or pedagogical projects over the course of an academic year. Each year, we select a pedagogical theme that addresses the needs of the university. The theme for the coming year is Inverted Teaching, commonly referred to as "flipping the classroom". Each of the awardees below submitted a proposal to modify an existing course to incorporate the ideals of inverted teaching.

  • Cary Caro, Assistant Professor, Division of Business
    Project title: "Inverting BSAD 2200: Balancing the Global Perspective"
  • Kelly Johanson, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry
    Project title: "CHEM 4140: Converting Metabolism into a Flipped Course"
  • Wyndi Ludwikowski, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
    Project title: "Inverting the Psychological Statistics Classroom"
  • Elizabeth Manley, Associate Professor, Department of History
    Project title: "Teaching History in the Archives: Inverting a Research Methods Course"
  • Ariel Mitchell, Assistant Professor, Division of Education
    Project title: "Experiential Learning of Career and Lifestyle Development"
  • Ifeanyi Onor, Assistant Professor, Division of Clinical and Administrative Sciences
    Project title: "Implementation of Inverted Learning Strategy in Applied Pharmacokinetics"
  • Megan Osterbur, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science
    Project title: "Activating Black Politics using the Inverted Classroom"
  • Richard Peters, Assistant Professor, Division of Business
    Project title: "Freshening Up Freshman Seminar: Creating an Environment of Expectancy, Excitement, and Empowerment"
  • Cirecie West-Olatunji, Associate Professor, Division of Education
    Project title: "Use of Inverted Teaching to Facilitate the Integration of Social Action and Advocacy within Counselor Identity among Graduate Counseling Students"

In May, the FaCTS Fellows will participate in a week of intensive training to learn about the theories behind and the best practices for inverted teaching. Lisa Schulte-Gipson, Associate Professor of Psychology, will serve as the faculty coordinator for the 2016 cohort. During the 2016/2017 academic year, the FaCTS Fellows will offer their redesigned courses at Xavier.

by Janice Florent

person with hands resting on book with fingers interlaced

Flipped learning environments are dynamic, interactive, and engaging. Students are actively engaged in solving problems, talking with each other, working through a task, or creating a product. The instructor provides assistance and asks questions when necessary. The instructor might take a moment to gather everyone’s attention and provide an explanation or reinforce a concept, but then the energy would immediately “flip” back to the students.

"You want your students to be active; you’ve got to be a little passive." –Professor Timothy Bresnahan, Stanford University

At its core, the flip shifts the focus from the instructor to the students. The flip occurs because the focus is on what the students are doing, not on what the instructor is doing. If we relate this idea to the quote above, you could say the instructor is being more passive while the students are being more active. The instructor is being what Dr. Barbi Honeycutt, in a FlipIt article, calls “actively passive” because it takes a great deal of energy, attention and awareness to step to the side and support students’ learning in this type of environment.

In the article, Dr. Barbi Honeycutt goes on to suggest three ways instructors can be “actively passive.” Those suggestions are:

1. Embrace messy.

A flipped classroom is “messy” which means students are often working through problems or confronting situations where there might not be a clear answer or a perfect approach. If the instructor needs structure, control, and needs to know exactly what to expect at every moment in the lesson plan, then this will probably be the most difficult challenge for them to tackle.

This might also be the most challenging task for the students to tackle as well. Some students do not appreciate the “gray” area in the learning process. This is a teachable moment and one that the instructor can model for the students. This does not mean the instructor has to let go of control of the classroom. They still plan and organize, but should allow time and provide structure for students to practice, make mistakes, try again, and make connections about the course material.

2. Ask effective questions.

A flipped class is active. Students are always engaged in a task or working on a problem, and the instructor’s role is to support that learning process. When the instructor is serving as the “guide on the side,” it’s essential for the instructor to ask questions that generate a response. Avoid questions that have a “yes or no” response which doesn’t stimulate critical thinking or analysis.

3. Be quiet.

Students in a flipped class should be thinking, analyzing and creating. As they work, the instructor’s role is to let the learning happen. This means the instructor is there for the students, providing resources, and organizing the structure, but it also means stepping back and letting students work through the learning process without too much input from the instructor until they need it of course. For many instructors, silence in the classroom is awkward and they want to fill up the time by talking more, lecturing more, or sharing more examples. But sometimes students need quiet time to think, to process or to review what they’ve just learned.

If this has piqued your interest, you can read more in Dr. Honeycutt’s article “Be Actively Passive: 3 Strategies to Be Successful in Flipped Learning Environments.”

Photo credit: Patrick Fore | CC BY CC0 1.0

This idea of the eight-minute lecture can also be useful to the faculty member interested in, but also concerned about, inverted teaching.

Image released under the Creative Commons CC0.

In "The Eight-Minute Lecture Keeps Students Engaged," a brief but informative article on Faculty Focus, Illysa Izenberg, a lecturer for the Center for Leadership Education in the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, discusses her use of this data-driven pedagogy. According to Izenberg, there have been a number of studies supporting what we all fear: namely, that our students don't remember those brilliant oratories we deliver with passion and zeal. More useful, though, is the data suggesting that students will remember information presented in eight- to ten-minute chunks.

Such data is useful not just for the traditional classroom, but also for faculty members considering inverted or flipped teaching. Whether delivering lecture content in the class (the traditional model) or outside of it (the flipped model), faculty should contain their presentations within that eight- to ten-minute frame. Whether sitting in an uncomfortable plastic desk or running on a treadmill or vacuuming the carpet, the student is going to remember what you say after that ten-minute mark.

This idea of the eight-minute lecture can also be useful to the faculty member interested in, but also concerned about, inverted teaching. The common advice for anyone interested in this recent trend, which you can hear from Aaron Sams, one of the coiners of the term "flipped classroom," in our most recent podcast, is to start small. The eight-minute lecture might be one way to start small. Try it out in with one class session, following Izenberg's advice. If it works, try it with another session, but this time, record the eight-minute lecture ahead of time and put it online for the students to watch before coming to class.

As with any pedagogical shift, talk to your students about it ahead of time. Izenberg points out that part of the success she finds with her eight-minute lectures is that her students know what's coming -- they know they are about to receive just enough content for them to remember. Let your students know what you are doing and why you are doing it, and make sure they understand what you expect them to do in response.