I’ve been teaching our undergraduate introductory statistics class here at GSC in the online format since Summer 2012, but this term I was offered a chance to teach it face to face. I started the class with an experiment: based on all the recent discussions I’ve been hearing about the “flipped classroom,” I thought I’d try providing all my “study” and “lecture” materials online, and spend our three hour weekly meetings working on the hands-on projects I assign each week. I posted sample projects and my own screencast explanations of them, and also incorporated an online tutorial I’ve used in the past to help walk students through the concepts and give them practice with the material. I provided extensive links to video resources such as Khan Academy specific to each topic. My plan was to discuss the conceptual reading (chapters from Charles Wheelan’s Naked Statistics) with the students at the start of each class, then let them work on their spreadsheet projects with my help, and only briefly cover the material for the next week at the end of the session. My experience teaching online had led me to think this might be the best use of the limited time I have face to face with students.
|Did the “flipped classroom” idea fail for my students? No, there are still important elements that I will continue to use, and that my students have said they find helpful. But my implementation needs to be tailored to the needs of my students.|
I haven’t completely given up on this notion, but last night several of my students informed me (very kindly and politely, but firmly) that if they had wanted to register for a hybrid or blended class, they would have done so. They wanted more from me in the classroom than help completing their projects. They wanted an introduction to the new topics before they had to attempt the work online by themselves.
So last night we spent about an hour going through the classic “count the M&Ms and construct tables and graphs” exercise, which I had already planned to help solidify understanding of the probability concepts underlying statistics, we had a lively discussion of the readings, and then we went over the topics for the coming week in more extended detail. We had about 30 minutes left at the end during which time I answered questions from individual students about their projects… and I ended up needing to stay for another 30 minutes to address everyone’s questions. But I think everyone was more satisfied at the end, including me.
Did the “flipped classroom” idea fail for my students? No, there are still important elements that I will continue to use, and that my students have said they find helpful. But my implementation needs to be tailored to the needs of my students. I think there are several factors at work here:
I don’t have answers at this point. Last night was the fifth week of twelve, and I’ll try the “new” format (more time discussing the next topic in class, rather than the previous topic) for several weeks before I’ll feel I know how well this is working. But I welcome comments from other instructors, especially those experimenting with hybrid, blended, or flipped classes. Do you think the subject matter makes a difference? The number of meetings per week? The age and background of the participants? Post your comments here, and I’ll follow up in a future post about my ongoing adventures in this area. 😎