Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spring Week 2: The Flipped Classroom Approach

The Flipped Classroom

The flipped classroom is an innovative technology intensive teaching method which is currently being explored at UC Davis through the iAMSTEM HUB organization. The basis of the flipped classroom is to reorganize the order in which the professor interacts with the students. Typically, the professor will present a topic during lecture. The students will then complete homework or be tested on this topic. The process of knowledge acquisition can be simplified through the five Es.
1. Engage: Interest the students in the topic
2. Explore: Provide a broad picture understanding of the topic
3. Explain: Provide a detailed picture understanding of the topic
4. Elaborate: Present the students with higher order thinking questions
5. Evaluate: Test the students on their understanding

In a typical setting Es 1-3, or the content attainment phase, occur in the classroom and Es 4-5, or the content application phase, occur at home. Within the flipped classroom model, these two phases are switched and require the professor to present the content attainment phase via technology. Both models are represented in the image below created by Jensen et al. This switching process significantly aids in the application of active learning, which has been proven to “increase exam scores by 6% and decrease fail rates by more than 50%” (Jensen et al.).

The paper by Jensen et al. attempts to delineate the effectualness of the flipped classroom model within an active learning style background. Based on normalized data collected by two non-major introductory biology courses, one flipped and one not, during the same semester, taught by the same professor in an active learning style; Jensen et al. saw that there was not a drastic difference in learning outcomes, whether through exam scores, or student opinions.

Reflections by the GTC, however, do not believe this article provided enough information to refute the efficaciousness of the flipped classroom model absolutely and believe that
 • The flipped classroom model may enhance self sufficient thinking that may be carried onto subsequent courses
 • The flipped classroom model is an exceptional vehicle to introduce active learning, a proven beneficial teaching technique
 • Flipped classrooms may enhance emotional connections to the topic and increase long term retainment of the subject matter

How about you?
Would you be interested in implementing a flipped classroom? free polls
If you’re interested in flipping a classroom, here is an article that can get you headed in the right direction.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Spring Week 1: Active Learning

This quarter, the Graduate Teaching Community decided to shift weekly discussions to a journal-club format, in which we read and discuss a peer-reviewed paper relating to college teaching each week. Our topic this week was active learning and the discussion was based on a review, “Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research” (1). While the review is now a decade old, it is worth reading, as it presumes limited familiarity with education research on the part of the audience, making it more accessible to non-specialists. Our discussion of the paper had two main phases – we talked about overall challenges in interpreting educational studies and then went over active learning, collaborative learning, and problem based learning.

Challenges in interpreting the educational literature
The biggest pitfall facing non-specialists reading the education literature is probably the temptation to over-generalize results. To avoid this, it is important to carefully assess both the teaching methodology used and the measured outputs. The importance of this is evident when looking at the active learning literature – a wide range of techniques fall under the banner of active learning and researchers have assessed their impact on everything from test scores to student attrition to attitudes towards school.

Active learning
Active learning can be broadly defined as any student-centric activity that is incorporated into a traditional lecture that has the effect of breaking up the passive transmission of information from teacher to student. Examples include giving students a minute to review notes with a neighbor, “think-pair-share,” i-clickers, and group problem-solving. These approaches are thought to beneficial because they serve to reset student attention spans and, if done well, help students engage more deeply with the material. While many studies have shown benefits from active learning, the wide variety of approaches that fall under this umbrella mean that you should look for technique-specific studies before making a decision about implementing a particular flavor of active learning.

Cooperative and Collaborative Learning
Collaborative learning methods are approaches where students work in groups, either in class, or outside of class. Cooperative learning is a specific type of collaborative learning, where students are graded based on both group and individual performance. An example of cooperative learning could be a group presentation where students work together to prepare the talk and are then graded, a least in part, on their individual performances. Both approaches have been shown to improve grades, reduce attrition, and improve student attitudes. An important consideration with group work is that many students have never been taught how to work effectively in groups, so be sure to provide guidance on how you want the groups to function.

Problem-based learning (PBL)
Problem-based learning encompasses a wide-variety of approaches where learning activities, lessons, or entire courses are designed around solving a real-world problem. Examples of PBL could include an ecology lecture that introduces concepts through the prism of a conservation problem at a particular park, an accounting assignment that teaches tax concepts via working through a tax return, or a molecular biology lab course where students spend the semester cloning and characterizing a particular gene. Due to the wide array of PBL methods, the data on their efficacy is somewhat mixed, however the most consistent finding is that student attitudes towards the course are better when PBL is used.

Based on our discussion, it is clear that active learning approaches are something that all college teachers should consider incorporating into their classes. Indeed, efforts to expand use of active learning in large lecture courses are underway at UC Davis (2). If you want to read more about the research on active learning that has been done since this review was published, I recommend taking a look at recent meta-analysis of over 200 active learning studies (3).

1) Prince, Michael. “Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Literature.” Journal of Engineering Education, 2004.
2)  Perez-Pena, Richard. “Colleges Reinvent Classes to Keep More Students in Science.” New York Times, 2014.
3)  Freeman et al. “Active Learning Increases Student Performance in Science, Engineering, and Math.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 2014.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Resources about Teaching and Learning


In the spirit of researching teaching and learning, we wanted to provide as many resources as possible for spring quarter (and beyond!)

Feel free to add more in the comments!
Resources (in no particular order):
Tomorrow's Professor Blog:  .  (Under 
Postings choose 'Tomorrow's teaching and learning' for archived posts about this topic.)
Journal on Excellence in College Teaching: 
Journal of Research in Science Teaching: 
Journal of College Science Teaching 
American Association of Colleges and Universities “Liberal Education” 
American Association of Colleges and Universities “Peer Review” 
American Association of Colleges and Universities “Diversity and Democracy” 
The Chronicle of Higher Education 
The ERIC database (through Shields Library).  (enter ERIC into search engine)
**For discipline specific journals related to teaching, see this well-indexed list maintained by Kennesaw State University: