The idea of a flipped classroom has some appeal, especially considering the courses I teach. As a quick overview, in a flipped classroom, student take time, before class, to study course material to get a cursory understanding of the material before the next class session. During class, the instructor aids the students in applying the lesson’s concepts to problems and situations, providing the students feedback along the way.
In introductory and general chemistry courses, there is a lot of “problems” that the students need to learn to master. Currently, I lecture in short segments and then break to work problems dealing with that topic. The lecture segments last from 5 to 10 minutes and then we spend maybe 15-20 minutes working example problems as a class. Removing the lecture portion from the in-class time would free up a lot of time throughout the semester to work more problems. Students always seem to want more in the way of practice problems and I have found that the more problems we do, the better my students understand the material. The problem is that there is currently no way that I can provide enough problems to cover every possibility in the short time I have between topics.
The flipped classroom provides an excellent approach to correcting these problems. By having the students view material the night before class and coming to class prepared, I don’t have to worry about having to cover every topic by lecturing on it live. Instead, I can focus my attention on providing my students with high quality example problems to work through that demonstrate the application of each of the topics in that lesson. Additionally, I can provide a wider variety of examples that expand the possible applications for the students. For instance, rather than spending 30 minutes (in 5 minutes sections) lecturing on all the aspects of how to name the variety of chemicals, the students can watch these lectures before class. Then, during class I can provide a large set of example molecules. This will allows student to see the methods I describe in the videos applied to real problems. These examples can illustrate complex issues that a difficult to describe in a simple lecture.
In my head, however, there are complications. For instance, video and resources needs to be created/found for each of the lessons which takes time. This is not as large a liability as the next issue… student responsibility. Students must be responsible for viewing all the course materials before attending class. If a student doesn’t do so, then that student will get little from the example problems. Additionally, I can lecture to the one unprepared students since everyone else is ready and working on the problems. In order for me to implement this system, I would have to find a way to ensure, to the best of my ability, that all of my students are prepared… which may be impossible.