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Flipped Classroom

Great Advice for Flipped/Blended Learning Approach

For those interested in learning more about the application of flipped instruction and/or blended learning techniques, we encourage you to take a look at VetMedAcademy's learning module entitled "Blended Learning and Critical Thinking." However, you might be interested in following the extensive efforts of the Flipped Learning Global Initiative (FLGI) led by Jon Bergmann.

I was particularly struck by the latest in his series describing key elements of successful implementation of flipped learning because in my first attempt to introduce it to a first-year veterinary endocrine physiology class as part of an "integrated" curriculum, I managed to be drawn into making this VERY mistake. The advice in Bergmann's latest blog and video is "Never Lecture."   He describes exactly the scenario I encountered.  That is, when you first implement a flipped learning approach, you need to hold students accountable for listening to the recorded presentations before the class, and not be allowed to to accede to the students who did not review these materials to draw you into using the classroom time to lecture for them.

How did this occur? Well, after outlining the hope and expectation that by using short videos to present the content, and asking students to pose their questions about this content via a Q and A forum on our Moodle learning management system, I planned to review the questions ahead of the class time, and compose a plan to address common questions about more complex topics, and then move on to show the relevance of the content to actual clinical case material.  I figured that getting to clinical relevance would be a big draw for students. I subsequently learned that there is a limit for such enthusiasm if you move students too far out of their comfort zones, which too often starts with most classes as being passive recipients of content.

So, what happened the first year I did it? I found that the students posed questions not addressed ahead of time in the Q and A forum (meaning that it was less likely that they had reviewed the material ahead of class), and I found myself, section by section, essentially reprising the very videos that I had developed and recorded!  It left very little time to get to the clinical cases.   Student reviews afterward included comments like "I didn't expect to have to teach myself...", etc., implying that many saw the lecture time as just that, time to have lectures, and not move the interaction forward to deeper issues.  In his video, Bergmann alludes to the videos as the "simpler" concepts for homework, and notes that students should figure out that the more difficult parts were being addressed in class discussion. As I said, that indeed was the plan, but as an instructor, often because of concern over even one negative student review, despite the pre-stated ground rules, I didn't enforce the accountability factor.  Perhaps the students didn't actually believe that I would actually approach the class the way I had outlined.  So, apparently, I wasn't convincing enough.

So, how did I address it the second year?  I used the same videos and same Q and A forum, stating that each student should post at least one question. I didn't enforce the latter, but I did now state that the they could pose questions in this forum until 9 PM the night before class, and I would develop a plan for the class session based upon the questions, essentially using them as a "poll" for which topics they would like some additional explanation. I then sent out the plan I developed to the entire class via email including the planned use of time for these "mini-lectures" AND for the introduction and collective discussion of clinical cases.

I found that the students, while still reticent (I was the only instructor taking a blended learning approach within this topic area or in others), they learned that I was serious about not just lecturing in class.  They performed quite well on their examination on topics relative to my instruction, including addressing the relevance of physiological concepts in clinical case scenarios.

So as Jon Bergman says, if you plan to flip a class, set the ground rules of accountability for the students, and be disciplined and DON'T LECTURE (at least not "live)!