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My flipped classroom experiment summarized

December 24, 2011

I tried the flipped classroom model this semester and struggled at times with making it work. But at the end of the semester, I feel it was worth it.

The biggest change for me was having activities ready which focused on the areas we were working on in an appropriate way. Many times I was creating activities before the class in reaction to the previous class’s difficulties, problems with their written assignments, or something missing in the textbook. For example, I found students struggled with providing examples, so we worked on producing specific examples right up until the final paragraph. However, when we focused on good examples, grammar control slipped. I definitely need to consider ways and even a video or two that will provide possible guidance in that area.

Did the students use the videos? Relying on the counts from YouTube, not all of the students made use of the videos I made. At first I felt a little let down, but upon reflection, I think that if I give the students control of the learning, they will make the decisions themselves. After all, there were times when I lectured where clearly some students didn’t need to be there, so why would this group of students tune into the videos?

Another advantage I found with the flipped classroom model was student interaction. I spent a lot of time walking around the classroom and could help students with the difficulties they were having at the moment. Even more I saw students helping students. I had a noisy classroom, but unlike in another class I taught, the noise was a buzz of activity mostly concentrated on what we were working on.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that my transition to the flipped classroom model seemed a logical next step in my progression in teaching this writing class. Using the lecture model, I had built in much practice so I was to some extent ready for the move in terms of having materials and thinking about how to address students needs. The difference came in adjusting the classroom time so that I could have sufficient focused activities. Some of the previous activities or worksheet types of things didn’t work as well because they did not go deep enough into the content. The quick multiple choice activities served for warm ups but rarely went into depth. I decided to continue to focus on grammar activities where the students had to manipulate language instead of answering questions about it. Also, the challenges differed in that now the focus was more on understanding and manipulating than only on understanding.

We wrote more this semester than in the past. Almost every Thursday, we wrote something. We wrote five practice paragraphs at the beginning as well as the regular regime of paragraphs although we did not have a midterm paragraph. I didn’t use the midterm paragraph because it comes after the students have written on in-class paragraph and seems to show the students how much they don’t know.

What made the writing and responding especially effective for me was the use of Google Documents. I had never used Google Documents for a class; consequently, I had to learn on the fly with my students. By the time we got to formal paragraph assignments, everyone could submit their paragraphs through Google Docs. Furthermore, Google Documents enabled me to respond to papers quickly and give targeted guidance. Some students used the documents to ask questions or for further explanation. This was definitely an improvement from the previous way of commenting on paragraphs through downloading, responding, and uploading.

Out of 33 students 30 passed the class. Two did not take the paragraph retake, so they might have passed. The one who did not pass was the weakest student, and I never was able to reach her. She acted as if her English was so inadequate that she could not interact with me.

The going was not smooth. We have a final exam, which 30 out of 33 passed; I haven’t compared it to previous semesters, but it seems high. 2 of the 3 passed the retake exam. However, 18 of the 33 needed to take the paragraph retake though only one student’s retake needed discussion in the final teachers’ meeting. From my perspective, the class worked because we were on task, learned to make the tasks more appropriate and requiring deeper processing, and student involvement increased.

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