Flip it Good!

The Flipped Classroom…we’ve all heard and read a great deal about it, and I have been enthusiastically using it in my Professional Wine Studies Class for about a year.  (In case this is the first time you’ve heard of flipping a classroom, you can read one of my original posts about it here.)

About a week ago, I wrapped up a semester of teaching in a mode that I deem “as flipped as humanly possible.”  I tried to take every possible opportunity to fill my classes with “ABL” (Anything But Lecture),  while making sure that the “transmission” of new knowledge occurred one way or another, whether inside or outside the classroom.  (In a true “flipped classroom”, the transmission of learning takes place outside the classroom.  This assumes our students do the reading or the watching of assigned videos.  I’m still easing my students into that idea.)

To achieve my “as flipped as possible” goal, I used in-class activities, discussions, and group projects daily.  Sometimes the activities worked out great, and sometimes I found myself tap-dancing to keep the class in order. 

Here’s a few things I learned during my semester of flipping dangerously:   

1.  Keep the groups small.  I found that for a many projects, 2 students is an ideal number.  It seems that with only two students in a group, no one can afford to be the “group slacker.”  Three people in a group also works well, but in groups of 4 or more you tend to have 1 or 2 people working diligently, and 1 or 2 people playing on their iPhones.

2.  As soon as the teams are arranged, have the teams choose a group leader who will be responsible for turning work in, presenting their work to the class or ensuring that the group gets credit for their assignment, in whatever form that is. 

3.  Always have “extra credit” or “further learning” sections of a project available for the one hot shot group or team that does a great job and finishes before everyone else.  If you don’t have extra activities for them, the hot shot group will not have anything left to do and may feel that class is a “waste of time.”

4.  Pre-script every class project or discussion with “Come Get Me” moments.  Design these so that after each segment of a class project, the students stop and discuss it with you before moving on.  Another way to keep the class on an even keel is to divide a group project into chunks that should take about 15 minutes to a half hour.  After every “chunk”, bring the class back together to share and discuss their findings.  

6.  Most important of all, remember that the time when your class is working in groups or otherwise on projects, you as the instructor are still “on stage” as much as when you are lecturing.  This is NOT your time to catch up on your email, read a book, or grade papers.  While you don’t want to “hover over them” and make everyone nervous, you also don’t want to disengage.  I’ve found the best thing for me to do while the students are working in groups is to sit down somewhere off to the side of the classroom and keep an eye on the groups, much as I do when proctoring a test. That way everyone knows where to find me, no one feels like they are “interrupting” me when they ask for help, and I can quickly respond to a group that wants to “flag me over”.

What do you think?  Do you have any “Flip it Good” advice?  We’d love to hear from you!

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas

Finals Week in Wine Class

It’s Finals Week!

Final exam week in Miss Jane’s 12-week professional wine studies class has arrived!  To answer your question, NO…the wine final does not involve binge drinking, glasses clinking or happy hour. Like most college-level courses in hospitality management or culinary arts, we have both a practical and a written final exam.  Our written final exam is scheduled for this Friday; a 100 question multiple choice test followed by three essay questions.  

Please note that the title of this course is “Professional Wine Studies.”  While many of the wine classes taught around the world center on tasting, this course is centered on basic wine knowledge and how to use it within the context of a hospitality career.  I focus the class on learning about basic wine styles (white, red, sparkling, dessert…yes, that basic); how they are made, where they are made, and the world’s best known or most popular examples.  We learn how to taste wine so that we can talk about wine, and spend several class sessions role-playing the role of the server, sommelier, or salesperson.  We use my “mad libs for wine” to learn to write meaningful, concise wine descriptions. We learn about beverage costing as it applies to wines by the bottle and glass. We spend a good deal of time of food and wine pairing, which makes sense as most of my students see themselves as future chefs.  Finally, we spend a good deal of time discussing how to write a wine list and market wine in a restaurant or other setting.

So for my final practical exam this semester, I came up with the idea of an exercise in writing a wine list.  I started out by surfing the internet for nice, clear pictures of wine labels. This took a while as I wanted to use wine labels from wines we had studied and my students would be familiar with.  I also wanted a good mix of red, white, dessert wines and sparkling wines.  I came up with a word file full of about 30 wine labels that includes Bordeaux, Chianti, Rioja, Napa Meritage, Lodi Zin and Oregon Pinot for the reds.   For the whites I found Fumé Blanc, a nice German Riesling, an Aussie Chard…you get the idea.  I had six sparkling  wines including a few from California, a Cava, a Prosecco, and of course Champagne.  For the sweet wines I included Moscato d’Asti, Sauternes, Late Harvest Zin, Ruby Port and Muscat-Beaumes-de-Venise.  Remember, these are all wines that we had studied, and in most cases, tasted.

 I did a bit of cut and paste and gave every student a stack of 30 wine labels, and created a faux “wholesale price list”. Then, I gave the class two hours to write a wine list that was to include the following details:

  • Meaningful Categorization
  • Absolutely perfect listing of each wine to include producer, name of the wine, region of origin and vintage date (as applicable)
  • Progressive wine list format
  • A concise description of each wine (I like to use what I call a “five word description” such as “light, dry and crisp with fruity and floral flavors”.)
  • Two food pairing suggestions for each wine.
  • Pricing by the glass and bottle, as well as a spreadsheet detailing each item’s potential beverage cost and gross profit.

As they completed the project, I had every student bring their list up to me for a quick discussion and review.  Lots of learning can go in during that review period.  I had them describe how they chose to categorize their wines, how they arranged them in order and how the details of the list will be useful as a sales tool.

All in all, I have to say I think they all did a great job!  I was very impressed with the final projects, and think that it was a meaningful, active learning experience all around.  It was good exposure to the “nuts and bolts” of writing and designing a wine list.  Most importantly, we all had a great time and I feel it was a good example of active learning and a “flipped classroom”.

If you would like a copy of the materials I created for the class, click here: Bubbly Prof – Wine Labels for Wine List Project

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas – missjane@prodigy.net 



Flip Your Meetings!

The other day I was playing around online while waiting to board a plane.  I was finger-surfing on my iPad for articles on “flipping the classroom.” There’s been a lot of buzz about flipping the classroom, including here on The Bubbly Professor and lots of other blogs. The flipped classroom is such a great concept for teaching that it’s become my newest endeavor to read everything I can on the subject.

About ten minutes into my web surfing session I read a statement that literally changed my life. How often does that happen?

The statement was part of the introduction to what appeared to be a great article on flipping the classroom.  I say “appeared to be a great article” because I never read it.  This one sentence was so powerful I turned off the iPad, pulled out one of my handy-dandy yellow pads that I do all my “real” work on, and started writing.  My work life was forever changed!

Here is what I read, as close as I can remember:  “Do you leave meetings with more work to do than when the meeting began?”  Oh yes I do! Not only do I leave meetings with an elongated list of things to do, so does every poor soul who has ever attended a meeting that I was in charge of.

One simple sentence was to become my personal life-changing moment.  If you are the author of this sentence, please contact me.  I want to read the rest of your article.  I want to give you credit for this idea.  Most importantly, I want to worship at your feet for the rest of my life.

My True Story of Meeting-Flipping 

About two months ago, I had a faculty meeting.  My ten or so extremely dedicated  faculty members and I gathered around a round table and I led what I thought was a productive meeting.  The agenda had been distributed in advance, we had a lot of things to go over, and we had a lively discussion. Success (or so I thought)!

In my old (pre life-changing moment) way of leading meetings, it was a success. But in my new way of thinking….it was a waste of time!!!  Here’s why:  one of the items on my agenda was this:  Annual Faculty Development plans due by April 1!

What had actually happened during my “successful” meeting?  I distributed some information that could have been done just as easily (and much faster) via email, and everyone present left my meeting with “one more thing do.” And for the record, how many faculty development plans were turned in by April 1?  Zero!!!

The New Meeting World Order

So here’s how I led the next faculty meeting.  I sent out a meeting invitation that read as follows: “We will complete your annual faculty development plan at this meeting.  Please start thinking about what you would like to do this coming year in order to improve your teaching ability.  This can include conferences, seminars, courses you’d like to take, professional certifications you’d like to achieve or anything else you can think of.  See you next Friday!”

Faculty Development Friday

When the meeting came around, we met in the same conference room around the same table as we always had before.  But this time, when our hour was up, no one left the room groaning that they had one more thing to accomplish in an already busy schedule.  Instead,  everyone had a completed Annual Faculty Devlopment Plan.  It was fun, and it was easy. 

To start the meeting, I gave everyone a blank copy of our faculty development plan template.  I had everyone fill in their name, anniversary dates, employee Id numbers, all that stuff.  Then, we went down the list of items to fill out.

First item – Professional Certification:  “What professional certifications are you interested in pursing this year?  Who wants to work towards their CEC? Great, what are the steps.  Study, take the practice tests, take the written test, take the practical exam, complete the final application packet and mail off. If you are interested in the CEC write these steps down in section one and fill in the completion dates that will work for you.  Who would like to pursue a CSW?  Great, what are the steps?  Get a study guide, study, take the  practice tests, review with your mentor, take the written exam.  If you would like to pursue a CSW, write all that down in section one and fill in the dates that work for you.”  And so on, and so on…in about 15 minutes we had all finished section one.

Next section – Training offered Internally:  “Everyone write these down…Sticky Teaching on May 15, Brain Rules for Teachers on June 12, Bloom’s Taxonomy on July 25 (etc, etc.). These are the faculty development sessions that I will conduct in house.  You need to try to attend at least six of these and when you do, make sure to note on your faculty development form three take-aways from each session that you plan to use in your teaching in the coming year.”  Ten minutes later…section two done!

Next section – Training Obtained Externally: “Here’s a list of classes and workshops offered on-line.  Two have already been budgeted for each of you.  Pick the two that most interest you and write them on your form. If you have a conference or convention in mind that you’d like to attend, write it down and I will let you know if we can budget for it by the end of the month.” Twelve minutes later, section three done.!

Final section – Classroom Observations:  “Everyone write down the name of the class you are teaching this semester that you would like me to visit in order to conduct a classroom observation.  Same thing for next semester.  When the Fall and Winter schedule comes out, be sure and update your plan and let me know which class you’d like me to visit.”  Ten minutes later, we’re done.

One hour from start to finish and everyone has their faculty development plan done.  Everyone had the opportunity to benefit from the ideas and challenges of their colleagues.  Everyone is excited about the opportunity to improve their teaching skills. Everyone has a new professional certification goal in mind. Best of all, everyone – including me – gets to check one big giant thing off of their big giant “to do” list.

What else can I say? I’m a meeting flipper for life.  And if this was your idea….make yourself known!