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