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04 July 2015 @ 07:18 am
I exist!  
I need some teachign icons.

It's really tough remembering to journal regularly. I'm currently on my summer vacation: I took a class in June, which I let eat up all my time because it was a class on teaching and I want to be a better teacher. I got some good lessons on teaching in general as well as on the method in particular.

The method is called 'the flipped classroom' and it's based around two ideas:

1. Lectures or reading might be good ways to introduce material, but lecture alone is terrible for retention, even when students think they got it. I've certainly had the 'this all made sense when Doctor Smith was explaining it in class, but doing it on my own is an exercise in frustration'. At best, that means students come to office hours or seek their peers or the help center for extra help. More likely, they flail about. (This is why we assign homework: so students can practice using the stuff we make them learn.)

2. 'Homework' and applications are the times students are most likely to need interaction with an instructor or peer. Lecture is traditionally not very interactive. So why not have the application as time in class when the professor is around, and the lecture at home before class when it doesn't matter if the instructor recorded it three years ago? Hence, 'flipped'.

The class I took had us making a flipped module, but also had us talking about various things about measuring if students are learning, setting reasonable expectations, lower and higher order thinking and how to make group work work when there's always at least one person who is The Load. The class was a mix of fields: we had two engineers, me, a computer scientist, an environmental planner, the business librarian (who guest lectures on 'how to research things'), a speech teacher, someone from the masters in education program, and someone from the social sciences that was looking at her field's research methods course. One of the guest lecturers reminded me about exactly how much stuff is out there for physics education (he was an engineer and had adapted things).

I also got my schedule for Fall. Good news: it's all classes I've taught before, which means that not only do I have 2.5 months to plan everything, I can adapt things. I also don't have to teach on Fridays, so that means I'll probably do an office hour Friday morning, then leave around lunchtime. Bad news: I got the evening classes, probably because I was 'meh' instead of 'hell no'* on the schedule. So the draft schedule has me teaching Physics at 4, Astronomy at 5, break for dinner at 6, then the same physics again at 7.

Now, I might just shift my schedule so I get up later in the morning, except it is impossible to get a good parking spot after 8 AM on campus and I can't wait until the day shift go home because I also need office hours (also, I think 4 is a bit too early for that). So I have to decide if it's better to show up to work right before lunch and have to walk across all of campus (and then either move my car during my dinner break or walk back in the dark), or schedule 'mid-day siesta/goof off break' in my office.

I still think I like this schedule better than 'first class starts at 8, last class ends at 6', which I've done two terms out of three. Because it's a lot easier when you have a long break to work on class prep and grading.

(The evening class has a mixed reputation: on the one hand, it's usually the class with empty seats because no one wants to be there. And small classes are awesome for learning things. On the other, the 'no one wants to be here' means low everything scores. If I can get good reviews here, I shall consider this a badge of pride.)

* One of the virtues of being childless and single: my time is a lot more flexible than most.
Kerikeristars on July 4th, 2015 07:12 pm (UTC)
Flipped classrooms: do the people promoting this talk about what happens for students who have trouble retaining information from video/books? Like, is the whole point that people don't retain information from the lectures anyway, so who cares if they don't retain it on their own, let's just focus on learning during problem sets in the classroom later?

I've been curious about this, because I also see online learning gain in popularity (even as studies are coming out that students learn better from physical books than ebooks and from handwritten notes than typed notes).

My backstory:

I'm AWFUL at retaining information I've only read/watched, and I really thrive in a lecture setting. It's one reason why I failed so thoroughly in my attempt at graduate school - there were no in-person lectures to help me learn/remember the content through markers such as timbre of the instructor's voice or notes written during a lecture to mark important elements, then filled in or checked against the texts for thoroughness.

We did have recorded lectures from the instructors, but without the physical presence of the instructor and the ability to ask for a pause or rewording of a concept/statement in real time, it just didn't work. Even comparing to when I had large lecture halls, with fewer pauses to answer questions or reiterate something, it just wasn't the same.

I mean, I can learn from recordings or books, but it's a very slow process (I did, after all, get a 4 on the AP Chem exam and earn a Magna Cum Laude gpa despite missing nearly 9 weeks of class senior year, all total). The most successful I've been with book learning is knitting, and even so, there it is mostly "here is a technique, here is what it does" and experimenting to figure it out myself. If I'm given a pattern, follow it, and even watch YT videos explaining how it works and read blogs about how it works, I can't really explain it myself or use the elements in a new way. But if I have someone next to me doing it, and explaining it? yep, those are all things I remember well and in detail.

But...sometimes I wonder if I have some minor learning disability, or if it's related to Asperger's, or something else. I still really want to finish the graduate program I started, but if flipped classrooms become the norm, I'm worried that I would fail again and it would be a waste of time.
Becca Stareyesbeccastareyes on July 4th, 2015 10:48 pm (UTC)
Man, now I wished that I'd posted it earlier, because I think this would be a great discussion topic. (There's a forum for graduates of the class -- would it be all right for me to submit an edited version of your post?)

We talked a bit about making sure students were getting the introduction we wanted by setting low-stakes assignments for pre-class. Which would at least identify a student who was having trouble with pre-class work. But having a student coming to my office every day to work through the content would help.

We also discussed interaction out of class like forums, but I don't always know how to get students to use them besides bribery. (That and I keep earlier hours than my students.) Basically, the idea being that if you don't give the students some face time (even virtual face time) with professors, you might as well be running a MOOC course.

Part of it was making sure that in-class work and interaction reinforced the out of class work. Like for my sample lesson, I wanted students to learn some vocabulary and get the basic ideas behind Kepler's Laws before class, and then we'd do all the practice applications and discussion and stuff when I was present. One thing that was talked about but not emphasized was that the in-class part has to be important because that's what makes the material stick. (And presumably students can gauge what info is relevant.)
Kerikeristars on July 6th, 2015 07:27 pm (UTC)
sorry for my slow reply! I read your comment on my phone, then forgot to come back to LJ on my laptop. (the hazards of smartphone email...)

But, yeah, go ahead and edit it and post it if you'd like!

Forums - I actually found this to be even worse for my success at online school than the screen-learning, but I suppose it's all related. You know how when you're in class with other people, you can hear them talk and form your own thoughts or refine your understanding and take notes and all that all at the same time? That's not possible with forum interaction. With forums (or even LJ comments :D) you have a block of text and are limited with what you can do while you're reading/parsing. You can take notes, but you have to stop reading to do it. You can type your own response, but it's a post-hoc thing, and not mid-argument (technically you're not supposed to interrupt in class, but there are natural pauses where you can interject a question - that's not something you get with forums).

In my classes, we were required to post a certain number of times a week on certain topics and to reply to other students a minimum number of times. But that's very daunting if you're not sure what you want to talk about, and even moreso if you are a "follower" in conversations (one of my bosses explicitly said that about me: I don't have stated opinions or questions at first, but use other peoples' statements to see where I have holes in my understanding or where my opinion might differ and be worth discussing). I would wait until the end of the week to read the early posters' topics and respond, but then it would be so late that I ran out of time for my own posts or got too stressed to do it at all.

I think my difficulties with classroom forums/bboards is strongly linked to my difficulties with screen-learning. How common is this? I have no idea. But it can't be uncommon, and since I know my own limitations, I worry about future students... (My little sister is the exact opposite - she struggled with traditional school, but excelled at a correspondence program and graduated high school early.)

Like for my sample lesson, I wanted students to learn some vocabulary and get the basic ideas behind Kepler's Laws before class, and then we'd do all the practice applications and discussion and stuff when I was present.

I do wonder about this - that's what we did in my astronomy classes. It wasn't flipped - we still got the lecture in class - but we were required to read the chapters before class and were given pop quizzes for Did You Read as class began (not written or anything - the prof would randomly choose students to answer, and it was all basic concepts). But that class was at New College of Florida, which was an honors school... Most of my classes at New College were structured like that with basic concepts assumed to be familiar (if not fully grasped), whereas my early classes when I transferred to UNF were more lecture hall where the reading helped but wasn't strictly necessary to do before class.
Becca Stareyesbeccastareyes on July 8th, 2015 05:59 pm (UTC)
Even when I lecture, I try to provide natural chances for students to ask me things. Because, yeah, the basic idea I was taught is 'put the stuff that needs the most face to face time at the time when you and the students are supposed to be in the same room, put the stuff that least needs real-time student-to-professor or student-to-student interaction as pre or post-class work'.

So, yeah, I wouldn't expect most students to come in with 100% understanding*, and there's going to be a lot of variation in figuring out where the students most need me.

* There's always a few students that I could hand the textbook and the assignments and be all 'here are the deadlines and when tests/quizzes are, see you then!', just like there's that one student who isn't ready for this course or gets mono halfway through the term, or just hasn't figured out class-life balance, or decided to take three hard courses in the same term.

Edited at 2015-07-08 06:03 pm (UTC)
Alissaallicapri on July 13th, 2015 02:30 am (UTC)
I begged and begged my last institution of employment to let me take the three "how to teach" classes they expect of full time unlimited instructors. But alas, it was for full time unlimited instructors only, and as a temporary part time I was just there to have a pulse and not kill anyone (okay, not quite that bad).

I've been thinking about adding some aspects of the flipped classroom to my upcoming semester. Not a ton, but there are some concepts in genetics (mostly involving math) that are unpossible (for me) to do well standing at a board in class and I'd think work much better with the students learning the ideas before they come and practicing them in class.

Labs are already kind of like this, I think, or at least the way I run labs. Read your shit before hand and understand that it'll make a lot more sense once you start. Learn by doing, I'd always say. But maybe I was just concerned about losing 30 minutes of precious lab time to giving instructions I'd have to repeat to each group anyway.
Becca Stareyesbeccastareyes on July 13th, 2015 02:40 am (UTC)
Learn by doing is actually our university motto. (It was drummed into our heads during orientation.)

I missed the American Association of Physics Teachers summer workshops because the department was required to fund my trip and the deadline was before I was re-hired.

Based on my teaching physics to bio majors, anything that involves math is going to need extra prep. I"m teaching that class again and already remembering that I need to have more discussion on how to solve problems. Also vectors and working in two dimensions. I have learned that I can never emphasize how to use vectors or motion in two-dimensions enough.)