Photo credit: Chris Samuels

Some professors at the U are turning to a relatively new, unique teaching model known as the “flipped classroom.”

This style “flips” the traditional format of a lecture class. Students watch video lectures online ahead of time. In-class time is spent on exercises, problems and discussions under the guidance of the professor.

Nick Ellis, a continuing medical student, has experienced this method twice now and sees both pros and cons. He enjoyed the flipped classroom in an upper level finance class as the teacher provided good material and was ready to answer tough questions in class. Ellis disliked the style in a lower level science class, noting that not enough before-class materials were provided, which made students unprepared for class work.

Cynthia Furse, a U professor of electrical and computer engineering, has flipped her classes since 2007. When she started, the method was “very pioneering,” but it is now more mainstream. Furse also teaches courses for other faculty to help them successfully flip their own classes, and she champions the style as highly effective.

She acknowledges that some professors prefer and enjoy the traditional lecture model but personally feels this model is more “student-centered.” She said one advantage is that it allows her to instantly know what her students are struggling with, so she can react accordingly.

Michael Bastiani, U professor of biology, flipped one of his classes for the first time last semester because he “didn’t like the idea of sort of sitting up there and lecturing.” Bastiani said, however, that the class format did not work as well as he would have liked, and he received mixed feedback from students.

“Some students really liked it; some wanted the traditional setting,” he said.

Bastiani wants to continue exploring the idea and thinks the key is to integrate class problem-solving with lecturing.

Furse occasionally has students come to her saying they do not learn well by video and do not like the before-class work. By the end of a semester, though, she said most of her students grew to like the flipped format.

While Furse has flipped a freshman class that she had not taught before and enjoyed the experience, she usually encourages faculty to know a class well and have taught it a few times before flipping it because it “really requires teachers to dial into the class and their students.”

One of the biggest reasons that Furse likes this style is that a traditional lecture class does not leave time for project-based learning. The flipped classroom method solves this problem for her.



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