Teaching: Assessing Flipped Course Failure: Part 1

The failed flipping experience analyzed.
Having invested so much time and effort in my “flipped class” scenario, the sense of failure has been more than offset by the lessons learned — or at the least reinforced — about teaching and about students and their expectations.

I probably could have saved a good deal of time and effort by reading Joshua Kim’s “6 Myths of the Flipped Classroom” found at https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/technology-and-learning/6-myths-flipped-classroom. After last semester’s experience I think each of his myths is worth commenting on:

Myth #1 - Proponents of the Flipped Classroom Methodology Dislike Lectures and
Myth #2 - Flipping Your Class Means Getting Rid of Lecturing

Actually, it wasn’t that I disliked lectures — I just thought they would be more effective when integrated into the flipped format.

The way I flipped my American government class was by providing my lectures online in roughly 20-25 minute segments. I was not about to give up on lectures, but rather move and package them in a more “consumable” way — or so I thought.

It turns out that some of the harshest criticisms in my evaluations were about the online lectures, and I get the impression that much of it was ignored anyway. Originally I thought about linking review quizzes to the assigned lecture listening, but I let that idea go because I thought students would see this as busywork or an indication of distrust. Wrong decision.Not only should I have quizzed more, but I also should have focused my “objective exams” on those lectures rather than just the readings.

Myth #3 - Flipping Your Class Will Mean That Students Will Stop Coming to Class

Kim argues that, if done right, attendance can actually increase. The key, he argues is to have students produce or do something creative in class — to be engaged. In this I was an utter failure, for rather than reverting to Ben Stein’s “anyone? anyone?” mode I filled the time available with videos, audios, and off the cuff lectures — none of which seemed to foster a “desire” to come to class.

I actually worked hard on the class content, always bringing in material relevant to the topic at hand. What I did not do well (obviously) is make the connections clear enough.I assumed too much about the student capacity to understand the linkages between the subject and the in class material….

That said, attendance was not bad overall — generally 47 out of 54 attendees per session, which while short of perfect is decent given I was not holding a gun to their heads. What I did rely on was an “attendance” call — or something equivalent each session. For this I used “clicker” technology — but not as effectively as I might have. While I regarded attendance as typically pretty good, the evaluation comments indicate many thought class time a waste of their time….

Myth #4 - Flipping Your Class Will Require Lots of Technical Knowledge

I take pride in being pretty competent with the technology for a person of my age, and I felt comfortable doing screencasts and editing of material for class presentation. But for many of my colleagues this would not be a myth, and I know a few who required (or so they thought) some techie to hold their hand.

That said, the fact that this course was selected as a “trial” for the university’s move from the Blackboard to Canvas LMS systems did pose some technological issues. Glitches became evident as the course progressed, especially in the Canvas “Grade” module which lacks flexibility and required constant adjustment — and caused much too much anxiety among students who were getting more (and less) information than required about their ongoing grades through the semester.

Myth #5 - Flipping Your Class Will Require Huge Amounts of Time

Kim notes that for him this is a “half-myth,” but for me it was reality throughout the semester. Driven to try to make this work, I spent enormous amounts of my working hours on the course or monitoring students, etc. As it turns out, perhaps I spent too much time on the monitoring part, for I admit to sending out too many emails — and obviously these email missives became so annoying that students began to ignore them. Counter-productive obsessive behavior….

And so you have my reaction to 5 of Kim’s 6 myths. The 6th deserves its own post.
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