Chemistry classes try ‘flipped classrooms’

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By Rachel Hall

Contributing writer

 

   “Different doesn’t mean bad,” Melinda Langeberg, visiting assistant professor of Education, told Lumen. Educational reform is a hot topic and the “interactive classroom” is a method many educators are trying. Interactive classrooms require more active participation from students. One type of interactive classroom that Viterbo is using is called the “flipped classroom.”

     Ruth Davis told Lumen that in a flipped classroom, “the student acquires the content away from the classroom and brings that knowledge to the classroom for questions, discussion, and practice.” 

     Essentially, students are reviewing the lecture material outside of class and coming into the classroom with questions and knowledge about the topic.

     Since students are learning the materials away from the classroom and using class time to further integrate the knowledge, the flipped classroom format can be seen as “a restructuring of how we define teacher and student behavior: a redefinition of what it means to be a learner” Langeberg said.

     The flipped classroom method is used across the U.S. Both general chemistry and introduction to chemistry are using a flipped classroom format this year, Davis said. In fact, Davis shared that Anatomy and Physiology is using “a type of flipping” with the use of worksheets and activities. 

     “There’s a lot of different ways to flip a class,” said Davis, who is teaching the Introduction to Chemistry flipped classroom. 

     Specifically, content “is being presented on videos. Students are assigned a number of short [lecture] videos to watch as homework and for each video they have to complete a formative assessment that is a Google form,” Davis said.

     “I look at the Google forms before class so I know what to clarify” Davis said. She also stated that class time is utilized by the students through an “activity to get a deeper understanding of the content or through working on problems.”

     “Kids will come with questions, comments, concerns and will sift through them together” since the flipped format allows “more [working] time during the school day.” 

     So why is Viterbo implementing this now? “It’s very new,” Langeberg said. “It’s just being talked about now.”

     Langeberg believes that the flipped format would work in classes with “lots of lecture material to go through,” something Davis explained as “good for Chem 101 because this population needs to hear it over and over again.” 

     By hearing the information repeatedly, students are able to retain what they have learned, Davis said.

     Another issue lies with the amount of work and lack of time, Davis said. “Doint the work in a flipped classroom is a lot of work; it demands a lot from the student” because learning is “not just answering the questions,” students must truly understand the concepts. However, “if a student puts the time in, there is every tool for them to be successful,” continued Davis. 

     Overall, Davis said she would “definitely do it again” because “[the flipped format] gives me a lot of freedom, so I just have to cover the things that are difficult” and “I focus on where the students really need me.”

     Davis attended the International Conference on Flipped Classrooms in Stillwater, Minn. from June 17-19, as well as an in-service option for Viterbo faculty on Aug. 23. A guest speaker from the University of Minnesota who teaches a flipped biology class gave a presentation on active learning strategies to 50 or 60 Viterbo professionals. 

     However, Davis previously heard about this new teaching method from a co-worker.

     Davis said the idea of using a flipped classroom format was brought to the chemistry department by Scott Gabriel, assistant professor of chemistry and physics. Tammy Clark, assistant professor of chemistry and physics, and Gabriel wrote a grant proposal and received the Viterbo Trustees Opportunity Fund to help develop active learning strategies.

     “The fund will support new ventures, entrepreneurial initiatives, provide seed money for innovation and risk capital to advance the University of Opportunity’s specific priorities.”

     The grant sparked the launch of a “group of teachers who are going to come together and do an activity with flipped learning all across campus,” explained Davis. The date and the specific courses have not been chosen, but students should expect a small taste of the flipped classroom format before leaving Viterbo.

 
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