Monday, April 29, 2013

More Flipping Resources

I'm still not finding any hard evidence about using the flipped model in the composition classroom. I did find this article on CNN's website by Greg Green, principal at Clintondale High School in Clinton Township, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. He provides the following statistics:
At Clintondale High School, we have been using this education model for the past 18 months. During this time, our attendance rate has increased, our discipline rate decreased, and, most importantly, our failure rate - the number of students failing each class - has gone down significantly. When we first implemented this model in the ninth grade, our student failure rate dropped by 33% in one year.

In English, the failure rate went from 52% to 19%; in math, 44% to 13%; in science, 41% to 19%; and in social studies, 28% to 9%. In September of 2011, the entire school began using the flipped instruction model, and already the impact is significant. During the first semester of the year, the overall failure rate at the school dropped to 10%. We’ve also seen notable improvement on statewide test scores, proving that students’ understanding of the material is better under this model.
This is compelling evidence that transferring remotely, practicing locally works, even in English classes.

I scanned the archives at the National Writing Project's website and found almost no mention of flipped classes. They do have a research article from the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub entitled Connected Learning (Jan 2013) that sees "technologies and techniques like massively open online courses (MOOCs), or the flipped classroom as potential tools for connected learning, but not essential features" (83).

I then scanned the archives at NCTE and, again, found almost no mention of flipped classes. The Voices from the Middle middle school journal has a call for blended learning practices for its upcoming January, 2014, issue that references "flipped learning practices that frontload content as homework in order to devote classroom time to projects and discussion."

It appears to me, then, that composition studies is in need of some discussion of the flipped approach to the writing classroom.


Ito, Mizuko, Kris GutiƩrrez, Sonia Livingstone, Bill Penuel, Jean Rhodes, Katie Salen, Juliet Schor, Julian Sefton-Green, S. Craig Watkins. 2013. Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hard Evidence for Flipping

I'm finding little on the Internet about flipping the composition classroom, and very little of that provides any hard evidence. In his 2012 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled How 'Flipping' the Classroom Can Improve the Traditional Lecture, Dan Berrett suggests that Humanities professors in general and literature professors specifically have a long tradition of flipping their classrooms. Berrett says:
Professors have flipped courses for decades. Humanities professors expect their students to read a novel on their own and do not dedicate class time to going over the plot. Class time is devoted to exploring symbolism or drawing out themes.
In her article So You Want to Start a Peer Online Writing Center? (2013), Christine Rosalia of Hunter College, the City University of New York,  associates a flipped reading and writing classroom with peer review techniques.
For classroom language teachers, the facilitation of peer review can be a rich and regenerating resource. With proper student training and structure, adding peer review to a class increases the amount and promptness of individualized instruction to writers. For example, in an efficient thirty minutes with a class of 30 writers a teacher can circulate the classroom making sure 30 writers get and give feedback on the ideas of their essay. In large classrooms, as Laurillard (2008) notes, each student would normally get as little as 5 minutes of individualized teacher attention per week. However, in a “flipped”[2] reading and writing classroom, in which a teacher sets up “reciprocal teaching” activities that include peer review, he or she is circulating around the room refining (and learning from) peer dialogues. The teacher is using peer feedback to notice information about the student reviewer and writer simultaneously (Paulus, 1999). How does the student use metacognitive strategies? How is the student summarizing theirs and others’ texts? How are they questioning, clarifying, and predicting as they read and write? Do they find one role–being a reviewer or the reviewee–easier? Is the dialogue real, encouraging, helpful, and productive?
In a footnote to her article, Rosalia defines the flipped classroom this way:
The “flipped classroom” is a term used by educational technologists to refer to an approach whereby the traditional PPP approach (teacher Presents, students Practice, students Produce as the teacher assesses) is reversed: the teacher gets students to produce (take a quiz or problem solve first), to help each other (practice), and then, students to present to each other. The initial lesson (teacher presentation) is replaced by asking students to do homework such as watching a youtube video lecture the night before classroom time.
Some suggest that the flipped classroom is not particularly effective. A 2007 Ohio State University dissertation by Jeremy Strayer compared a flipped class with a traditional class in a statistics course and found that students did not enjoy the flipped classroom as much as the traditional.

Howver, Cynthia J. Brame of Vanderbilt University's Center for Teaching lists a number of studies that support the flipped classroom in general. In her instructions to the faculty entitled Flipping the Classroom, she says:
Mazur and colleagues have published results suggesting that the PI method results in significant learning gains when compared to traditional instruction (2001). In 1998, Richard Hake gathered data on 2084 students in 14 introductory physics courses taught by traditional methods (defined by the instructor as relying primarily on passive student lectures and algorithmic problem exams), allowing him to define an average gain for students in such courses using pre/post-test data. Hake then compared these results to those seen with interactive engagement methods, defined as “heads-on (always) and hands-on (usually) activities which yield immediate feedback through discussion with peers and/or instructors” (Hake p. 65) for 4458 students in 48 courses. He found that students taught with interactive engagement methods exhibited learning gains almost two standard deviations higher than those observed in the traditional courses (0.48 +/- 0.14 vs. 0.23 +/- 0.04). Assessment of classes taught by the PI method provides evidence of even greater learning gains, with students in PI courses exhibiting learning gains ranging from 0.49 to 0.74 over eight years of assessment at Harvard University (Crouch and Mazur, 2001). Interestingly, two introductory physics classes taught by traditional methods during the assessment period at Harvard show much lower learning gains (0.25 in a calculus-based course in 1990 and 0.40 in an algebra-based course in 1999). 
Carl Wieman and colleagues have also published evidence that flipping the classroom can produce significant learning gains (Deslauriers et al., 2011). Wieman and colleagues compared two sections of a large-enrollment physics class. The classes were both taught via interactive lecture methods for the majority of the semester and showed no significant differences prior to the experiment. During the twelfth week of the semester, one section was “flipped,” with first exposure to new material occurring prior to class via reading assignments and quizzes, and class time devoted to small group discussion of clicker questions and questions that required written responses. Although class discussion was supported by targeted instructor feedback, no formal lecture was included in the experimental group. The control section was encouraged to read the same assignments prior to class and answered most of the same clicker questions for summative assessment but were not intentionally engaged in active learning exercises during class. During the experiment, student engagement increased in the experimental section (from 45 +/- 5% to 85 +/- 5% as assessed by four trained observers) but did not change in the control section. At the end of the experimental week, students completed a multiple choice test, resulting in an average score of 41 +/- 1% in the control classroom and 74 +/- 1% in the “flipped” classroom, with an effect size of 2.5 standard deviations. Although the authors did not address retention of the gains over time, this dramatic increase in student learning supports the use of the flipped classroom model.
So I will keep looking.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Any Proof?

Okay, so I obviously support the flipped classroom approach. I support it for all classes, but especially for composition and literature classes—the kind that I teach. However, do other composition and literature teachers support flipping the classroom? Why or why not? And is there any hard evidence that the flipped classroom works any better than the old, traditional lecture class? I should look into this.

Of course, I started with a Google search for flipping the writing class. I got about 10 pages of hits, so I glanced through them quickly to see if I could detect some sense of what people were saying online about flipping writing courses. Most of it seems anecdotal rather than rigorous study of the concept. There also seems to be some confusion about just what a flipped class is, which is not unusual for a new concept. For instance, one teacher—Shelley Wright a high school English, science and technology teacher from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan—wrote a post about why she gave up the flipped class. She says that at first she was excited about the flipped class, but "as this new way of learning played out over time, my students found they didn’t need me to locate or create videos for them. Instead, they learned how to learn, and they were able to find their own resources. For me, this was a much more important skill than following my directions or using the resources I told them to use." Ms. Wright seems to think that the flipped class is limited to her assigning outside reading and video lectures then drilling her students on the content when they gather in class. This is a very short-sighted view of the flipped classroom.

Ms. Wright goes on to say that "as this shift occurred, the flip simply disappeared from our classroom. It took almost a year for me to notice it was gone. Instead, our classroom had become a place where students discovered and shared their own resources, while engaging in projects with each other. There was no need for me to assign video homework or create portable lectures. It all happened during class." I don't think the flip disappeared, I just think it became the norm. This is the way all technology is. As Douglas Adams once observed, technology is stuff that doesn't work so well yet. When it works well, like the light switch in your bedroom, we don't notice it. I think, then, that Ms. Wright didn't get rid of the flipped class; rather, the flipped class started working so well that she and her students ceased to notice it. I think I'm beginning to get there in my classes.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Flip Got Game

I'm still getting some good stuff out of Eric Mazur's thoughts about the flipped classroom. The Twilight of the Lecture article says:
Mazur’s reinvention of the course drops the lecture model and deeply engages students in the learning/teaching endeavor. … Thus Mazur … asks students to think the problem through and commit to an answer, which each records using a handheld device (smartphones work fine), and which a central computer statistically compiles, without displaying the overall tally.
I like this particular technique, and I intend to use it in my classes, starting next week, so get ready, Scholars. A good game is coming.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Blogging on My iPhone

This will be a short post. I'm sitting in a medical office, waiting for an X-ray. Of course, I have some downtime, and I could do some work if I had my laptop, but I didn't bring it, so I'm doing my third post of the week ON MY SMARTPHONE (I told Ms. Marin not to use ALL CAPS because it reads like shouting, but in this case, I WANT TO SHOUT.) Add Blogger and Drive to your phone, as you never know when they'll come in handy. This is very handy. Enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

More Flip, Even Flippant

I like another quote from the Harvard Magazine article about Eric Mazur's change in teaching style:
Taking active learning seriously means revamping the entire teaching/learning enterprise—even turning it inside out or upside down. For example, active learning overthrows the “transfer of information” model of instruction, which casts the student as a dry sponge who passively absorbs facts and ideas from a teacher. This model has ruled higher education for 600 years, since the days of the medieval Schoolmen who, in their lectio mode, stood before a room reading a book aloud to the assembly—no questions permitted. The modern version is the lecture. 
Though it remains the dominant form of instruction in higher education and can sometimes become a real art form, the lecture may be on its last legs. “The hands-on interactive experience in a lab or an art studio is more powerful than a lecture, and can’t be replicated online,” says Logan McCarty, director of physical sciences education. “The stereotypical lecture where the professor is giving exposition of textbook-type material to the students—I think that type of exposition can be done better with online video or by an interactive-tutorial format.” Today at Harvard, many courses distribute lecture notes, and others post video recordings of lectures online. After hearing about Mazur’s approach to teaching, Weatherhead University Professor Gary King, a government scholar, started to make recorded lectures available before class, thus freeing class time for more active styles of instruction.
"Revamping the entire teaching/learning enterprise—even turning it inside out or upside down" is what flipped learning is all about. Some people believe that flipping the classroom moves the entire educational process onto the Internet and basically does away with the need for a face-to-face (f2f) classroom or teacher, but this is a big mistake. The flipped classroom does not do away with f2f learning; rather, it frees up f2f learning from the onerous burden of merely transferring information from teacher to student. And I say good riddance.

Some people also seem to believe that the flipped classroom might work for some topics, but not for composition. I think that composition is one of the ideal topics for a flipped class. In many respects, learning to write is similar to learning to paint a landscape or learning to play a piano. Very little knowledge about painting or playing can be communicated by lecture. One learns to paint by painting, to play by playing, and to write by writing. Only after one has some sense of painting, playing, or writing can one make sense of spoken instructions from a teacher.

For instance, I could do a lecture about how to format references in APA style, demonstrating various points on the board or in a PowerPoint, students could take notes before going home to try out the new information. My experience tells me that few students will learn much this way. Rather, I give students an online lecture about APA references, and then in class, the students help each other construct some references in APA style. My experience shows that they learn better by doing than by taking notes. And they do better in groups than alone. That's a flipped classroom.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Flipped Classroom

I have used a flipped classroom for the past three years, and I'm convinced of its efficacy, but not everyone is, especially not all of my students. Most leave my class fairly enthusiastic about the flipped classroom approach, but not all. I must do better, then, to help them understand it. You'd think this wouldn't be so difficult, as the concept is really rather simple: rather than delivering information locally (usually through classroom lectures) and then practicing it remotely (usually through homework), the flipped classroom delivers information remotely (through online lectures, readings, and exercises) and then practices it locally.

That's the flipped classroom in a nutshell: deliver information remotely, practice it locally. It seems easy, but after 12-15 years of learning in the old, traditional way, many students and teachers are uncomfortable with a flipped classroom.

Still, the movement toward flipped classrooms is growing. A Harvard Magazine article entitled Twilight of the Lecture talks about why Harvard physicist and Dean Eric Mazur has flipped his classroom:
[Mazur] asserts that he is “far more interested in learning than teaching,” and envisions a shift from “teaching” to “helping students learn.” The focus moves away from the lectern and toward the physical and imaginative activity of each student in class. Interactive pedagogy, for example, turns passive, note-taking students into active, de facto teachers who explain their ideas to each other and contend for their points of view. (“The person who learns the most in any classroom,” Mazur declares, “is the teacher.”) Thousands of research studies on learning indicate that “active learning is really at a premium. It’s the most effective thing,” says Terry Aladjem, executive director of the Bok Center and lecturer on social studies. “That means focusing on what students actually do in the classroom, or in some other learning environment. From cognitive science, we hear that learning is a process of moving information from short-term to long-term memory; assessment research has proven that active learning does that best.” Active learners take new information and apply it, rather than merely taking note of it. Firsthand use of new material develops personal ownership. When subject matter connects directly with students’ experiences, projects, and goals, they care more about the material they seek to master.
Mazur, I think, captures the heart of the revolution: shifting focus away from what the teacher knows (or doesn't know) and toward what the student is learning. Now, clearly Mazur knows physics, but that isn't the point of education. His students need to know physics, and like me, Mazur has already proven to himself that standing in front of the class and talking does NOT transfer knowledge to students. It can transfer a bit of information, but not real knowledge. It often doesn't even transfer information. I can tell my classes to do a simple task such as title a document in a particular way, and even write it on the board for them, and way too many still get it wrong. My students are not dense or even inattentive; rather, the lecture process is poor at transferring knowledge from my head to theirs.

So the flipped classroom reverses all of this, turning the focus of the class away from the teacher and toward the student. Unfortunately, lots of students don't like that focus. They prefer to sit anonymously in the back of the room pretending to take notes while the professor rattles on and on. The flipped classroom really messes with that kind of learning strategy.