Flipping the Classroom Day 3

What is active learning?

At its core, active learning is an approach which emphasizes the active engagement of students in the learning process.  As explained by Conrad and Donaldson (2011:1): “Engaged learning is not a new instructional approach. It has been written about under various terms such as active learning, social cognition, constructivism, and problem-based learning, all of which emphasize student-focused learning within an instructor-facilitated environment.”

This approach focuses on the activities and ways students engage with the material and how they can make it relevant to their own circumstances and it will de-emphasize the role of one-way content transmission (such as a long lecture), and encourage peer and collaborative work along with activities.

How do we apply this in a flipped model?

As we’ve looked at in some of the previous posts, this approach involves using face-to-face time in the classroom on problem solving, collaborative learning, working through case studies or experiments, or developing projects. There are a wide range of possible activities you can introduce into your classes. Many of the comments in the previous two modules asked about the feasibility of flipped models for large classes of several hundred students.  In many disciplines, this is already common practice in tutorials, workshops, and practical or lab-based sessions (which are smaller in student numbers and set up for interaction already), but it can also be done during large theatre-style lecture settings for large classes. The key point is to use the class time is used to practice and apply the knowledge the students learned in their pre-work videos or readings.

This video, from the University of Michigan, looks at some quick and easy strategies for checking student knowledge and engaging them in the learning process using classroom assessment tasks, which can be applied in lectures as well as small-group teaching.

Designing active learning activities in the classroom

There are a huge range of potential activities you could try, many of which do not require significant extra time to prepare. Check out some of the 29 suggestions in this resource from Chemistry at California State University. Some of them are as easy as asking students to brainstorm a response to a question you pose with their neighbour, and then voting with hands up.

Technologies for active learning

Students often have devices with them in class. You can take advantage of phones, laptops, and tablets to use audience response and polling tools to facilitate active learning. Common options include:

  • PollEverywhere (students can text-in their responses from their mobile phones)
  • Socrative (a quiz app for all devices)
  • Padlet (an interactive whiteboard, which we used in module 1 for introductions)

There are also several Wattle (Moodle) tools which can be used through your course site. Here are a few or you can see a complete list on our website:

  • Choice (simple polling tool for student responses)
  • OU Wiki (students can work collaboratively on a document or brainstorm ideas)
  • Forum (great for discussion or responding to questions or resources)
  • Database (students can collaboratively share resources and comment on them)
  • Glossary (students can collaboratively generate shared definitions of key terms)
  • Group selection (organise students into groups for projects or team-based activities)

Read more

Share your ideas

  • In the list of activities, are there ones that would work well for your courses?
  • What technologies or strategies would you use to apply them?
  • What are some of the challenges you foresee when trying these strategies?
  • How might you deal with students who don’t have access to devices?

29 thoughts on “Flipping the Classroom Day 3

  1. I particularly like the idea of Cats as an entry tool into the classroom.

    It can be comprised of some very 1) simple questions used to encourage and assess whether students have actually looked at the material as well as 2) some more detailed questions to ascertain whether students understand the material.

  2. That is a terrific list of ideas from the California State University. I guess I’m struck by the fact that in flipping the classroom – it might be easy to fixate on what you do with the resource material – but actually planning what students will actually do in the classroom (instead of listening to a lecture) would require as much work or more as developing the resources.

  3. I teach mainly on the hospital wards in small groups where much of the session is some form of assessment. Eg patient history or examination. For most of this it is done one student at a time. The challenge is keeping them all interested and making sure all have learn from each other.

  4. This is really good stuff. I can see some of the active learning activities align really well with Adult Learning theory. In my case, I can see the Immediate Feedback, Share/Pair and Cooperative Learning
    Exercises being great techniques for our courses.

  5. I like the idea of the Class Assessemnt Techniques (CAT). This strategy could be implemented well with poll anywhere in lectures. The anonymous way students can give you instantaneous feedback on areas they are having difficulty with would be good. Despite teaching large courses, sometimes not everyone will ask questions in front of other students, so a poll system so I can give feedback to everyone rather than one on one would be great.

  6. Some interesting ideas today. Food for thought over the weekend!
    One of my tutors uses Socrative multi-choice quizzes, which he makes up himself while preparing for the tutorial, at the beginning of each tutorial. He loves to do this. I have tried it myself in the past, but was not convinced that it was a good use of time during the tutorial. Rather, I prefer to put such quizzes on the website for students to do in their own time, leaving tutorial time for collaborative work.

  7. Top set of ideas for activities – resources are important but without something to do, the students might as well just go to a well curated library or website. Providing the resources is also no guarantee that students will use them, so keeping them engaged (and on their toes) offers an extra incentive.

    The smaller activities like asking a second student to summarise the first student’s answer seem particularly useful.

    If anyone at ANU is interested in using PollEverywhere, drop me a line – happy to help you out.

    1. Hi Colin,

      I’m at ANU and interested in using PollEverywhere in my classes, however the class is bigger than the free version. Do you know if ANU has a site licence for it?

      1. Hi Brendan, I don’t think there is a license for the whole university but I know certain areas (schools, colleges) have their own licenses. I’m not sure about your areas though? Hopefully soon the ANU will be moving to Echo360 Active Learning Platform (ALP), which includes those sorts of features included with the lecture recordings. It might be a good idea to contact Colin directly though – sounds like he can help!

  8. In one class i took in semester 1 I ran what might be called a minute paper. I did tow things with the results, firstly i went through and reviewed the issues that students raised and gave it a grade (although the item wasn’t assessed). I then distributed the students work (anonymously) and had each student review two other papers and to give them a grade. I thought it worked well as it gave me feedback on the students’ work and also gave the students’ an idea of how others approached the question, the effort they put into the answer and some interesting contrasting views.

  9. CATS are a good way to understand whether the student has done the pre work and/or how much they have understood. I teach the tutorials and often find time can be very tight. So I decide what needs to be reviewed that week. I then randomly choose students to discuss the topics from the angle of what is important and what they need clarified. I keep going till all the topics are covered.

  10. Thanks for the CATS ideas – I plan to try out the one minute paper on Thursday along with pairing up to work through an example question.

    I like the idea of one student paraphrasing another’s answer to a question. That sounds like a great way to clarify, test and reinforce understanding of a concept. This could be used both for a bite-sized and simple idea or step in a process and with multiple students to piece together threads or aspects of a more complex concept.

  11. I really like the idea of incorporating CATs into lessons! Katie showed us socrative in one of the PDT sessions and it seems like such a great way to ensure you’re teaching at the right pace. I’m intrigued about whether or not it works during tutorials and have added it to the list of things to look into for next week’s classes!

    I can see the potential benefit in using minute papers or other CATs both before and during the teaching to a) see how students are progressing, and b) see how their preconceptions about the subject matter change as you go along.

  12. After watching & reading day 3 information here, I started thinking about using some activities in the list here.
    There are several technologies and apps are useful, but sometimes, it is hard to use in the language class, because the main language is English. However, I can think about some other activities using this technologies later.
    Today’s class helps me to extend my teaching style using the idea of flipping the classroom.
    Thank you.

  13. I have tried the handing out of slips of paper in the past to obtain anonymous questions from students (as mentioned in Class Assessment Techniques (CAT) video. It worked okay for those struggling with topic matters and have always considered other polling tools but never tried. If we did I would probably stay in the Wattle environment for ‘consistency sake’. I would like to see a site that has used them and where they ‘live’ within the site.

  14. Ah! I have often use the ‘muddiest point’ technique in my teaching, but did not realise it was called a ‘CAT’ or was part of a ‘family’ of these types of techniques. I find it incredibly useful in order to customise the content of tutorials, and to also establish a reciprocal dynamic between teacher and student. That is, if they provide comment/questions I always make sure to feed back in return.
    I have seen Socrative used very effectively in large and small classroom situations and as a scaffold for prompting verbal discussion in classrooms with very shy and reluctant groups. I have not yet used it myself as a teacher, but hope to do have opportunity to do so, so I can try it out fully.
    My concern with a fully flipped model is that what happens if you repeatedly find that your student group has not engaged with the pre-class/activity content? That potentially means that you would be constantly shifting back to content learning (even if activities) rather than having full opportunity to extend beyond this. I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions regarding this.

  15. I find the CATs video very useful. Thank you for sharing this resource.

    I have the same concern as Stephanie Kizimchuk with the flipped model. What do you do if students never read/watch or engage with the “homework”? EVERY TIME. As the CRLT video says, “You end up answering your own question.”

    I have seen Law and Medicine use Poll Everywhere when they use cases in lectures. They would present the legal or medical case then do a quick poll or multiple choice question for the whole class to answer. This gives the lecturer an idea of where everybody’s knowledge is at and how to approach the discussion.

    When using Poll Everywhere and active learning became a thing, I was actually very skeptical. Students using their device and typing in their answers to a poll question does not make a class interactive and does not mean there is active learning. What you do with the results of the poll or quiz and how you use it during the lecture can foster active learning.

    I recently attended a clinician’s lecture which I think was very clever in incorporating active learning without actually using any technology. She used the power of storytelling and the students were part of the story.

    She asked everybody to stand. Then she said, please sit down if you have never travelled on a plane. Then remain standing if in one of your flights you heard an announcement asking if there is a doctor on board. Remain standing if you ever had to respond to the call. Interestingly, there was one student who did respond and she shared her experience to the class. The lecturer proceeded to describe a case and asked the students to talk in groups and discuss how they would respond to such a situation. The auditorium was a buzz in discussion and every body was telling their own story. It was a pity that the class was in an auditorium and it was really difficult to talk in groups. Nevertheless, the activity was completed in just 10 minutes and students were asked to share their answers. And of course, if they read the readings before coming to class (the flipped part), they would know how to respond to such a situation.

    Learning a lot from this course so far 🙂

  16. What a great list of techniques from Cal State! I tend to overuse pair work, so it’s useful to see other ideas. I wrote down 3 for myself today. Fishbowl is a nice way to get students to think about what it is that they still don’t quite understand, and the anonymity encourages the shy ones to participate as well. Having students to come up with Quiz questions for review sounds like a great time-saver. Note comparison will also work well in my class. I teach coding and many students do not annotate their codes well, so they could definitely learn from each other in this regard.

  17. Some activities I already incorporate into my classes include role play, discussion, and cooperative groups. Moving forward, I would like to start getting students to evaluate each others’ work. All of these techniques require no more technology than a paper and pen. As such, I haven’t encountered situations of inaccessibility to devices. The main challenge to all of these activities is ensuring that students have come prepared. When they inevitably have not held up their end of the flipped classroom deal, the fun begins, and I get to become creative in teaching without lecturing.

  18. Almost all of the list of activities from Cal state could work in the kinds of classes I teach. In particular in the flipped classroom model. I have tried using some of them before, such as the fishbowl, but with the time constraints made by teaching the content in classes, we never actually got around to responding to the student questions.

    Lots of these ideas looked like they could be implemented without devices, which is very useful if there were lots of students in a class who did not have access to a device of some description. I feel like in the flipped method, if you needed to, you could move (smaller) classes to computer labs, if you wanted to implement technology as part of the understanding process. If there was only one student or so without technology, I would simply ensure that the technology I used would accommodate them — for example, using polleverywhere would still be okay because the student could still answer the question, even if their data didn’t show on the poll. Or questions could be answered in pairs with only one student needing to send the response.

  19. Thanks for the resources – great to get some more inspiration to integrate a variety of activities where relevant. I have found students have really enjoyed and appreciated the formative assessment opportunities and feedback – both outside and inside the classroom. Whilst I really like the theory of reviewing student answers/data analytics prior to the face-to-face activity to inform the delivery of the face-to-face session to ensure problem areas are addressed…..I have found this more difficult to implement in practice as I have tended to give students right up until the teaching session to do the pre-learning and associated quiz to maximise their completion…..I need to reflect on how to manage this better for both myself and students .

  20. An idea that I can use which I am 95% will work is the glossary, with students generating content themselves. This was raised in another Coffee course and I’m more and more enthused by it. I am zero percent worried that students will participate, and I know that the quality will be great. I say this because in my experience, students are here to learn. After 5 years of teaching at ANU, undergrad and postgrad, I realised that my initial worries about accessibility to technology and more importantly ‘students trying to get out of doing work’, are just not playing out in today’s classrooms. Everyone has multiple devices and knows how to use them, especially students with specific needs (they tend to be the early adopters of tech precisely because they have more hurdles to get around). And can we please stop perpetuating this myth, common across teachers, that students are always trying to get out of doing work and tend to drag their feet etc etc? I just do not see this. Recalcitrant students, in the tiny minority, don’t turn up to class anyway. Those that do in the main have committed time and money to attend uni, most work part time, some have traveled huge distances, let’s respect that and stop giving students a bad name. To this end, I see a lot of value in student-generated content, from mini interviews that I’ve tasked my students with posting to wattle where they ask the questions of experts we meet during our course, through to experimenting with podcasts as a way of engaging with assessment tasks and structuring their thinking in a very different way to a traditional essay. The glossary really appeals to me, because it is simple – Wattle has the functionalities all set up to make this appear as if by magic in three clicks – and because it has longevity. Students can take away a glossary and keep it from the duration of their studies, rather than having a one-off assessment task that basically disappears once it has been marked. The biggest hurdle for these types of work is the technology. Students are here to learn, don’t worry about them not coming to the party. If I can respectfully challenge my colleagues, I would say – if students are not engaged, is that a reflection on them, or on the quality of the teaching materials and course content?

  21. I am particularly taken by the idea of an anonymous in-class one minute essay. I’d love to try this in lectures when I’ve just attempted to explain a complicated theoretical point and I’d get them to try to summarise the concept. I could then read out the essays which get close to correct, or which raise further interesting points for discussion. This lesson has given me a couple of activities for tutorials next week, too. I’m struggling to get the students to contribute to discussions at the moment, so I think some of the ideas here will be very helpful.

  22. CATs are great – I especially like the collaborative ones.
    My go-to is a very simple one: at the start of class, I would ask my students (who sit in groups of 3-5) to have a 5-minute “buzz-session” about the distance component. A bit like the ‘Minute Paper/Muddiest Point’ – but in groups and orally! I would sometimes ask them to write the salient points of the discussion on an index card and hand it in – but not always…. My class sizes were 15-35 students, so I actually had a chance to walk around and listen to most of the groups. I found it to be a really great way to get feedback on the distance component, and to better understand what my students struggled with or which activities they enjoyed doing.

  23. Last year I used Echo360ALP at the start of each lecture to revise concepts covered in the previous lecture. A couple of things became apparent as the students became aware that this would be happening on a regular basis. At first, most students would participate, using their phones or tablets to submit their answers. They didn’t like to submit incorrect answers however, and would change their responses when it became obvious that they had “voted” the wrong way! From observation, the engagement of the students with the content was much higher when I started a lecture with a quiz. It provided an opportunity to discuss concepts where there were a number of students who initially may have responded incorrectly and, because during the time they were engaged with their devices I was silent, they would assist each other and compare and discuss their responses. Strangely enough, the novelty of online submission wore off after a number of lectures starting this way, and a lesser number of students would actually submit responses – this didn’t stop their engagement with the process however, and even in these later lectures in the series, the students were much more receptive and in the right headspace to start learning the next concept. In contrast, I have observed a fairly poor outcome in a flipped classroom where something resembling the Socratic method was used to… (actually I’m not sure of the lecturer’s motivation). Students felt so threatened by the process that they simply stopped attending lectures, and would listen to the recording instead. Perhaps there is something to be said for anonymity.
    I found the idea of clarification pauses particularly interesting. Because many of my lectures are very content heavy, a break of this type would allow for assimilation of one idea before charging into the next. It also would allow me to approach groups of students who wouldn’t normally ask or answer questions during lectures.

  24. In my classroom, some carefully chosen and compressed real-life minicases work really well. I tend to use the same imaginary but realistic companies/organisations over the 12 weeks facing different stages of a networked information systems project.

  25. I have used PollEverywhere in lectures and found this a useful tool to break up the session and get students to work individually or together and apply some of the concepts immediately to examples. Students like this approach but I had to be careful not to overuse the tool and mix it up with other activities. All the students appeared to have devices and those who wanted to access the quiz on a larger screen would buddy up with someone near them.

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