Students who come to a flipped classroom have been assigned to read materials or view a video lecture in advance—the better to tackle higher-order cognitive work during class such as solving problems, untangling thorny concepts, and conducting hands-on laboratory exercises. Flipped learning encourages instructors to act as a “guide on the side” while students use class time to put their independently learned content to work.
A vibrant spin on venerable strategies “The case studies lead into an eye-opening, flipped-style discussion as students use the resources at their disposal to build an argument and reach a conclusion, with little to no input from me.” -Catherine Newell
“I wanted them to engage with the human element of the criminal justice system and to challenge their own preexisting ideas about it.” -Nick Petersen
“There’s a cohort of faculty members who are working with our students in non-traditional ways.” -Joanna Johnson “They have helped my students explore more robust multimodal tools for online and in-person presentations.” -Adina Sanchez-Garcia
In some ways, and for some disciplines, flipped learning is not all that new. “Flipped learning has been commonplace in the humanities for many years where students read texts ahead of time and use the class period to analyze them,” says Leonidas G. Bachas, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Now, through a variety of innovative pedagogical methods, it is being applied effectively to the sciences as well.” Fostering that trend is an unprecedented array of available technologies. Several enterprising professors in the College of Arts and Sciences are taking up the challenge of using these tools in effective ways to engage students more deeply in classroom activities. They are discovering in the process that flipped teaching is much more than technical bells and whistles. It demands a great deal of reflective practice and a variety of carefully designed activities that promote critical thinking inside and outside the classroom. Catherine Newell, an assistant professor of religious studies, uses assigned readings of detailed case studies on assisted suicide, abortion, genetic testing, and cloning to provide fodder for discussion in her class on religion and bioethics. “The case studies lead into an eye-opening, flipped-style discussion as students use the resources at their disposal to build an argument and reach a conclusion, with little to no input from me,” says Newell. “We have productive and intelligent conversations that are organic and student-led.” Newell was invited to participate in a Knight Foundation-funded Faculty Showcase coordinated by the University’s Academic Technologies team. The free mini-conference focused on empowering faculty to optimize interpersonal elements of flipped learning. More than 100 attendees explored the use of narrative techniques, innovative teaching strategies, and educational technologies ranging from student-generated media and digital storytelling to virtual reality and 3-D printing to enrich coursework, increase student engagement, and enhance learning. Newell and Arts and Sciences colleague Nick Petersen, an assistant professor of sociology, were among a group of faculty members named as narrative-technique fellows for their championing of problem-based learning, open-ended questions, and role-playing activities in the classroom. Petersen has adopted a hybrid approach that combines active in-class learning with interactive technologies familiar to digitally native students. For his course on criminal justice, he created a series of video lectures. After his students watch the video lectures online, they come to class prepared to have challenging, small-group conversations based on preassigned questions. “In a lecture environment, students can be anonymous,” Petersen says. “With this collaborative model, our time is better spent in discussion, and students find the value in learning from their peers.” Petersen also asked students to create podcasts to capture their reactions and reflections after a trip to Miami-Dade County’s Pre-Trial Detention Center. By allowing them to assess the experience through visual, aural, and textual means, he says, “I wanted them to engage with the human element of the criminal justice system and to challenge their own preexisting ideas about it.”