Monday, September 23, 2013

The Post-Lecture Classroom

A recent article in The Atlantic discusses "The Post-Lecture Classroom" and asks "How will students fare?" As an example, the article references Russell Mumper, Vice Dean of the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Mumper uses a flipped model in his classroom:
At home, before class, students watched brief lecture modules, which introduced them to the day’s content. They also read a textbook — the same, introductory-level book as in 2011 — before they arrived. 
When they got to class, Mumper would begin by asking them “audience response” questions. He’d put a multiple-choice question about the previous night’s lectures on a PowerPoint slide and ask all the students to respond via small, cheap clickers. He’d then look at their response, live, as they answered, and address any inconsistencies or incorrect beliefs revealed. Maybe 50 percent of the class got the wrong answer to one of these questions: This gave him an opportunity to lecture just enough so that students could understand what they got wrong. 
Then, the class would split up into pairs, and Mumper would ask them a question which required them to apply the previous night’s content, such as: “Given your knowledge of the skin and transdermal delivery, describe how you might treat this patient who had breakthrough cancer pain.” The pairs would discuss an answer, then share their findings with the class. At the end of that section, Mumper would go over any points relevant to the question which he felt the class failed to bring up.
Yes, this is Active Learning Classrooms. In short, Active Learning Classrooms (also Technology-Enhanced Active Learning Classrooms, or Flipped Classrooms) changes how students and faculty interact in the classroom. In an Active Learning Classroom ("ALC") work previously done in the classroom is now done outside the classroom, and activities traditionally done outside the classroom now occur in the ALC. Students learn in a more engaged model on their own, typically through recorded lecture or interactive media, then return to the ALC to interact with a cohort of other students to exercise what they have learned.

Through ALCs, student performance is often improved, students are more engaged, and students have direct access to their instructor when working through exercises (instead of having no one to ask when working alone, or when working in late-night study groups). However, ALCs are not a panacea in education. In an ALC mode, students must complete the prep work before class, faculty must restructure courses to support flipped classrooms, and institutions must provide spaces suitable for ALCs. Access to technology may also be a hindrance, both in the classroom (when faculty must work through technical glitches on their own) and in the dorm (students must have a computer to watch the recorded lectures).

The article from The Atlantic covers a study of the effectiveness of Active Learning Classrooms:
A three-year study examining student performance in a “flipped classroom” — a class in which students watch short lecture videos at home and work on activities during class time — has found statistically significant gains in student performance in “flipped” settings and significant student preference for “flipped” methods.

The study examined three years of a foundational pharmaceutics course, required for all doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) students attending UNC. In 2011, Mumper taught the course in a standard, PowerPoint-aided lecture format. In 2012 and 2013, he taught it using “flipped” methods. Student performance on an identical final exam improved by 2.5 percent between 2011 and 2012—results now in press at Academic Medicine—and by an additional 2.6 percent in 2013. Overall, student performance on an identical final exam improved between 2011 and 2013 by 5.1 percent. 
Students also came to prefer the flipped model to the lecture model. While 75 percent of students in 2012 said, before Mumper’s class, that they preferred lectures, almost 90 percent of students said they preferred the flipped model after the class.
At Morris, our faculty are beginning to use Active Learning Classrooms, although adoption is currently limited. I'm excited to see our experiment with ALCs at Morris. Nancy Carpenter (Chemistry) took a year sabbatical to restructure her lectures to use an ALC. Plant Services, Computing Services, and Instructional & Media Technology worked in partnership with the Division of Science & Math to rebuild one of our Science classrooms as a flexible Active Learning Classroom. The new space uses whiteboards throughout the room, two projectors, tablets, and flexible-use tables to create a flipped classroom - which can also be used as a traditional lecture room by other faculty who are not ready to adopt the ALC mode. We'll use this ALC for the first time this Fall.

Working independently, the Instructional & Media Technology group also has re-imagined one of the studios in the Humanities & Fine Arts building as a Technology-Enhanced Active Learning Classroom. IMT hopes to see this new space used by faculty this year.

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