Flipping the Classroom

Even the math-phobic begin to like math class.

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Have you given any thought to flipping your classroom?  Maybe you work with apprentices in the construction trades, and are looking for ways to make your related-subject classes more student-focused?  I have tried a few ideas in some of my classes already, and they seem to be working.  Some of my objectives in flipping the classroom include:

  • To remove some of the power imbalance in the math/science classroom, given that the students are adults (especially when higher levels of apprentices are involved);
  • To make the material feel more relevant, and friendly, to the students;
  • To allow students to work at their own paces, within the time allotted for the course; and,
  • To reduce or eliminate the need for homework, other than to study for tests.

What I have tried already is to give the students all of the course material at the beginning, and explain what is expected of them along the way and at the end of the course.   I do this by preparing a booklet that guides the students through the material, mostly by way of exercises for them to do, along with some notes about references for them to read.  I have used this method in classes in Level 3 and 4 with students from three trades.  Students appreciate the ability to work at their own pace and to manage their own time according to the changing workload levels imposed from other courses.  By the later levels of apprenticeship, much of the groundwork has been laid in math and science courses and the students are feeling more motivated and independent, so they like to have more control of class time, and to have the possibility to avoid having to do homework on their own time.  I have also made my test dates more flexible, so that as long as we get the objectives met in time, the class can tell me when they are ready to write the tests.  With this set-up, my role is to move quietly about the classroom to see how students are doing and intervene only as needed.  Regarding my intervention, I try to keep it to a minimum, but when I find that a large part of the class is struggling with a topic, I will take a few minutes to explain/clarify what is causing the problem and discuss with them how to overcome it.  Even in that though, I try to get the class to spot the solution and tell me what it is, rather than just spoon-feed them by direct lecturing.  From the students’ perspective I have become a helper, an ally, and “the math coach”, as opposed to an authority figure who has to be suspected/distrusted.  Even the math-phobic begin to like math class.

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1 thought on “Flipping the Classroom”

  1. I enjoyed reading this insightful post about your teaching methods. I especially like your idea about making all the course material available at the beginning while outlining expectations and benchmarks, so that students can work at their own pace. This idea appeals to me and I can see the benefit to students who are juggling heavy workloads in other courses.

    There are students of varying levels of experience and ability in my courses and your approach seems like a good method of allowing students to work at a pace suited to their abilities. In your experience, how do you support, or motivate the students who leave assignments to the last minute, often turning in poor work, because they decide to focus on other classes where the instructors seem more strict and formal in their approach to coursework and deadlines? Thanks for the insights.

    -Chris

    Liked by 1 person

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