Aiming for a post-lecture future

October 21, 2013

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The Flipped Classroom starts with one question: "What is the best use of my face-to-face class time?"


-Jonathan Bergmann, Pioneer of the Flipped Classroom Education model

Rows of empty lecture-style seats

A recent article from The Atlantic caught my eye: The Post-Lecture Classroom: How will students fare? 

From my own experience, albeit anecdotal, I have seen that when a flipped model is implemented strategically, students adapt to the new learning model and recognize its advantage in preparing them for future learning. I was interested in reading the results of one of the first quasi-experimental, year over year studies of the Flipped Classroom Model.

A few caveats by way of my critical analysis antennae. First the study was funded in part by Echo360 Inc., a edtech start-up that has developed lecture capture technology to allow instructors to easily video record  lectures along with any computer output or presentation. Secondly, the study looked at three cohorts of first-year students in the same Doctor of Pharmacy program. These two points I'll let stand alone on their own merit or fault.

Comparing performance results on an identical final exam, there was an increase of 2.5% between the scores of the first cohort who were taught with a traditional PowerPoint supplemented lecture and the flipped classroom model employed with the second cohort. A third cohort was tested the following year, and the scores increased another 2.6%. Again, the critical analysis antennae start buzzing, but the results are worthy of further examination.

Students in the first cohort went to the 90-minute class twice a week and heard a lecture emphasized with PowerPoint slides. This model is the current iteration of the college course lecture - one familiar to most university students and instructors.

Ask the quintessential question posed by Jonathan Bergmann, pioneer of the Flipped Classroom Model. What is the best use of my face-to-face class time?

In this case, with these pharmacy doctoral students, the answer was a review of the brief lecture modules the students watched the previous night using multiple-choice questions and student response systems. This way class time could be used to address gaps in understanding or misconceptions. Sure, some of the 90 minutes was still used to lecture a bit, but these were targeted explanations that provided students information they needed and wanted to know in that moment. After the content was presented (in the form of videos watched before class and the classroom follow-up explanations), half of the class time was used to challenge students with application questions related to the content. Students in worked in groups to discuss answers and then shared the findings with the class. Activities that might never happen, or happen consistently, in a lecture-driven class model.

From my own time sitting in one of those lecture seats and from my educational research and time consulting with faculty, I have an idea that the best use of class time is rarely 15 weeks of PowerPoint-driven lectures. Do some students succeed in this model? Absolutely. Do some students prefer this model? Once again, absolutely. However, I would challenge those same students and the professors who teach them to ask, "What is the best use of my face-to-face class time?" The strategic implementation of the answers that question evokes may lead us to some form of post-lecture future.

[Image courtesy of smokedsalmon/]

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