Successful organic chemistry teaching


© Shutterstock

Flipped teaching remains an area of great interest, with more teachers adopting the approach at school and university levels. For those asking the question ‘does it really work?’, two recent papers by Flynn1 (Ottawa, Canada) and Fautch2 (Philadelphia, US), shed light on the impact of flipping organic chemistry teaching. The focus of this summary is on Flynn’s paper.

The study relates to two organic chemistry courses, each involving about 400 students, and a spectroscopy course taught to 157 students. The rationale for the flip, as ever, was to use class time for interactive activities that promote student engagement and deeper learning. Lecture material was delivered to students in the form of videos to watch before class along with accompanying reading. The students then completed online pre-class tests. Students’ responses were reviewed and the findings used to inform the design of in-class activities and questions that would be used in the next face-to-face session. This allowed the instructor to identify weaknesses and then tackle misconceptions through strategies such as think-pair-share and predict-observe-explain.

The evaluation utilised Guskey’s framework, which probes the impact of the intervention on five levels including aspects such as student satisfaction, attainment of learning goals and behaviour changes arising from the learning experience. The results were strikingly positive, with many useful insights into the benefits experienced by student and teacher alike. Students felt that doing problems in class prepared them better for assignments and that the pre-class tests kept them ‘on top of the game’. The lack of negative comments was a surprise to the author, who expected that some students would resist the flipped model.

A comparison of exam marks showed that there was a small, but statistically significant, improvement on adoption of the flipped model, but it is noted that the use of a concept inventory would be a more robust way of measuring improvements in the attainment of learning goals. Analysis also showed that the risk of failure fell by more than 10% when the course was flipped, supporting the assertion that the approach is beneficial to learning. Although there are still many questions to be answered, this study clearly contributes a lot to the debate around the benefits of the flipped model, notably in shedding light on the intricacies of organic chemistry.