Discussions from the magazine, website and social media

Implementing flipped teaching


In February we launched our new blog. Our chief blogger is Michael Seery, lecturer in physical chemistry at the Dublin Institute of Technology. He tweeted:

@michaelkls: So excited to be part of the new blog. Get involved! What do you think? What do you want to see? #chemed

Michael’s first post was on implementing a flipped classroom. He described various active learning techniques that can be incorporated into lessons to reinforce pre-lecture material, and his own success on implementing them. Readers across social media platforms joined the discussion.

Bhavik Patel, lecturer in physical and analytical chemistry at the University of Brighton, tweeted: 

@BhavikAnilPatel: been flip teaching for over four years with an array of concepts. Works a treat as supported by our metrics.

On LinkedIn, Julie Pfordresher, a chemistry tutor in the Greater Boston area, US, gave us her experience:

I spent a lot of time explaining to the parents and students WHY I used the flipped classroom. I truly feel that learning comes through struggle. It is far too easy for students to copy my notes off the boards, as I explain them, nod to themselves and say ‘yep, I get it’ and then completely fail to understand it when they try on their own. Trying it first on their own made them think it through and then we’d spend about half our class time the next day going through the homework and finding the gaps in the knowledge.

As on our new website, you can add your comments to the blog post itself. Simon Lancaster, senior lecturer at the University of East Anglia, told us of his experience and gave us some questions to think about:

I’d like to reiterate that flipping is a concept, not a recipe and there are as many ways to flip as there are to prepare potatoes. Like you, I don’t pretend to be at the end of this journey, I don’t expect to ever arrive at perfection.
Although I got into lecture flipping from the direction of having been recording lectures already I now believe how you prepare for a flipped session is less important than what you aim to achieve in your contact time.

Go online to find out the questions Simon uses to help him prepare for a flipped lesson.

Also on the blog, Ng Yee  Ling had a very positive story to tell:

I tried flipping my Year 6 A-level chemistry lessons and I have since become a convert of the flipped classroom. In addition to having lessons with my students twice a week, I chose to flip one lesson a week. I am convinced that the flipped classroom is effective in curriculum delivery if we rationalise the need or advantages of flipping to our students AND if we put in conscientious effort not to record long sessions. My students have given very positive feedback on the flipped lessons.

Take a look at our other blog posts on screencasts and The impact of innovations in teaching. Articles by Michael and guest bloggers will be published regularly. If you would like to be considered for a guest blog spot, please send your ideas to the editor.

Follow us on your favourite social media platform to find out first what’s on the blog.

Atoms in need

In the last issue David Read reported on research from the US into anthropomorphism in teaching. In this paper Vicente Talanquer investigated the effect of explanations such as ‘atoms want a full outer shell’ and their effects on the explanatory preferences of students He found that students across all stages of education, including postgraduates, showed a strong preference for teleological over causal explanations. Vicente suggested that instruction could aim to develop students’ metacognitive skills to help them to moderate their responses through analytical reasoning.

Again, this opened up discussion across the social media. Brian Smith, associate professor of chemistry at Heidelberg University, US, said on Facebook:

I ‘want and need’ my students to understand the behaviour of atoms, whatever it takes!

On our LinkedIn group, Matt Karasu, a science teacher in Spokane, Washington, US, commented:

It seems that there are many small lies we tell our high school and freshman students in order to get an understanding of how the pieces work together.

Are we doing a disservice to our students by not telling them in no uncertain terms that what we are about to tell them is a mental construct and not the full and unvarnished truth?

A question which Eric Scerri, chemistry lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles, US, answered:

No we are not. To do so would be to expect undue sophistication from students which has taken us a lifetime to appreciate.

Also on LinkedIn, Eugenije Jelacic Janezic, a science teacher at the International School of Verona, Italy, said:

Teaching is done in logical steps that follow the evolution of students’ knowledge and their capacity to understand and absorb concepts and make necessary connections. This does not mean that we must use ‘small lies’ just to help understand a concept. There are so many examples of natural phenomena that can be told in simple terms and help understand other, more complex phenomena – be used as analogies. There is nothing wrong in being a little anthropomorphic if the aim is to ‘revitalize’ the lesson, but using only this type of tactics, as I see it, is counterproductive. Personally, I prefer even a simplified truth rather than a metaphor.

Take a look at this issue’s CPD article for advice on avoiding common misconceptions when teaching chemical bonding.