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Flipped Classroom

Cornell Experiments With the Flipped Classroom

Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, is one of the latest higher education institutions to explore the flipped classroom concept. As part of the university's Active Learning Initiative (ALI), this past semester nearly 3,000 students participated in the pilot program involving physics and biology classes.

With the flipped classroom, traditional lecture classes are eschewed and students watch videos or read assigned material in advance of the class instead. That gives instructors the opportunity to use class time for what they are calling "deliberate practice," problem solving, examining case studies and discussion.

The instructors are also using audience response systems like Poll Everywhere during class to gauge students' success at comprehending the course content.

"Ongoing assessment is a key element of active learning," said Lisa Sanfilippo, a teaching support specialist at Cornell.

The ALI program is a five-year pilot project funded by Cornell alumni, Alex and Laura Hanson. Those involved in the initiative said it helps every student: Advanced students are able to delve deeper into the course material than they might have otherwise, midrange students have more exposure to the material, and students who are struggling have the chance to study the material at their own speed in advance of the class.

Although one semester of experience is not enough to draw any firm conclusions about the program, Associate Professor Julia Thom-Levy said, "I would never go back to the old approach. Active learning is a game changer in teaching."

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.

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