Flipped Classroom

3 Ways to Support Flipping Faculty

Reinventing classes in a flipped format takes a lot of time and effort. Here's how three institutions have created a support structure for faculty making the switch.

Support for flipping faculty

Dorian Canelas, a chemistry professor at Duke University (NC), has been flipping her classes since 2009. But this year, she began flipping a large class (with 150 students) for the first time. To help prepare, she took part in a "Flipping the Classroom Faculty Fellowship" program run by Duke's Center for Instructional Technology (CIT), which brought together a cohort of flipping faculty to share ideas.

"I got a lot of good ideas from colleagues and from CIT's Andrea Novicki and Randy Riddle about ways to hold students accountable for doing things outside the classroom and getting them to interact during class, even in a lecture-seating environment," Canelas said. In fact, she said, the fellowship meetings themselves were run as a flipped class — helping make the faculty members feel comfortable with the idea that you can learn a lot in a flipped class environment. "I was already on board with that, but I learned some new activity types I hadn't used before."

Duke is not alone in trying to provide support to faculty members focused on active learning techniques. Reinventing classes in a flipped format takes a lot of time and effort, and many faculty are nervous or unsure about making the switch. Just recording lectures is a huge time commitment.

Campus Technology spoke with executives on three campuses about their efforts to create a support structure for flipping faculty.

Monthly Seminars

At the University of Pennsylvania, about 20 faculty members get together on a monthly basis to talk through their flipped classroom challenges. They are participating in the Structured, Active, In-class Learning Program. "We have them observe each other's classes, and this seminar is a place where faculty who are beginning to see they have questions find ways to pursue answers," said Bruce Lenthall, executive director of the university's Center for Teaching and Learning. Some are concerned about how to make flipping work in large lecture hall settings: "As the class size gets larger, it gets more complicated," Lenthall said. "They need to see what small groups of students are doing and get feedback. It is quite a different challenge with 90 students than with 40."

SAIL faculty can sign up for classrooms specifically designed for active learning — large spaces with round tables and multiple screens and access points. Penn's Center for Teaching and Learning also connects faculty to resources to improve their video production, and helps them research which aspects of the flipped courses are working by combining student course results, survey data and focus groups.

Self-Directed Learning Communities

In 2012, the University of Washington provost's office, information technology department and Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) came together to develop an initiative about active learning, with a focus on flipping the classroom. They created five learning communities with a total of 62 faculty members. Each community was led by a facilitator and met every other week for a quarter.

"The agenda was designed by each faculty group," said Beth Kalikoff, director of the CTL. "It is the nature of these learning communities that the agenda is determined by the people in the room." Among the issues they addressed was how to explain the flipping concept to students.  "No matter how carefully you set it up, you have to do a good job of explaining to students why you are doing this," she said.

Kalikoff said CTL informally follows up with faculty who participated in the flipped learning communities. "What we find is that people don't go back to traditional lectures," she said. "They tinker or change their approach."

Faculty Fellowships

Duke created faculty fellowships almost 15 years ago as a way to support faculty using new technology or new teaching methods. For the last few years, one of the fellowships has focused on active learning and flipping the classroom. "There has been a growing interest in the past few years, so we are responding to demand," said Riddle, an academic technology consultant at Duke. Participants in the Flipping the Classroom Faculty Fellowship met every three weeks, observed flipped classrooms and reported on best practices.

Canelas particularly enjoyed the fellowship's "teaching triangles," in which she visited the classes of biomedical engineering and public policy faculty members. "I got good ideas from observing them," she said; for example, one class convinced her to give clickers another try. "I had used clickers years ago, but stopped using them because I didn't want to deal with the technology," she said. "Steve Wallace was using them in his biomedical engineering class. He said now the technology is easier to use. That got me back into it."

Canelas also appreciated having Novicki, one of CTL's academic technology consultants, visit her class multiple times. "She takes very careful notes every five minutes about what is going on during the class," Canelas said. "She will tell me, 'This is the percent of time you were talking to them, and this is the percent of time when every student was doing something besides listening to you.' That has been really interesting. It is easy to revert to lecturing a lot. Having Andrea there made me accountable. If she pops in, and I don't have enough activities ready for the students, I am not going to have a very high percent of active learning that day."

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