Innovative classroom features intimate setting
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 15, 2013 23:09
Deep in the ASU psychology department, one professor is experimenting with a new teaching style: the Flipped Classroom.
The Flipped Classroom concept is an alternative form of teaching in which the lectures are made available prior to class and the class period is devoted to small-group work or student questions.
“I want to use the classroom time for something other than a sage on the stage kind of environment,” said Dawn Weatherford, assistant professor of psychology.
Instead, Weatherford records her lectures beforehand and makes them available to her students online in the form of a narrated PowerPoint.
“The video isn’t me talking, that would be distracting,” Weatherford said. “They’ll see me in class, they don’t need to see me in the video.”
Her lecture slideshows range in time from 15 to 30 minutes depending upon the nature of material covered and the course level for which the videos are assigned.
“I try to keep them as short as possible, especially for my introductory level students,” Weatherford said. “For upperclassmen, the videos are sometimes a little longer because it’s more complex material.”
Though many professors in various disciplines make their PowerPoint presentations available to students pre-lecture, Weatherford feels the narrated slides give students the unique opportunity to explore the material personally and with a more focused dynamic.
“My ultimate goal is to make the material personally relevant to them, and I think they will learn better that way,” Weatherford said.
So far the concept is paying off.
“My brand new freshmen are doing phenomenally,” Weatherford said. “Their test scores were really good and I use that as an indicator of (the Flipped Classroom’s) success.”
The lecture videos are made available through Blackboard Learn and remain accessible throughout the semester. This constant access format allows students to go back and review previous lectures in preparation for tests, and continue to review them as often as necessary.
Mariel Diaz, a junior psychology major of Puerto Rico, said having the videos to go back to is a good resource to have.
“It feels better. You can go look for information if you are wondering,” Diaz said.
Having the actual lecture take place out of class opens up the classroom meeting time for discussion and questions, Weatherford said. Classroom learning time can be very individualized because students have time to ask specific questions and focus on areas in which they are struggling.
“Class is really more about discussion than detail,” Hayley Lewis, a senior psychology major of Chicago, said. “Our class is really more about learning how to do research, so having the professor right there is very helpful.”
Weatherford recognizes that there are a few negative aspects to the project.
“There are some (students) that don’t like it,” she said. “And that is completely okay.”
Tiffany Wood, a freshman animal science major of Pine Bluff, said she does not watch the pre-class videos on a regular basis.
“I do sometimes, but not every time,” Wood said.
Wood said not watching the lectures can put her behind when it comes to class discussion.
“If I haven’t read the book or watched the video, I don’t really know what everyone else is talking about,” she said.
The major hurdle for participating students is the out of class time investment required to stay up to date on the video lectures.
Casey Masters, a senior psychology major of Little Rock, said while she likes the teaching style, she finds the Flipped Classroom to be very time consuming before class.
“It’s a whole lot of information to prepare for,” Masters said.
Masters is enrolled in Weatherford’s upper-level Psychology Research Methods class with fellow senior psychology major Averiann Casalman of Wynne. Casalman said the pre-class lecture style makes it difficult for her to find time to study the material following the class meeting.
“I don’t have time to study after the fact,” Casalman said. “It’s a whole, whole lot of information given in a short period of time. It’s a new concept and I need time to adjust.”
Lewis said students must be very motivated in order to dedicate the necessary time to out of class preparation.
“It is more time out of class, but if you are a dedicated student then you will want to put in the effort,” Lewis said.
Calen Everett, a senior psychology major of Paragould, said the Flipped Classroom concept will take some time for her to adjust to, but that she would be willing to take another class in the same style of teaching.
Weatherford said she plans on using feedback from this semester to continue to improve her future Flipped Classroom course designs. She also typically uses a mid-semester evaluation to allow students the opportunity to provide class feedback.
“Part of the flipped classroom is that you have to be open to change,” Weatherford said. “The ultimate goal is that the students learn. I’m in psychology because I think it’s the coolest subject ever. If I can just convince a couple of them to feel that same way, I feel like I’ve succeeded.”