Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Trends in Adult Education: Flipped Classrooms

I have been using some aspects of a flipped classroom for several years without realizing that was what I was doing!  For me, it was mostly about the time aspect.  I teach in a very intensive two year program, one that could easily be three or even four years.  We have a large volume of material to teach the students and there is never enough time (or space).  In one of my courses, the students learn how to take and develop x-rays.  In one of the first labs of the semester, I teach how to develop the x-rays using an automatic developer.  The developer is kept in the darkroom, the size of which allows a maximum number of four people that can be in the room at one time.  I have 15 students per two hour lab session; teaching all the parts of the developer, how it works and how to care for it takes no less than 15 minutes.  It was eating up much too much of my lab time (an hour per 15 students), so one year I filmed myself teaching about the developer and now have the students watch the recording prior to coming to the lab session.

Since having filmed the workings of the automatic x-ray developer, our department has filmed many more tasks and skills for the students to watch prior to the lab sessions.  We can then focus the sessions on the students actually getting to practice the skills, rather than having to spend the first 30 minutes explaining and demonstrating.  In the article, the one of the teachers says that the students can't just watch the video and that is that; he has them come to class with a prepared question.  The biggest challenge that we have had is ensuring the students watch the video to begin with!  We have somewhat solved the issue by having pre-lab quizzes: after watching the video, students are required to take a 10 minute quiz to ensure they have understood the content.  This also helps the students discover what aspects of the task they don't understand or aren't sure about.  When they come to the lab session, they can clarify at the outset and practice the skill correctly rather than make attempts in a trial and error fashion and end up frustrated.

I think another great reason to use a flipped classroom model is the inclination for students nowadays to want to use technology at every turn.  Watching a video (especially in the comfort of their own home) is much more enjoyable than sitting in a classroom or lab setting watching the instructor talk or demo at the front. There currently is a great resource in veterinary medicine that is particularly helpful in this vein: Dove-Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital in Portland, Oregon created a website of training content for veterinarians, technologists and hospital staff.  The training videos feature the staff of Dove-Lewis performing tasks 'in real life', as opposed to a teaching setting.  These videos can not only satisfy students' desire to use technology, but may also assist in having students see that there are different ways of getting the job done.  Many of our students have worked in the veterinary field for a time prior to coming to school.  They may have seen (or learned themselves) ways of doing certain tasks that we are now teaching them to do in a much different manner.  We teach the 'gold standard' of performing the skill, which often takes more time and money than is available in practice.  Seeing these tasks performed to this standard by those working in practice, not just their instructors in school, can hopefully help solidify the reasons behind the high standards we discuss and demonstrate.

I think that a flipped classroom is a fantastic model for use in my program.  Videos provide a great resource to save classroom/lab time for more interaction with students as they practice skills.  Now if I can just find the time to go through the videos and decide which to use!

*I thought that this was a good informational flyer on flipped classrooms.

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