Most of us in HAPS thrived in high school, college, and even graduate school classrooms that were driven by educators who lectured. At the start of class, the instructors would walk into the room and begin to talk .. draw on the whiteboard .. talk .. show a slide.. and talk some more. A few lectures were dynamic and inspiring while others provided opportunities to read the school newspaper. But all of us survived our student years – and we learned quite a bit of anatomy and physiology in the process.

Now we’re the educators and find ourselves on the other side of the desks. Sadly, most of us are obeying the first rule of education: teach the way you’ve been taught. If you experienced lectures as a student, well, now as an instructor, you probably lecture. There is indeed an art to lecturing – not everybody can do it. My own lecture style took several years to develop. Where do I stand in the room? How fast should I talk? How much content do I cover each day? How many Power Point slides do I show? Should I tell a joke or two, or make reference to pop culture? According to my student evaluations, I could lecture pretty well –even won a couple teaching awards largely through the lecture method.

Then YouTube came along.

YouTube made me think about lecture as a teaching method. Why not just record lectures and let students watch them wherever and whenever they liked? If students were confused by a topic, they could just go back and re-watch the video. And if they did not like my video, they could watch one of the other hundred or so video clips on the same topic.

SO .. if lectures are on YouTube, what should happen in the classroom where I used to lecture?

This is where the notion of ‘flipping’ comes in. Historically, students have listened to lectures during lecture time, and engaged in other activities such as group projects and study-sessions outside of lecture time. A flipped classroom is one where students learn the basic content outside of class and then engage in group projects, discussion, etc., during in-class “lecture” time.

The concept of a flipped classroom is easy to understand. But to actually do it is quite difficult. Two components are necessary for a successfully flipped class – instructional methods (teaching skills) & curriculum.

Instruction. The classroom leader of a flipped classroom must have the pedagogical skill set required to facilitate student-student interactions. Because most of us have spent quite a bit of time lecturing, we are quite accustoming to talking in front of large groups of students and answering direct, and sometimes difficult, questions. But these presentation skills, and our vast knowledge of anatomy and physiology, are typically not enough to flip a classroom. You need a broader set of teaching skills to facilitate curiosity and independent thought in a classroom that is far more noisy and chaotic than the traditional lecture hall.

Curriculum. These are the activities and materials that instructors use to generate student discussion and to facilitate learning. Creating good curriculum is difficult. Sometimes the curriculum is too easy and students are bored, and sometime it’s too difficult and students are confused and frustrated. “Dialing in” effective curriculum for students is indeed an art form.

So where to start?

This is where I recommend cooperative quizzes.

Cooperative quizzes represent an easy to develop (curriculum) / easy to implement (instruction) technique that can be viewed as a first step toward the flipped classroom.

There are two parts to a cooperative quiz: First, students complete a quiz on an individual basis, just like a regular quiz, and turn it in. Second, students complete the same quiz again, but this time working in groups of two, three or four, and using only one answer sheet. Students must agree to one answer for each question, thus promoting discussion between students. All students must put their names on this one answer sheet at the end of the quiz. Grading a cooperative quiz is completed by averaging of the individual and group scores.

(A few years back the University of Minnesota created a free, on-line, tutorial for instructors who wished to learn how to use cooperative quizzes. )

I give one cooperative quiz every week. Typically, the individual quiz takes about 5 minutes to complete (10 – 15 questions per quiz), and the group quiz takes a bit longer due to student discussions. This amounts to a total of 15 minutes of class time per week, and only about 10 minutes of a “flipped” environment where students are already working in groups. Not much, but the tone of the classroom has been changed; students learn that that they are expected to work with each other, and they begin to converse with each other using the language of the discipline. They use words like hypoinsulinism, hyperglycemia, and diabetes in ways that help them develop a conceptual understanding of physiology. Nice!

Flipping a classroom is difficult when you are accustomed to more traditional teaching methods such as lecture, but if you wish to take the first step, I recommend trying a cooperative quiz.

Go HERE to see a short video on how to implement cooperative quizzes

The second step? That would be POGIL, and that’s fodder for my next HAPS Blog entry.

(Murray Jensen is a member of the HAPS Board of Directors and represents the Midwest Region.)