Faculty Spotlight: Flipping The Classroom with Dr. Clare Mehta and Prof. R. Bryan Sears

This month faculty spotlight is on Prof. R. Bryan Sears and Dr. Clare Mehta. Here, their experience is shared as a logical continuation of a hot topic at Emmanuel College, addressed in a recent post: “What Is a Flipped Classroom?.” ATIG staff interviewed the two professors who presented their teaching innovations at the last Faculty Showcase in April 2014. Here is what they shared:

Flipping the Chemistry Classroom with Prof. R. Bryan Sears: 

In his Principles of General Chemistry course, Professor Bryan Sears has converted several chapters to recorded video lecture format.  These lecture videos recorded by Dr. Sears himself are provided to students online ahead of scheduled classroom meeting times and are available to students via the ECLearn course website. Before class, students are asked to watch these lectures and take notes on the subject to be covered before they enter the classroom.  The traditional lecture period is now consumed with groups working together on “homework” in a cooperative learning environment.  This course format allows for the instructor to circulate amoung the students while they work and to answer individual questions that arise from the material.  Dr. Sears made the choice to flip some of his lectures after hearing from students who wanted more time to practice their chemistry skills in class with the professor present.  This method of lecture delivery also helped to provide a way for students to review the course material after the class period by having the lectures preserved digitally.  For Prof. Sears this also meant he could expand the one-on-one time with each student in his classes by working homework exercises with his students and allowing them the freedom to learn from fellow classmates during the lecture period.

Interestingly, the feedback from the flipped lecture delivery methods has been mixed. Dr. Sears has noted that “in some cases, students really enjoyed the flipped classroom format and found it beneficial.”   By having lecture recorded there were numerous opportunities for students to watch and re-watch the recorded lecture on their own time and pace.  However, other students felt this independence for covering the lecture portion of the course “put too much responsibility on the student to stay up to date with the material on their own” and preferred the structure provided by the traditional lecturing format.

In the end Prof. Sears concluded that flipping his classroom had more positive than negative outcomes and will repeat this pedagogical technique in the future.  He muses, so many of his students “had a better grasp of the language and chemistry concepts for describing the subjects we cover in these sections.” Professor Sears explains, “they have a better ability to share with each other and explain the chemistry to their fellow classmates and it also appears that this translates into other sections that were not flipped.” Prof. Sear concluded: “It’s a very exciting way to teach and I liked doing it. I think would do it again, and I hope to eventually convert an entire course to the flipped format.”

Flipping the Classroom with Dr. Clare Mehta: 

A Professor of Psychology, Dr. Clare Mehta, wanted to experiment with the flipped  classroom so that she could use class time to work with students on more complex topics that went beyond information covered in the text book and the lectures (which she recorded and posted online). By recording her lectures as PowerPoint narrated slides, Dr.  Mehta was able to increase the time spent on discussion in class. She first experimented with this technique by teaching a blended (half online, half in person) summer class. This gave the students more flexibility, which they appreciated during the warm weather! While the students were happy with the format, Dr. Mehta was concerned about the effectiveness of using online lectures. As such she tweaked the course, increased the rigor and re-launched it as a graduate level class.

The flipped classroom was very successful at the graduate level. Dr. Mehta recorded all the lectures and made them available online. This was appreciated by the working adult learners enrolled in the course as they could chose to watch the lectures at a time convenient to them. Class time was then used for discussion. As working professionals, the graduate students  appreciated the increased time invested in discussing topics with their peers that were relevant to their professional interests. Dr. Mehta describes this class as her best teaching experience at Emmanuel college, and enjoyed discussing class topics with her students.

During the same semester Dr. Mehta tried another experiment in her undergraduate classroom. Although the course was a traditional face-to-face lecture and discussion course, Dr. Mehta also made her video lectures available to her students.  She found that her undergraduate students also appreciated the recorded lectures, but for a different reason – they could watch and review the material once more before exams.

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One Response to Faculty Spotlight: Flipping The Classroom with Dr. Clare Mehta and Prof. R. Bryan Sears

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