Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lendol Calder on "Flipping the Classroom"

Like Lendol Calder, the phrase "flipping the classroom" is new to me.  It is an approach to teaching in which content is delivered outside of the classroom, allowing class time to be used as a "workshop where students can explore course concepts, apply new knowledge, test their skills and interact through hands-on activities."

Calder recently spoke about "flipping the classroom" to a group of professors attending a teaching workshop sponsored by the University of Virginia's Teaching Resource Center.  Here is a taste of an article on Calder's UVA presentation:

New lecturers were not given much guidance when he began teaching 20 years ago, said Calder, who teaches at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., and was 2010 Illinois Professor of the Year, awarded by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

Although he spent a lot of time preparing lectures, what he ended up doing was “teaching by mentioning,” he joked. “I really believed if I said it, the students would learn it,” he said.

A comment from a student illustrated part of the problem with teaching large lecture courses, he said. She told him the courses were all pretty much the same, except for the content.

Should a history course be taught the same as a biology course and the same as an economics course?, Calder asked.

The way to design a course is to work backward, he said, first identifying the desired results in student learning and then figuring out how you will assess that. Then you plan the learning experiences, said Calder, who was a Carnegie Scholar in Teaching and Learning in 1999.

He said he realized he wanted his students to learn how a historian thinks – a process he called “a signature pedagogy.” To do this, he came up with a short list of essential questions that historians argue about that have no right answers.

The instructor should also identify two other levels: what facts, concepts or principles students should be familiar with, and what students should definitely know and be able to do.

He urged the audience of almost 150 faculty and graduate teaching assistants to determine how to provide students with exercises and projects that enable them to practice the basic mode of thought of the discipline being taught.

Disciplinary thinking should help people make sense of the world and learn what to value, he said.