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Education

The Post-Lecture Classroom 169

Posted by Soulskill
from the learning-through-interpretive-dance dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Atlantic reports on a study into reversing the typical lecture/homework educational method. The study had students watch lecture videos at home, then use class time to work on activities. After three years of trials, the researchers found both a student preference for the new method and a 5% increase in exam scores. 'In 2012, that flipped model looked like this: At home, before class, students watched brief lecture modules, which introduced them to the day's content. They also read a textbook — the same, introductory-level book as in 2011 — before they arrived. When they got to class, Mumper would begin by asking them "audience response" questions. He'd put a multiple-choice question about the previous night's lectures on a PowerPoint slide and ask all the students to respond via small, cheap clickers. He'd then look at their response, live, as they answered, and address any inconsistencies or incorrect beliefs revealed. Maybe 50 percent of the class got the wrong answer to one of these questions: This gave him an opportunity to lecture just enough so that students could understand what they got wrong. Then, the class would split up into pairs, and Mumper would ask them a question which required them to apply the previous night's content... The pairs would discuss an answer, then share their findings with the class. At the end of that section, Mumper would go over any points relevant to the question which he felt the class failed to bring up.'"
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The Post-Lecture Classroom

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  • by oneiros27 (46144) on Friday September 13, 2013 @02:15PM (#44842601) Homepage

    Back in the early 1990s, I had a high school math teacher who would assign the homework *before* she taught the lesson.

    You were expected to read the chapter, try to do the homework, and then she'd answer any questions that you might have the next day in class.

    You then had another night to correct whatever you needed before the homework was due. (and then start your reading for the next day's class).

    It was 20+ years ago, but I seem to recall she'd hit us with quizzes as least once a week ... I just can't remember if they were at the beginning of the class, or the end. (and if they were at the beginning, were they on the reading from the night before, or two nights before?)

    • Back in the early 1990s, I had a high school math teacher who would assign the homework *before* she taught the lesson. You were expected to read the chapter, try to do the homework, and then she'd answer any questions that you might have the next day in class. You then had another night to correct whatever you needed before the homework was due. (and then start your reading for the next day's class).

      My second year calculus professor did something similar, except that the homework on a topic was collected before his lecture, no turn ins once the lecture begins. We had to read appropriate sections, figure it out on our own well enough to do the homework, do the homework and then in the professor's opinion we were "qualified" to hear his lecture. Needless to say when this was announced on day 1 half the class dropped. I stuck with it, my job made this my only open time slot.

      As difficult as it was I hav

    • My college calculus coursed did essentially the same thing. The last half hour a each class was presenting an intro to the new topic, homework and reading were assigned, the first hour of the next class was on clarification, answering questions, going through especially difficult problems from the take home work. Then the last half hour introduced the next topic.

      It worked wonderfully with my learning style, if you understood the intro well enough and could handle the work without doing the reading you did

  • Is that 5% increase additive or multiplicative? An average of 70 going to a 75 vs an average of 70 going to 73.5.

    I suppose you could argue that they are close enough not to matter, but I am still curious.
    • Is that 5% increase additive or multiplicative?

      I don't know, the dog ate my videotape.

    • Given that exam scores are already percentages, usually percentages of them are discussed additively. The same can be said of most other surveys that incorporate comparisons between percentages, unless there's some election-trail-level obfuscation going on.
    • by blueg3 (192743)

      If they're being correct, which they may not be, then 5% is multiplicative. Percent changes are always multiplicative. If you're talking about additive changes, the term is "percentage points".

      Unfortunately, lazy speaking sometimes causes people to say "percent" when they mean "percentage points".

    • I would guess additive. If only to make a better headline.

      Given your example, they could call it a 3.5 or 5% increase and be factually accurate. Why not opt for the better-sounding one?

  • by GodInHell (258915) on Friday September 13, 2013 @02:19PM (#44842647) Homepage
    That's basically the socratic method (still beloved in law schools). You go read the assignments, then come in and the teacher just asks the class questions / walks them through a case. When the class is confused or stupid (we all are sometimes) the teacher lectures on the finer points. Since the text is the primary lecturer, the teacher's role is just to know then law (best if they have their own opinions which are slightly skewed from the text's view) and to plan out a series of readings in the syllabus - not too much work.

    Now.. the only problem is most lawyers I know (myself included) felt like we didn't actually /learn/ much in law school - that's what the barbri courses were for - to cram the law down your throat as hard and fast as possible. Law school mostly teaches how to think like a lawyer (break down a set of facts or statements into its component parts, look for inconsistencies, apply past conclusions of law to a present set of facts, etc).

    I wonder how this works for, say, history.
    • The thing about the Socratic method is that it requires instructors to be able to understand and shape the way a class is going to move if there is a specific topic's learning to be achieved. This requires the instructor to have resources, an expansive knowledge to prevent endless lack of answers, and a body of students who actually wish to get something out of the class. Not an easy recipe in many schools.

      • by GodInHell (258915)
        Yes - the teacher has to know what they're talking about and the students have to want to learn. Motivation and qualification are an obstacle to any system.
    • That's basically the socratic method (still beloved in law schools) ... I wonder how this works for, say, history.

      It works well in business school too, at least for micro and macro economics and some strategy classes.

      As a computer science undergraduate who was also a history geek taking a history class every quarter for fun I would speculate that it would work well in history as well. The book and lectures can go into the facts and provide some background to the environment that events took place in. The lectures could focus on discussions as to why the various players made the decisions that they did, what influenc

  • At home, before class, students watched brief lecture modules

    Yes, we should get all of our students used to unpaid overtime now.

    Instead of relying on a teacher to teach the material, we'll ask them to learn it on their own.

    Really, what fraction of students are going to watch a video of a lecture (ecch, sounds horrible) outside of school hours?

    • The key is, there's no reason to watch the video. Go to class and learn from the questions asked. What would be even more valuable is, instead of cramming 1 hour of lecture into each hour of class, take the first ten or fifteen minutes going over basics, and have the students discuss/ask/analyse what they have just been taught. Provide supplemental material for those who want to know more.

      The most fatal flaw in most homework is that it assumes the student will understand the material sufficiently without

    • by afidel (530433)

      Uh, in college the expectation is 2 hours out of class for every hour in class if you want to do well, expecting to just show up for lecture and do well is a sure way to fail.

    • by GodInHell (258915)

      we'll ask them to learn it on their own.

      And . . .?

      That's basically just admitting the truth that teachers cannot teach anything beyond a basic level of knowledge. At some point in life - before college level courses - you have to either accept that you are responsible for your own education, or put up with a hap-hazard and shoddy education. Isn't that what defines the meritocratic system - you earn your place in life by putting in the time and /effort/ to push above the rest.

      This may be a philosophical difference - but I have no problem _a

    • In order to get full marks in the flipped courses at my university, you have to watch the videos online (having logged into an account to do so) and answer questions that pop up at set points throughout the video to show you're paying attention. Considering that giving marks for attendance is a proven method of getting students to show up, it's safe to say any undergrad not destined to wash out by Christmas would kick themselves for failing to try.
    • Instead of relying on a teacher to teach the material, we'll ask them to learn it on their own.

      Yes, because asking students to think for themselves and ask the professor about points they didn't understand isn't "teaching" them.... obviously.

      Really, what fraction of students are going to watch a video of a lecture (ecch, sounds horrible) outside of school hours?

      The same amount that would do the proper studying outside of class to wreck the curve for all the "it's only an intro course" slackers that can't be bothered to even show up to class. I.E. the ones that actually want to learn the stuff they are paying to learn.

  • My son is taking Algebra II class in college that is using this method. So far, so good. He says that being able to watch the lecture, then go into class to ask the instructor questions relating to the lecture and the homework is like having a tutor.

    I don't know how well it would work for more "not centric" classes, though.

  • 5%? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by harvestsun (2948641) on Friday September 13, 2013 @02:21PM (#44842667)
    I don't know what the standard deviation of exam scores is, but a 5 percent improvement over 3 data points HARDLY seems statistically significant.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 13, 2013 @02:23PM (#44842685)

    In my experience, the only downside to "flipping" a classroom is parent backlash. With a flipped classroom, the kids watch 10-15 minute videos and, to the parents, this is the kid just spending more time in front of an idiot box and don't really interact with the parents.

    With a normal classroom, you lecture in class and then give the kids problems to do at home. Even if the parent has no idea what they are doing and "helps" the kids by making mistakes, undermines your lesson, etc., they still feel like they are spending "quality" time with their kids. This anecdote persists even though studies show kids spend either almost zero time on the work to get to the fun stuff OR they spend twice as long trying to do it because their support system doesn't know either and has to teach themselves first.

    The funny thing is, with attentive parents, this actually helps because the parents can watch the videos with the kids and, when a big project comes, they actually can help them at home because they learned the basics when the kid did or are able to go back and watch the pertinent lecture.

    • The lectures are a whole hour long and take up the same amount of time that would normally be spent doing homework at home. By undergrad most students either live on their own or are preparing to, and they generally aren't so tied to their parents. Keep in mind these students are considered legal adults in most jurisdictions. You describe a crazy, strange world of high school and elementary school norms, not college.
  • by holophrastic (221104) on Friday September 13, 2013 @02:27PM (#44842713)

    sure it's a 5% improvement. having one class that's fundamentally different than all the others is a memory aid. of course.

    but honestly, if all of your courses -- I had 7 at a time -- had an hour lecture for me to watch at home, would you watch 7 hours of lecture videos on your own? with no ability to interupt and ask for a clarification?

    this just totally removes any concept of humans teaching humans. now it's about students learning on their own, and being corrected by teachers. sure it'll work, that's how business management and supervision works. it requires dedicated devotion. it's not something that students have any interest in doing.

    if you're not going to teach me, I was always able to learn on my own. I never needed you to supervise the learning process.

  • by Alomex (148003) on Friday September 13, 2013 @02:35PM (#44842783) Homepage

    It should be noted that studies have consistently shown that pretty much any change in methodology leads to higher marks the first time is tested, as students place extra effort on the face of an unknown teaching technique. The challenge is to produce gains that are lasting, once the students have gotten used to taking classes this way.

    • Well test score will never improve overall, as they are all bell curved to be the same year after year.

  • where you learn more hands on with skills that you need to do your job.

    • Turns out that while it's good in theory, it's pretty bad in practice.

      One: if you can learn the job by doing the job, there's no point in going to uni.

      Two: you're reducing the breadth of knowledge imparted for increased depth, so your programmes become increasingly specific, pigeonholing people even further based on a decision made at 17 years old. My decision at 17 was to be a game programmer... thankfully I did a general "computer science" degree, not "game development"... I knew I didn't want to work in

      • it's the level of theory not hands on only or theory only.

        To much theory is not good and for some stuff do you really need to know about stuff like the low level file system stuff to make a game where the os does the file system work for you?? Low level GPU coding or open gl codeing?

        What about networking / system admin work where you need to know about the higher level stuff and need to know some vendor stuff?

  • by quarterbuck (1268694) on Friday September 13, 2013 @02:38PM (#44842811)
    This is exactly how the case method used in many business schools (notably Harvard) works.
    There is a case assigned for each class and students read/watch videos related to the class. They formulate a solution to the problem. In class the group discusses it or listens to a lecture from someone who actually worked in the company in the case or is involved directly with the issue.
    Often the class arrives at a solution together which is very different from what they had thought before they came to the class.Some stick to their original opinion. etc.
    This works great for problems in business or in engineering design where there is no single ideal solution. If you have to design a sailboat to race , you have multiple choices, catamaran, windsails, mutiple sails etc. If each student designs his/her own ideal boat and an actual boat designer who actually built a boat for racing tells you why this would/ would not work, it approximates on the job training.
  • Ugh (Score:5, Informative)

    by tambo (310170) on Friday September 13, 2013 @02:45PM (#44842877)

    I'm currently three weeks into a Physics class that's modeled on this concept. Let me tell you what it's like.

    In theory: Students review the lecture material on their own time. In class, the instructor presents some Physics problems on the topic. The students work through them together in teams and learn from each other, and the instructor reviews each team's work to help them get past sticking points.

    In practice: I review the lecture material on my own time. My classmates do not. They show up largely unprepared, and when presented with a basic problem, simply stare at it until someone else explains the entire problem to them. Typically, that means that I end up teaching my classmates Physics, and then showing them how I solved each of the problems. I need to do that, because a significant part of my grade is based on the performance of my team - i.e., the average of individual quiz scores of the members of my team.

    The instructor routinely harangues students to come to class prepared, and is assigning increasing amounts of busywork to be performed outside of class to ensure that work is being done.

    So for me - a very reliable self-starter and independent studier - this class model means that in addition to learning all of the material on my own, I also have to (1) spend several hours in class teaching the material to my classmates, (2) have my grade dragged down by my team members' poor performance, and (3) have to complete additional work outside of class to prove that I'm keeping up. In other words, of the 10+ hours a week that this class is requiring, LESS THAN HALF is spent learning the material and honing skills; the rest (including the 4+ hours of class time) is simply wasted, thanks to this poorly implemented learning model.

    • Flipping the classroom and making you work in teams are completely different things.
      • by g01d4 (888748)
        That's true, but if the his team members don't cover the material it still means that flipping isn't working whether he's instructing them the next day or wasting his time while the instructor goes over the basics they were suppose to cover.
      • by tambo (310170)

        > Flipping the classroom and making you work in teams are completely different things.

        That's true, but you've missed my general point, which is: For students who are good at learning on their own - i.e., the cream of the crop - class time spent on verifying that they are learning the material is a complete waste of their time.

        That is actually my biggest complaint. Typically, I would spend two hours in a traditional lecture learning, and four hours outside of class with independent learning and skill

    • by GodInHell (258915)
      Sounds like a job to me. Good motivation for being picky about your employer down the road - what you describe is the dominant condition in the workplace. The hard workers support the rest - management gets in the way - and you pay for everyone else's mistakes. See also, Congress of the United States.
    • Re:Ugh (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SirGarlon (845873) on Friday September 13, 2013 @03:17PM (#44843165)

      It seems to me you have only learned half the lesson this method of pedagogy is meant to teach. Why don't you find the other well-prepared and conscientious students in your class, work with them, and shut out the losers?

      • by tambo (310170)

        > It seems to me you have only learned half the lesson this method of pedagogy is meant to teach. Why don't you find the other well-prepared and conscientious students in your class, work with them, and shut out the losers?

        Because the teams are assigned arbitrarily and we can't switch. We are required to sink or swim with the other schlumps in our team, irrespective of any differences in effort or intelligence. End of story.

        • by SirGarlon (845873)

          Did your professor explain how this benefits *you* as a student in his class? Because you are the one paying thousands of dollars for this experience. It sounds to me like your professor is intentionally teaching his students to be parasites*, in which case it is strongly in your interest to transfer to a better university. You don't want your diploma to come from the same institution as all of those losers.

          *The reason for this could that it minimizes the amount of whining and grade-grubbing he has to put u

          • It sounds to me like your professor is intentionally teaching his students to be parasites*, in which case it is strongly in your interest to transfer to a better university.

            Right, because doing that is trivial. After all, every medium-sized town has at least 174 top tier colleges to choose from.

            You don't want your diploma to come from the same institution as all of those losers.

            Why are you assuming they're going to graduate? This isn't the whole course, just one module. The first time the slackers hi

    • The easy solution to that problem is to have quizes at the start of class. The quizes can be extremely easy, and they don't have to be every day, but they'll get everyone to start watching. I've seen a class go from no one reading to 90% reading when the teacher instituted quizes like that half-way through.
    • Re:Ugh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mrvan (973822) on Friday September 13, 2013 @03:52PM (#44843399)

      You should actually be very happy with this situation (except maybe the grading part - I'm an assistant prof. myself and I detest group-based grades, but for budgetary/policy reasons cannot always avoid them).

      The absolutely best way to learn about a topic is to instruct people. By teaching your teammates the subject matter you are engaging with it in a much more intensive way than if you just learn and practice yourself. Explaining something requires a deeper and more complete understanding and responding to questions, even questions that seem stupid to you, forces you to express (and hence explicate) thoughts and connections that you understood already, but probably mainly implicitly. Add the nearby professor for the cases where you can't explain it and you are receiving an excellent education. As a professor, getting the top-tier students to explain the material to the rest is a job very well done.

      (That said, I sympathize with your frustration at other students not putting enough effort into it, and I don't want to say that it is a good thing, just that it will also have good effects...)

    • You're being prepped for the real world.

      In all seriousness, your impressions of the flipped/inverted model as a student are the same as mine as a professor. There are classes in which this can be very effective, but it relies very strongly on the motivation, work ethic, and time management skills of the students involved.

    • Count your blessings. You never understand the material half as well as you think you do until you have to explain it to someone else. And yes, I've been through the exact same thing.
      • by tambo (310170)

        > Count your blessings. You never understand the material half as well as you think you do until you have to explain it to someone else.

        I would love to have the option to develop that skill - e.g., voluntarily forming or joining study groups, or signing up as a tutor or teaching assistant. But in my case, I'm essentially required to teach slacking students to protect part of my grade. Thanks to the group structure, there is absolutely no recognition that some students are bailing out other students.

        • by rmcd (53236) *

          Have you discussed this with the professor? I'm one. If a student told me what you're telling me, I would try to figure out some procedural change. Even if it's too late for you, you might help out the next group by speaking up.

          Profs make mistakes, and changes have unintended consequences. I think we're going to see a lot of mistakes (as well as some revelations) over the next few years as people tinker with pedagogy.

    • by prefec2 (875483) on Friday September 13, 2013 @05:25PM (#44844235)

      Like other pointed out, group learning and flipped classroom are two different things. But now to my point. You think, you could learn material just by consuming and memorizing them. This is often thought by students just out of high school, sometime even with older students. However, this is bullshit. Learning anything is not to memorize the stuff, but to understand it. One very effective method is to teach other people. Their questions, question your knowledge and your grasp of the topic. By that you have to think about it in different angles. In most cases you learn a lot from that process.

      In your special university, the material to learn and the homework might only designed to test your ability to memorize the stuff. In that case, you might think that the extra work does not add up, but for any later work as a scientist or in industry, true understanding is necessary. In short a book cannot solve problems only an educated person can.

      • by tambo (310170)

        > You think, you could learn material just by consuming and memorizing them. This is often thought by students just out of high school, sometime even with older students. However, this is bullshit.

        I think I can handle independent study just fine. I passed two bar exams through study-at-home materials.

        MY point is that one of the most important skills to be developed in academia - particularly at the undergraduate level - is the ability to learn independently of a classroom agenda. Being asked to spe

        • Ah... bar exams. The "flipped classroom" is mostly buzz in science and engineering where there is a hell of a lot of mathematics and mechanics to be internalised. Independent study is inefficient, because there is a well-defined set of knowledge and skills to acquire, and non-experts (which students are, by definition) will be unable to identify the required steps to consolidate the learning. A problem set designed by a true expert can be used to consolidate and integrate knowledge, and to identify and diag

    • by Goldsmith (561202)

      If you want to stay in physics, you'd better get used to this. This is the way the real world of science works.

      You've had some comments from academics, but from an industrial physicist, I can say that over 50% of my job is walking a co-worker through a problem I've already solved. This isn't useless at all, you'll need to be able to explain your work to people who aren't specialists in your area.

      If you really feel some of the work you're doing is a waste of time, you need to be able to convince the profes

  • I much prefer just listening to a lecture in class, and then doing the work at home. Working in class is a pain.. and I certainly don't find much benefit in working with classmates usually.

  • by Kwyj1b0 (2757125) on Friday September 13, 2013 @03:22PM (#44843201)

    And the problem was that a few lazy/slow students would end up stalling the entire class. So for example, if the material covered eigenvectors in linear algebra, and the student was supposed to know what they are and try the homework before the class. There were always a few bad apples that would come in, claim they couldn't understand any of the material, and force the instructor to walk them through the lecture again. And you couldn't just tell the students to RTFM.

    So it basically became a case where the good students were hearing the same thing twice over, and couldn't get help with the tougher material (because the easy questions were taking a lot of time to cover). If the teacher skipped the easy problems, the lazy students would complain and whine.

    In the typical scenario, all students heard the same material once (in class), and the lazy students would struggle with the homework (or mooch off the better students) while the good students would do well. In the end, it basically came down to the smart students helping the slower ones with the easy problems, so that the class could focus on the tough problems.

    • by stymy (1223496)
      Umm, why can't you just ignore the slow students? If they come to class unprepared, that's their problem.
      • by Kwyj1b0 (2757125)

        Umm, why can't you just ignore the slow students? If they come to class unprepared, that's their problem.

        Unfortunately, that has two problems:
        1) Students in college are paying (a lot) of money. So there is a lot of scrutiny and expectations. I have even heard a student effectively say "I have paid a lot of money for this class, and I want to get my money's worth from the instructor". Nothing about how he should work hard to make sure his degree meant something - he effectively wanted to exchange money for knowledge. And there is no way of saying - "here is your refund, now get out"; the instructor can't kick

        • I have even heard a student effectively say "I have paid a lot of money for this class, and I want to get my money's worth from the instructor". Nothing about how he should work hard to make sure his degree meant something - he effectively wanted to exchange money for knowledge.

          Sheer arrogance. I'd say learning his place would be a very valuable lesson.

  • Only the arrogant idiot who thinks that he is smarter than the instructors believe that lectures are worthless. Or maybe I just went to a school where people actually took classes because they were challenging, not because they were easy A's. University is probably the only opportunity that most of us will have to try to glean some of the brilliance of the top researchers in their fields. Why would you want to throw away any minute of lecture?

  • So, let me get this straight: you assign students some homework and then have them discuss the material in class? Holy cow, these folks really are standing education on its head!
  • by Livius (318358) on Friday September 13, 2013 @04:32PM (#44843721)

    In almost all of my university courses there was an expectation that the student would come to lecture having already read the relevant chapters of the textbook. Generally the professor did not rely on the students actually having done so, but this is essentially the same thing just using a different medium.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Friday September 13, 2013 @04:51PM (#44843895) Homepage Journal

    Atlantic's article has some big flaws. The issue with what you want out of a classroom depends on the criteria. If your goal is to charge as much as possible for students who will fail to obtain degrees, while increasing the size and salaries of administrations, then yes, having minimum wage adjuncts teaching everything and reducing tenured teachers is great.

    If your goal is to have the maximum percentage of your students actually finish their degrees, then it's a very bad plan. And The Atlantic is hardly an objective party in this discussion. They have a vested interest in online, for-profit education replacing the model of universities as centers of academic excellence and research. It's basically the "school reform" argument transferred to higher education.

    Think about the professors that had the greatest impact on you as a person and professionally. How many of them were tenured and how many were harried adjuncts teaching 8 courses per semester just to be able to afford to live?

    The enormous growth in the cost of higher education has not been because professors are making too much money or because they've got too much job security.

  • So, the data says that yes, hybrid (GOOD Hybrid) classrooms do work pretty well. The data also goes on to say that a lot of this is contextual, and really cannot be generalized. There's so much hype that forgets about entire populations of learners. I think the most important thing is to offer choice- learners will self determine what works best for them.

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