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Knowing when to fold ’em

March 1, 2013

Poker-HandI’ve been flipping my biology 12 class for the past 3 semesters and have recently flipped my Biology 11 and Chemistry 11 classes as well.  In biology 12, the flip has helped me reallocate time so more meaningful learning can take place in class.  I freed up 40 minutes x 3 or 4 per unit and have filled in that time with more activities and labs that help students better learn the concepts and also help them reflect on their learning.

Without a doubt, the flipclass model has created a better learning environment for my biology 12 students

Move to Chemistry 11.  I’ve just recently flipped this class and I like the direction the class in moving in. We have time for better activities, more labs to show the application of the concepts and have been trying to introduce more inquiry into a usual cookie cutter lab style that is common in a lot of science classes.  Basically, the labs were “follow the recipe step-by-step and come up with the result you knew you were going to get”.  I still think there is a place in the course for students to learn to follow instructions but I have added labs where inquiry is the main focus.  In these labs, I pose a question for them and they need to come up with the procedure and along the way they uncover the result.  These labs take longer, students get frustrated along the way, but eventually their hard work pays off when they discover the intended learning outcome.

Finally, lets move to Biology 11.  This course attracts a larger variety of abilities and effort levels, for some reason of another.  I have tried to incorporate the same goals/ activities/ labs as biology 12 but I have had students that dig their heals in anytime they are expected to be creative.  This group, more than any other, would like to be spoon fed the content so they can regurgitate it a week later on the test before forgetting the concepts forever.  It seems like there is a disconnect somewhere along the line.  I want to use the videos to free up time for the activities but the engagement isn’t there and consequently the learning is happening like I hoped it would.

So here is where I am at in Biology 11.  I know I have a killer hand but if no one else buys in then what is the point?  Is it time for me to fold the flipclass in biology 11? Or do I keep doing what I’m doing and hope that it eventually attracts some action?


2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 1, 2013 2:57 pm

    Since you started with a poker analogy I will carry it on…

    If nobody’s “buying in” you’re not going to win much of a pot on this one. But what you can do is chip at at their stacks one blind at a time.
    I would suggest you raise and when they fold, show your cards. They need to know you have a killer hand.
    What does all that mean? Don’t rely on completely flipping your class, but when you’ve got just the right time or lesson, flip it. Slowly engage them with your best flipped lessons, but also support them and their learning styles with how they want to learn.
    A good teacher (and poker player) has lots of strategies and, more importantly, picks the right strategy at the right time.

    You’ll end up with the big stack by the end of the night I’m sure!

  2. March 1, 2013 4:07 pm

    Hi Scott, great honest post! I hear you, when students are not buying into the change it is slow going and takes a lot of energy to keep going. For me if I am working against the culture of the class I can’t do it as it sucks all the enjoyment out of working with kids. So I think you have to play on the same team with them, if you feel you have given it your best shot, I would back off and find more comfortable ground. Maybe, just keep a hint of change in there and just maybe some will buy in to it if it is in smaller chunks.
    I know for me this means I start the semester doing stand and deliver as students seem to need to know that I can be “that teacher”. Once I have their trust they seem somewhat more ready to take small risks.
    Follow your instincts and you’ll do great!!

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