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Flipped Chemistry

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John Osterhout

On Groups

Posted by John Osterhout Dec 8, 2017

In my flipped general chemistry class we start off with a group quiz and continue with a worksheet, also performed in a group. The nature of the quizzes and the worksheets are important, sure, but so are the nature of the groups. This post is about handling the groups.


When I first started flipping, I was teaching a class of 80 students, which in my small chemistry department at a small state university is considered “large”. I was in a stepped classroom, with fixed tables that would seat four students. At the start of the class, I used the rows for groups. The groups were essentially assigned by however the students arranged themselves. The groups were enriched for groups of two or three friends that were coming to class together.


After the first exam, I had the bright idea to make groups that consisted of a student from each quartile of the class. So each group would have a good student, two middle students and a student from the bottom quartile of the class. At the time, I was giving each group a single worksheet and one person was in charge of filling it out. I did this mostly to cut down on the grading time. The room was a glorious roar of activity as the students chewed their way through the worksheets.


Bt the end of the semester, I had realized that only the best groups were making it to the end of the worksheets. For most of the class, this left significant swaths of information uncovered. I decided to give each students their own worksheet and require them to turn the worksheets in completed by the next class period. The roar of the classroom diminished by a factor of ten.


I soon realized what had been going on. When the groups only had a single worksheet, only the most motivated student would work. The other three would talk about football, deer hunting, or whatever until time ran out. When everyone had their own worksheet, everybody had a stake, and the frivolous talk went away. Lesson learned.


After that year, I was able to move into a smaller classroom, one that held about thirty-five students. For our small state school, this is a “normal” class size. I decided to assigned the groups by test score so that some groups were made up of the top-scoring students and some were of the poorest scoring students. The department had been talking about instituting a placement exam for the freshman chemistry students to allow us to screen out the totally unprepared and assign the less-prepared students to our non-majors chemistry class. I decided use a variation on that them, start the students off with a first-day quiz, and use that to do the initial assignments. The first-day quiz contained some math problems, some simple chemistry problems, and a logic problem. I used the scores to arrange the groups.


The flaw? There was little correlation between the first day quiz scores and ultimate (or even immediate) performance in the course. The quiz can measure basic skills, but it can't measure gumption. See Brand Tenn's post, Developing Grit. Of course, I didn't realize this until after the first couple of exams.


What to do? I started to rearrange the groups after the first exam, using the exam scores to make up the groups. The advantage of this was that I could get all the top students together and they could advance as fast and as far as they could. Having the poorer-performing students together isn't an entirely bad thing. They quickly discover that there isn't one “good” student who will do all the work. Sometimes these middle groups turn into learning machines as the students help each other. The other advantage of identifying the poorest performing students is that I know who they are and I can give them more attention in class.


There are some problems with using the first exam to guide group formation. One is that quite often the results on the first exam stem from prior knowledge. The students are running on their high school chemistry and aren't doing any work. When these students run out of high school savvy, the course, which had been easy, is suddenly hard. Then they have to discover a new work ethnic, one that contains actual study. Some do, some don't. So the first exam isn't a good predictor, either. One can rearrange the groups after every exam. Students, of course, hate this. Once they get used a group they are loathe to change. However, they do quickly settle down into their new groups. One might even consider this valuable experience in “teamwork”, which the state is always in a tizzy about.


After several years of coping with groups, here is what I am doing now. I still give a first-day quiz. I use it only to see if there are any students who can't do any math (see my recent post, It's That Chemistry Algebra, where I found a student who couldn't solve X – 2 = 0) and to lament the generally sorry preparation of students in math and chemistry.


Now, I initially arrange the groups by major. I lump the pre-professional students together with the honors students and form as many groups as I can. I find that by using the major as the guiding principle, I wind up with groups that internally have similar motivations. The pre-professional students are motivated by grades. The chemistry and biology majors sometimes show a little interest in the subject material. Most of the rest of the students don't want to be in the class, they are there because their major requires it. They are motivated by survival. This initial arrangement of groups by major works better than the other methods I've tried, but I'm still looking!


Other group caveats: groups that are all men don't usually work. The guys tacitly or explicitly decide that it isn't cool to be too interested in this academic stuff and so spend the whole class pushing their worksheets around the table trying to look busy while they shoot the bull. Three men in a group doesn't usually work either unless the woman is unusually motivated or outgoing. Groups with 2+ women, even groups of entirely women seem to work fine.


Groups can be derailed by the disgruntled student. I always get one or more students who are very unhappy with the flipped classroom. After all, I don't teach. (They equate lecturing with teaching.) An unhappy, vocal student can poison a group, sometimes even an entire class. I try to head this off in the beginning by explaining the ideas behind flipping and citing the success of the flipped classrooms compared to the non-flipped classes in our department.


I have not tried to micromanage the groups. That is, rearrange the groups as we go along depending upon the skills, motivations, and personalities of the individuals. Unfortunately it seems that by the time I can get a good feeling the individual qualities of the students in the class, the semester is over.


Occasionally, I find a smart, motivated student who can actually explain things to his or her co-conspirators. In the vernacular, we call these teachers and I wish I had one per group.

A few semesters back, a student sent an email to one of my faculty explaining that "I'm really good at algebra, it's just that chemistry algebra that gets me." I had always interpreted that statement as a frustration with the problem-solving nature of freshman chemistry. Maybe the student was good at algebra but just couldn't handle the word problems or logic that comes with chemistry. 


This semester has made me rethink that notion. I work at a small state university with a low bar for admission. The general chemistry classes are populated with all majors, some college ready and some not. For most of the students in my classes, general chemistry I is a check box to be ticked. That being said, I've noticed some alarming trends.


A few years ago our department tightened up our math prerequisites for admission into general chemistry I. We only admit students if they score high enough on the ACT or SAT to be admitted to the precalculus class or have passed college algebra with a "C" or better. The remarks below concern students who have met this requirement.


I recently tutored a student who had a poor score on the second hour exam. One of the problems was a titration with sulfuric acid. I was trying to explain that sulfuric acid was the acid made from the sulfate anion. After a while, we got to this point: how many protons must one add to the sulfate ion to produce a neutral species. The student drew a blank, so I thought it would be helpful to write out the equation:


X + -2 = 0

It turned out that, not only was the solution not transparent to the student, the student could not solve this equation. Their approach was to guess until I told them the answer was correct. I cut them off after they guessed the correct answer so I don't know, if left alone, they would have eventually realized that "2" would have done the trick.


Same student, different problem. The exam question asked for the oxidation number of carbon in the carbonate ion. The carbonate ion was written as CO32-. After a bit, we got to the point of realizing that the oxidation number of the carbon had to add to the combined oxidation number of the oxygens to give the charge on the ion. This drew a blank look. So I wrote on the board:


X + -6 = -2


No luck here, either. The student's first guess was -8. It did get better from there, but the underlying process was "guess until Dr. Osterhout says it's right."


To do a quick assessment of the class's math skills I gave a first day quiz this semester that included some math problems to be worked without a calculator (you can see the quiz and the results on the worksheet page of my blog, Here is my favorite:


a = b/c, solve for c.


In the Fall of 2016, 59% of the students correctly solved the problem. Sadly, this Fall the number was 47%. It does not bode well for your future in chemistry if you are in the 53% that can't do this little bit of algebra.


Here is one designed to see if they know anything about manipulating numbers in scientific notion. Remember, they could not use a calculator for this one.


3.0 x 104 x 4.0 x 103 =


This garnered 75% and 66% in Fall of 2016 and 2017 respectively. I was a little surprised that the results were so favorable. But then there was this:


2.0x106 x 4.0x104 / 8.0x10-3


That one was 18% in 2016 and 14% in 2017. The students don't fare much better if they use their calculators. Even at the end of the semester, I have students who still use the 10x key on their calculator to enter numbers in scientific notion. I also find that students have blithely ignored my exhortations to use the SCI option on their calculators and read, for instance, 6.43 x 10-8 instead of 0.000000064 on their displays.


Recently we were doing calorimetry. In one variety of problems the students are asked to find the final temperature after, say, hot water is added to an iron pot. The equations encountered were of the following variety.


g x cs x (Tf - Ti) = -g x cs x (Tf - Ti)


The students had to solve for Tf. They gathered up the appropriate numbers and happily plugged and chugged until:


1021(Tf - 25) = -3138(Tf - 95)


(I left out the units, because I'm illustrating the math for you.) At this point four out of eight students in the tutorial session were unable to distribute the numbers into the parentheses. I fear that it is much worse in the class in general, because the only students coming to the tutorial had a least a marginal grasp on the material. The ones that really needed to come, didn't. Once we got over that hurdle, we arrived at:


1021Tf - 25530 = -3138Tf + 298000


Here again, half of the students couldn't proceed.


In deference to the student in the first paragraph, it isn't necessarily "that chemistry algebra," sometimes it is just plain old algebra (and maybe just some sixth grade arithmetic). Keep in mind that all of these students had either passed college algebra or had a 600 or greater on the math portion of the SAT. So, what's a mother to do?


Currently our general chemistry professors build math and calculator exercises into their homework and class materials. Clearly it is not enough. Our department has discussed developing a chemistry tutorial that would meet one hour a week to do remedial math and chemistry. We have experienced push back from the administration because they fear this would diminish our enrolment capacity ($). However, it would likely improve retention ($$). Any ideas?

iClicker Reef is a great tool for formative and summative assessments.  In this article, I will summarize the ways I use the different question types in order to conduct various types of (non-content related) formative assessments. 


Multiple Choice:


1.  Student Understanding


How well do you feel you understand  ____ ?

A.  Piece of cake.  I get it.

B.  I understand most of it.

C.  I am mostly confused.

D.  I do not understand any of it.


2.  Student Confidence:  Many times, it is informative to find out how confident students are with their problem solving skills.  Ideally, students who understand should not only have the correct answers, but also be confident in their answers.


Select the most appropriate choice.

A.  I'm finished and am confident I am correct.

B.  I'm finished, but not too sure I am correct.

C.  I'm almost finished.

D.  I don't know how to do the problem.



3.  Traffic Control: During lectures, it is often very difficult to get any feedback on how students are processing the classroom discussions.  For lecture classes, it is useful to periodically stop and let students give feedback on class pacing - then follow up with specific questions on their misunderstandings.


Select the most appropriate choice.

A.  GO: Continue. Pace is fine, I understand.

B.  CAUTION: Please slow down. I need time to catch up.

C.  STOP: I do not understand.


Short Answer

4.  Question Collector

 After one particularly difficult problem on simplifying rational expressions, I asked students what the most difficult step was for them.  No one spoke - even though most students got the problem wrong.  I then fired up a short answer question in iClicker Reef and asked for submissions electronically - almost everyone gave me a response!

I noticed two things from their responses, many people did not know how to find the LCD and secondly, many students were simply trying to memorize steps to problems.  This brought us to a nice discussion on learning, and how I am teaching them tools they can use when encountering problems.  


5.  Muddiest Point

Another way to use the short answer question type is to collect a list of the most difficult topics (muddiest points).



6.  Speed Drill Progress

Numeric questions can be used to gauge student progress in paper assignments.  I often drill students on various topics and have them answer using paper and pencil, since iClicker Reef's refresh time is too slow.  I often ask students to send me the number of questions they got correct.  


7.  Level of Understanding 

Like measuring student confidence, instructors could ask students to state their level of understanding of a concept or unit on a 0 (do not understand) - 10 (understand everything) scale.



8. Campus resources: 

During the first week of classes, it might be a good idea to use target questions to ensure students know the locations of important student resources: Tutoring Center, Instructor Offices, Financial Aid Office, Registrar, Counselors, etc. by asking students to locate the resources on a map.


I hope that you can see many ways iClicker Reef can be used in addition to testing student understanding of core concepts and facts.  Do you use iClicker or another classroom response system (CRS) in your classes?  In what other ways have you used your CRS to conduct formative  assessments in class?  Please share your ideas in the comments box below.

Brandon Tenn

Developing Grit

Posted by Brandon Tenn Oct 11, 2017

My classes are rife with groans and sighs when passing back exams and quizzes.  To try and encourage student persistence and grit development, I decided to implement mastery based quizzes like Kevin mentioned in a previous post


I gave students three attempts to pass a quiz on dimensional analysis.  The first attempt was given in lecture.  The second and third attempts were taken outside of class.  Since I am on campus daily, I set aside time – while I was teaching labs, had office hours, or was working in my office – for students to take it.  By the day of Exam 1, 50 students passed the mastery based quiz on dimensional analysis while 84 did not. 



Passed Benchmark Quiz

Did not Pass Quiz

Number of Students



Average Exam 1 Score



Passed Exam 1



Did not pass Exam 1




Not only did the students who passed the benchmark quiz do better on the exam, but only 20% of students in this group got a score below 60%.  Many of them were in 50-60% range.  On the other hand, of the students not passing the benchmark quiz, 74% of them did not pass the exam, and many of their scores were in the 30-50% range.


I also instituted benchmark quizzes in my Intermediate algebra class, and noticed similar results.  Benchmark Quiz #1 was related to exam 1, and Benchmark Quiz #2 was directly related to Exam 2. 



Exam 2 Average

Passed Both Benchmark Quizzes


Passed Benchmark #1 only (Related to Exam 1)


Passed Benchmark #2 only (Related to Exam 2)


Passed only one Benchmark Quiz


Did not pass any Benchmark Quizzes



The data shows a strong correlation between passing the benchmark quiz and higher exam scores in both classes.  Therefore, I decided to continue using benchmark quizzes to give students an attainable goal prior to their first exam, knowing that students who are successful on the benchmark quiz will have a higher probability of success on the subsequent exam.


In response to the student exam performance in both courses I showed students a short TED talk by Angela Lee Duckworth, on Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.  A few days later, I gave my students a short article called “The State of Being Stuck” and asked my chemistry students to write half-page reflection paper on it, discussing how they would apply the concepts of grit and the growth mindset to Introductory Chemistry this semester.


The chemistry students are currently working on passing their second benchmark quiz, which is on nomenclature.  Exam 2, which covers nomenclature will take place on Friday, October 13, 2017.  I will update this post once the exam is graded and the data has been analyzed.


Other Resources on Grit and Growth Mindset:


Quotes from Reflection Papers:


“I will not be afraid of a challenge just because it looks hard to do.”


“I always tell myself, ‘This too shall pass.’”


“As a future teacher … I want my students to give it all they have and not give up, therefore that is what I am going to do in all my classes.”


“I sit next to someone who is failing this class and complains about it every morning.  She always seems to be blaming other people instead of herself.  When I ask her what she does to study or take notes, she tells me that she does not even watch the videos.  My motivation for wanting to come to this class is that I want to be able to engage in class work.”


“There’s nothing wrong in getting help from other people who get something more than what you may be understanding yourself.”


“Fear of failing hinders me from even beginning sometimes.”


“I’m actually pretty proud of how far I’ve come because I could have easily gave up … I told myself if I don’t pass this class, what does it mean for my future, am I going to do the same thing when it comes down to everything else in my life?”


“It’s OK to fail in things that you do in life, but the important part is to be gritty.  You don’t have to be super smart to survive in this life.  You just have to be gritty.”


“I always found science classes to be difficult for me, so I never really put the most effort in them.”

On January 12, 2018, 8-4 pm, Merced College (3600 M St., Merced, CA 95348) will be hosting a conference on Active Learning.  This conference is open to all post-secondary educators in 2-year or 4-year public or private institutions.  There is no registration fee for this conference, but seating is limited.  For more information, to register, or to submit a seminar proposal, please go to:


If you have any questions on the conference, please contact me at



Phone: (209) 387-6783

Problem: The same student(s) always answer questions.

Solution:  Popsicle sticks

The same student(s) always answer questions while the rest of the class remains quiet.  How can we get other students involved in the discussion?  Place each student's name on a popsicle stick and place the popsicle sticks in a container.  When seeking responses, draw popsicle sticks at random.  Not only does the randomness keep students engaged, but it also ensures that everyone will have an opportunity to share.  Asking students to draw names can remove instructor subjectivity.


Problem:  I can't tell which groups or students really need help.

Solution:  Stop and Go Cups (or cards)

When active learning activities are in full swing, especially in larger classes, it's very difficult to get feedback from all students/groups on their progress and understanding.  One easy way to tell how students are doing is to hand them a set of color coded cups or cards - green, yellow, and red.


ColorIndividuallyIn Groups
GreenLecture pace good/Understanding materialProgressing fine with task
YellowPlease slow downProgressing slowly, needs help
RedI don't understandGroup is not progressing - needs immediate help


Problem: Students are waiting for someone else to answer before solving the problems themselves.

Solution: Index Card Answers

There are many student polling apps available, some paid, some free.  Undoubtedly each semester they will be a day or two in which the polling app servers are malfunctioning.  A great low tech way to garner student responses is to hand out index cards, each with a letter A-E written on it.  When asking multiple choice questions, students can hold up the card corresponding to their answer.  Alternatively, when in a bind, and you don't have time to hand out cards, students can denote answers with their fingers, placing their hand in front of their chests, so other students cannot see their answers.


Problem: Students do not discuss problem solving with each other.

Solution: Think-pair-share

I saw a very revealing, humorous video on this topic during the summer.  Although the video is not appropriate for this post, I did realize that many times students will jump directly to sharing, before spending adequate time thinking about the problem.  In my classes, I do not call discussions "think-pair-share."  Rather, I give specific directions like "Work on the problem individually for x minutes, then submit your answers (electronically or otherwise), then discuss your answers with a partner." 


Problem: In class, students don't have a chance to stop and reflect on their learning.

Solution: 2-minute paper (Quick writes)

We all need a chance to stop and reflect on what we are learning.  Many times, as instructors, we start class by taking a breath and lecture for the entire class period and stop only to dismiss the class at the end.  While we may have said everything we intended to, students most likely were not given adequate chance to stop and reflect on what was being said.  I've been in many workshops as a participant, where the facilitators gave us time to stop and reflect by asking simple questions like "Summarize what you just learned." After the 2- minutes, instructors can gain much insight into the student's thought processes by letting them share (voluntarily) what they wrote - or by collecting their papers.


Problem: I cannot tell what students are struggling with.

Solution: Exit ticket (Muddiest Point)

A permutation on the 2-minute paper is the exit ticket.  It's very difficult, many times, to determine what topic(s) students are struggling with at the end of a lecture.  Some instructors ask students to do a 2-minute paper by asking them to describe their muddiest point from the day's lecture/activities and hand it in on their way out of class.  Although this post is focused on low-tech solutions, I would be remiss if I don't mention that Socrative, a free student polling app, has an Exit Ticket feature already built in.


What other tricks do you have up your sleeves?  We'd love to hear about them!  Please share your in-class tricks to maintain student engagement by writing a comment below or by emailing me at:


Acknowledgements: This post was motivated by the illuminating discussions that we had prior to the start of the Fall 2017 semester during a 50 minute workshop on active learning.  In particular, I want to thank English professor Denise Rempel for sharing with us many of the innovative (and often crazy) activities she employs in her classes - specifically for sharing with me how she uses popsicle sticks to engage and colored cups to monitor student learning.

Macmillan Learning is proud to announce that The Flipped Learning Global Initiative has named Introductory Chemistry author Kevin Revell one of the top 40 Flipped Learning educators worldwide.


The list, compiled annually by the FLGI executive committee, names the top 100 K-12 educators from around the world who are identified as driving forces of flipped classroom adoptions. This year, the initiative broadened their recognition to include the top 40 Flipped Learning leaders in higher education.


FLGI’s Chief Academic Officer, Jon Bergmann, stated, "The 2017 FLGI Flipped Learning Leaders lists includes some of the most experienced, innovative and proactive education and training professionals in the world. These are the people driving Flipped Learning forward in thought and action and demonstrating what is possible when Flipped Learning is done well."


Congratulations, Kevin!

Recently I was doing some proposal research on Gen Z (also known as Centennials, iGeneration, Post-Millennials, Plurals, or the Homeland Generation) and realized that this incoming generation of students is not only prepared for the flipped classroom, but expects it! Having been born starting in the late 1990’s, these students have been constantly engaged in constant communication through social media, technology at their fingertips, and consistent and fast internet access. In a recent survey from Barnes and Noble College on what Gen Z expects and wants from a college education, it was clear to me that the flipped classroom sets the stage for their ideal educational experience that is both immersive and engaging.


Based on the survey Gen Z wants:


Professors that care about their success and individual attention51% prefer meeting face to face, 77% prefer 4 year colleges
The flipped classroom provides more opportunities for one-on-one mentored like experiences through increased faculty/student interactions in guided classroom activities and group discussions. And while this generation values technology, independence and self-reliance, they still prefer the face-to-face experience and crave opportunities to interact with faculty and peers in person.



Career preparation:

35% currently own their own business or plan to own one in the future, 49% have already taken courses for college credit where 84% plan to

The flipped classroom allows faculty to incorporate more real-life problem solving activities that allows students to practice applying both their background knowledge and new knowledge in ways that better mimics the problems they will face in their careers. Additionally, the flipped classroom teachings soft skills typically not address in the traditional lecture such as time management, collaboration, communication, and team work.



Interesting and engaging course work:

Class room discussions, working through problems, and working in small groups are preferred tools for learning

 The flipped classroom takes the passive learning out of the classroom to make time for more collaborative learning experiences such as small group activities and discussions. The instructor can also bring in tailored activities reflective of a specific group’s interests that are relevant, timely, and more engaging. Additionally, the survey reports that students not only embrace technology in the classroom but expect it and rate class websites with supplemental material, game-based learning systems, DIYL (“Do it Yourself Learning), Smartboards, digital textbooks, online videos and learning websites as their top tech tools for the classroom.


Group learning environments:

80% study with friends, 60% like to exchange new ideas with friends, 52% like to help their friends learn

The flipped classroom allows for pedagogy that incorporates group problem-based learning by moving the lecture out and the hands-on activities in. By incorporating small group work, students also benefit from the diverse perspectives and knowledge of their peers and build stronger connections which help promote retention and success. 


  • Learn by doing:

51% learn by doing, 38% learn by seeing, 12% learn by listening

The flipped classroom affords the flexibility to allow more hands on and applied learning in the class, lab, field, or studio. In the survey, students reported class discussions as the most beneficial which opens opportunities for authentic student driven inquiry in the classroom (think Socrates) or problem based learning
  • Challenges:

(89% see college as valuable, 64% prefer advanced classes)

This generation is not afraid of a challenge and expects to be pushed. The survey reports that an overwhelming majority of Gen Z students plan to or have already taken courses for college credit in high school. In the flipped classroom, the incorporation of active learning, group learning and blended learning strategies affords instructors the opportunity to weave in more challenges that push our students to think for critically about the concepts and application of those concepts in order to solve real world problems.


So flipped teachers rejoice because as Gen Z takes their first steps on to our various campuses they are poised and ready for what we have to offer and may even push us to do more! Have you noticed a change in student perceptions already? Have you noticed a change in their expectations? Let us know! We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

               It was a Thursday evening as I was relaxing post-workshop and gearing up for summer research when I received a text from my colleague asking if I wanted to teach the summer intro-chem course. I immediately jumped on the opportunity since I have always wanted to get my hands on a chemistry for non-science majors course... the only drawback? The class started that following Tuesday and I have never taught intro chem before! Despite that little set back, I was eager to start planning my learning outcomes, lessons, demonstrations and labs; and was feeling energized after a week long workshop that focused on active learning. To set the scene for you: the course was only 6 weeks long, met every day for an hour and a half for ‘lecture’ and twice a week for lab. The text we used was the ACS Chemistry in Context (9th Edition, text and lab manual) where we covered Chapters 1 through 5, 8, 10, 11, 12 and 14.  The students ranged from rising sophomores to graduating seniors who majored in disciplines ranging from education, business, math, and philosophy.


At the start, I worked 2-3 hours each night to prepare carefully crafted powerpoint lectures with active learning break outs (more emphasis on the powerpoint lecture).. I believe I found myself relying on more traditional teaching methods because of my lack of confidence in teaching this material. But I quickly noticed the students were having a hard time paying attention and were drifting off.. who can blame them? Who wants to be ‘talked to’ for nearly 2 hours a day every day. After their first exam where grades ranged from low F’s to high A’s with an average of 68%.. I decided I needed to change things up and decided to shut my mouth and flip the course immediately. (This was actually inspired by a book I was reading at the time titled “Teaching with your Mouth Shut” by Donald Finkel.. read it, its great!)


I didn’t make lecture videos, I stopped wasting time making power points, and instead allowed the text book to lecture for me by assigning readings associated with each class meeting. I then could spend most of my planning time and efforts in researching and choosing in-class activities that we spent 100% of the time on in class with students working in small and diverse groups. On exam two, the class average was a full letter grade higher than the first exam (76%), which was maintained in exam III and the final.

         Students worked in small groups on various in-class activities described below.

Because I found it so challenging to find and research the resources I used, I wanted to take a moment to share with you the materials I found helpful and also ask and see if you have an activity, book, demonstration or other resources that you find especially helpful for an intro chem course (Comment below!)


Introduction Chemistry: A guided Inquiry (POGIL, 1st Edition) by Michael Garoutte and Ashley Mahoney published by Wiley.

I really wish I had this book from the very start! I requested the exam copy right when I found out I was teaching the course and it took a couple weeks to get to my desk but I was so happy when it arrived! While it wasn’t an all-inclusive resource, it was really valuable and we used a number of activities from the book in class such as the Acid/Base, Molecular Shapes, and Rates and Energies of Reactions activities. The only drawback to this text? It wasn’t put into a real-world context which was the emphasis of the ACS text book and the class. But I did hear lots of “Ah hah!”s  throughout the class meetings.

For our nutrition and cooking with chemistry unit, we made pop rocks, rock candy and dipping dots in order to discuss phase changes, recrystalization and how the rate of freezing effects the creaminess of ice cream.


Solving Real Problems with Chemistry (2nd edition) by John Goodwin, David Hanson and Troy Wolfskill; published by Pacific Crest.

This is another POGIL-like workbook that incorporates guided reflection on the actual learning process (which unfortunately the students would skip unless somehow incentivized). What I loved about this book (in addition to the reflective process) was the incorporation on intro chem/gen chem concepts into a real-world context. On days that we worked on these activities (such as “Time of Death – When did it Happen” (integrated rate laws) and “Keeping Warm with Carbon-Based Fuels” (enthalpy and heats for reations) I overheard a number of side conversations that related the chemistry to their daily lives in terms of retail, public policy, and CSI! Again, it was a great resource, but didn’t 100% line up with the text/material I was covering so wasn’t an all-inclusive resource.

In our forensics unit, students got to test money for trace amounts of drugs and isolated unknown compounds for TLC analysis in order to link a suspect with a murder case.


Calculations in Chemistry (2nd edition) by Donald J. Dahm and Eric A. Nelson, published by W. W. Norton.

This was an absolute fantastic resource for my class as the major determining factor for success in my course turned out to be the ability to solve mathematical word problems. I utilized this book as a supplemental tool and aligned sections from this book with the ACS text book for students to use as additional practice. I felt it was well written with lots of guidance and the cost is very effective! I think in future courses I will make this a required resource for the course and wish I had started utilizing it earlier. The students could have really benefited from me spending a day or two at the start of class learning and practicing basic word problem analysis and dimensional analysis without necessarily going straight into chemical concepts.


Other various online resources

I pilfered several other various resources from the web such as the new ACS Reactions Video Series (this is a great tool for engaging and contextualizing chemistry for folks with no science background and I am constantly sharing these videos through social media), the Legacy High School Chemistry POGIL activities, and for our forensics unit the Mixed Reception Activity by the ChemCollective. We also used the PhET simulations in class as well to demonstrate balancing reactions and phase changes.


Student feedback on the course:

" I feel much more prepared and really learned a lot"

" The class was enjoyable and related to our daily life so we felt we would actually use this information... I found the worksheets helpful"

"She created an environment that was comfortable to ask questions and dig deep into certain areas that were not understood well or people were interested in"

"Class structure of handing out worksheets and learning in groups how to do them on top of her guidance was probably the best way for me to learn"

"Less lecture, more practice seemed to work well in this class"


Again, by no means is this meant to be an exhaustive list of useful tools for intro chem and I would love to hear your own preferences and ideas. But after writing this post... I am left with one question: Wouldn’t it be nice if we had one all-inclusive resource that was flexible and incorporated context-based active learning for our students? By no means can I require my students to purchase 1 text book, 1 lab manual, and 3 work books for a 6-week course.

What say you? I’d love to hear your feedback, comment below:

If you are not yet familiar with the lightboard studio, let me briefly introduce this awesome tool! The lightboard is simply a clear glass board, framed with LED strip lights that the instructor stands behind and writes using fluorescent dry erase markers. The best part about this tool is that as you are writing on the board, your back is not to the viewer, hopefully allowing for more engagement with the video. This tool is very helpful to create engaging supplemental instructional videos, demonstrate problem solving, create lecture videos, or even a more interactive exam key in which the students can see your thought process! (Have another idea for the use of this tech? Let me know! Leave a comment below). Now, there are a number of tutorials out there on the internet that can describe how to construct this lightboard, but most will run you $3-5,000 in cost. In this post, I will share with you how we constructed and fully equipped our lightboard studio at BSC for less than $1000!
Watch the brief introduction here:

The studio lay out:

As you may have noticed from the video, the layout of the studio is pretty simple. You just need a dark rectangular room, a black screen behind you, 3 LED flood lights constructed in a 3-point configuration behind the board on to you, a mirror opposite of the board, and a somewhat decent camera mounted to a tripod.  In our studio, we use the mirror to flip the image (no I am not writing backwards that flawlessly) and the camera then records the image on the mirror.  For the sound, I used a 20 ft wired lapel microphone that plugs directly into the camera. I also purchased a wireless system that can use up to two microphones in case we want two people in the video. The sound quality is not as great with the wireless system, but I am clean that up post production using Camtasia or other video production software we already have on campus. 

The shopping list:

The cost of the construction is intimately linked to two items:
1. The glass used in the board. We used a 48X96 inch clear acrylic that was 1/4 inch thick from a local vendor, you can find this online at vendors such as Acme Plastics for around $160 but the shipping costs more than the actual glass, so we recommend trying to find a local vendor that can cut to your specifications.
2. The camera. There are hand-held DH camcorders that are very cost effective, but the next step up is full fledged professional cameras which basically triples the cost. We went with a small canon HD handheld that had a number of good reviews on amazon (see below).


The entire shopping list can be found below:
  1. 48in X 96in, 1/4in thick plexiglass (cheaper option) or lead-free glass (up tp $10,000 but better results) -  We went with the plexi glass option from a local supplier for approximately $140. While you can find this online at Acme Plastics for $126, the shipping is very expensive. In actuality the 96 in width is excessive and we had the local supplier cut it in half providing us with plexi glass for two boards. It is often difficult to find it in a smaller dimension.
  2. Wood and hardware to construct a base: $20.00 - $160.00 from Home Depot. Tyler constructed the frame and the base for the board by hand. The price range depends on whether or not you would like to put the board on wheels as castors are expensive. We opted not to put our board on wheels. The board is light weight and can be easily picked up and moved with two people.
  3.  Black backdrop or green screen with frame - $75.00 from Amazon (LimoStudio)
  4. Heavy duty muslin clamps – 6 pack - $8.00 from Amazon (K2M Mart)
  5. 2 LED studio lights: $69.99/pair from Amazon (Julius Studio came with stands and light filters/diffusers)
  6. Set of two 9ft photo studio light stands - $36.00 from Amazon (Neewer)
  7. Telescoping microphone boom arm - $13.00 from Amazon (JamStands) This is actually used from one of the smaller LED lights to help with the three-point light system.
  8. 1 Dimmable Bi-Colo LED Video light with U bracket - $110 from Amazon (Neewer)
  9. Set of 2 lavalier wireless microphones - $40.00 from Amazon (Pyle PDWM2145)
  10. External lavalier microphone with 20’ audio cable - $25.00 from Amazon (Canon) The wireless system is nice if you want two people in the video, however the sound quality from the corded mic is much better.
  11. 2 packs of neon expo dry erase markers - $8.00 amazon (EXPO)
  12. Large wall mount mirror – donated by physics, estimate cost is $50
  13. Polarizing lens kit for camera - $48.00 from Amazon (Canon, 43mm)
  14. LED light strip with power supply - $25.99 from Amazon (WenTop, actually came with two strips of LED lights so we have a backup or could use to make a second board)
  15. Tripod for camera – Donated by department – Estimate cost is $50-$100 for sturdy tripod.
  16. Dedicated HD video camera – Cannon Vixia HF R700 - $276.00 from Amazon


By constructing your own board and base, and being a savvy shopper, you can construct this awesome blended learning tool pretty cheaply! How could you incorporate this into your own courses? I'd love to hear! Leave me a comment!

In the spring of 2016 I started incorporating a semester long service learning project into my senior level medicinal chemistry course at Birmingham-Southern College. While service learning may not be the first thing that comes to mind when we consider active learning or flipped teaching in the classroom, it does involve similar core values that flipped teaching hopes to achieve: a student centered application of academic material to help promote deeper understanding and critical reflection. The only difference is that the product of service learning must in some way provide a meaningful benefit to a target community. As an educator who continues to study pedagogy, I have quickly recognized the powerful impact service learning can have on a student; but as a chemist, I found it extremely difficult to imagine how I could incorporate such a valuable practice into my own courses. Instead, I decided to let my students do the imagining for me. Each year at the start of the spring term, I place students in small 3-4 people groups and prompt them to reflect on and propose a project that they could complete within the term.

The prompt:

To provide a frame work for the project, students are provided with the following prompt:


Throughout the semester we will be developing, implementing and assessing a community service project. This project must:
  1. Emphasize initiatives to combat public misconceptions of pharmaceuticals and increase overall social scientific literacy in the Birmingham area.
  2. Increase opportunities for low-income families in the metro and/or surrounding areas to receive necessary medical care and educational support to properly take necessary medications and monitor their health.
  3. Be feasibly conducted by students in next year’s Medicinal Chemistry course over a 2-3 week period near the end of the term.
This project can incorporate support from existing community service programs but must expand or implement something new within the scope of that program. If you plan to utilize an existing program, you must approach a representative of that program with your proposal and summarize his or her feedback/support.
I expect this proposal to be NLT 5 pages typed, include sufficient detail on how the project can be implemented and managed, provide an explanation of the broader impacts of this project and how they align with this call for proposals. 


As described above, students are expected to produce a written proposal which is assessed with a proposal rubric(also provided at the start of the term). Additionally, each group is then given time to present (or pitch) their proposals in front of the class. After the pitch session, students then discuss if they prefer to remain in their smaller groups and each group complete their own proposed project, or if they would like to align aspects of the various proposals to make one larger project that the students work on as a class. Each time I have done this project, the class has decided to work as one larger organization, at which point I encourage the class to set up a means of communication (groupme works well for this), to develop a timeline and to assign specific roles to individual students. 

Assessment Strategy

Beyond trying to visualize how service learning can fit into an advanced level chemistry course (which I offloaded on to the students), determining a way to assess and measure impact on academic learning and thus provide a meaningful grade for the students was also a challenge for me. So again, I reached out to the students for help and together we crafted a plan:


Proposal (50 points): Already described above.
Journal (50 points): Throughout the experience, students are expected to maintain a journal in order to document their contributions, log time spent on the project, and reflect on the experience. A total of 10 journal entries (one per week) is expected. Each journal entry should include a date, log of time spent on the project, should be NLT a page long and should include not only descriptive features, but thoughtful reflection as well. Reflective prompts will be provided on the course moodle page to help orient you as you write.
Hours (25 points): Students are expected to spend NLT 30 hours on this project and the time spent should be documented within the notebook. This includes time spent in research, planning, journaling, preparation and implementation.
Products (50 points): Students will be evaluated on the products (paper materials, videos, interviews, events, presentation poster) of their projects. If there is no tangible product by which to evaluate, students will construct a research style poster explaining the project.
Community partner and peer evaluations (25 points): Each student will be evaluated by three peers and a community partner. The total score will be the average of each evaluation. Evaluations need to be justified, simply assigning a score without supporting evidence will not be acceptable


All together, the project was worth 200 points, or 20% of the total course grade, which aligns with the typical point distribution for the laboratory component of a lab based course. 


The journal is an essential component of the project, not only because it provides evidence of time spent, it also provides an avenue of critical self reflection to help students' align their own expectations and understanding with that they were learning throughout the process. This year,  it also gave me valuable feedback in what did or didn't work well in the implementation of project that I can use in the following year. To help illustrate my point, here are some of the students' comments from their own journals:
  • "It was nice to actually kind of use what we had been learning in a class in a way that I would not have originally through of."
  • "I've found that I like the classes when we talk about helping the community, or even in the larger sense than other classes."
  • "Beginning thinking about this project has encouraged me to become more aware of the struggles that so many less fortunate people face, as well as the responsibility that I have to positively impact these segments of the population... I am excited that this project will force me to get out of my comfort zone and engage with people with whom I may not normally interact".
  • "An especially important consideration I had today was how valuable different perspectives and opinions can be within a team"
  • "This project has already taught me that simply giving up out of exasperation is not an option."
  • "However, I think this project is teaching me to plan further ahead and to be more supportive of my peers' work."
  • "This project honestly  may be my favorite curriculum related work I have done during my tenure at BSC".
  • "During the progression of this service project, I hope to gain insight into new models of empathy."
  • "Overall, this has been a challenging yet rewarding task to complete. Really using my creativity is something I haven't had to use as a chemistry major/math minor/pre-med student. However, I do think it is incredibly important to exercise this part of your brain,, as it can be utilized in so many different ways regardless of career choice."

The product

This year, the students came up with a really clever and creative project: A youtube video series called "Vedicinal Chemistry" that features short 3-5 minute animated videos on common topics related to health and medicine. These videos are meant to be shared through social media and with local schools/institutions.. by why talk about it? Why not watch them?
I loved this project for a number of reason! First, it is something that the community can continue to use well beyond the single term in which the project was implemented, so it has a much more lasting impact. Second, it provided students a glimpse into my teaching style. A number of students remarked in their journals how surprisingly time consuming creating a simple, well-researched, 3-5 minute video can be. And third, it is something we can build on and easily expand upon in future classes at BSC. My plan now is to continue the Vedicinal Chemistry video series in next year's class and have each group of students responsible for proposing, developing and implementing a new video to share through social media and to our community partners who are already using the series. 


Interesting in implementing a service learning project in your own course? Have ideas you would like to chew on? Let me know and leave your comments below! Also, feel free to visit my instructional resources page to see my rubrics, reflection prompts and evaluations I developed or borrowed for this project. I'd love to hear your feedback! 

In the fall of 2016, I implemented benchmark quizzes in my organic 1 classes, which I wrote about here.   The quizzes covered key learning objectives, they were pass-fail, and students had to be essentially 100% correct to pass.  Although things didn’t go entirely according to plan, the outcomes for the class were extraordinary.

This past semester, I decided to modify this approach for my introductory chemistry classes.  I had two lecture sessions, with about 210 students total (70 in the morning session, 140 in the evening session).  I built the benchmarks around key learning outcomes for each chapter.  As before, the benchmark quizzes were pass-fail, and students had to answer each question correctly to pass.  Students had 3 opportunities to pass each quiz.  A sample quiz was posted beforehand.  Quizzes were worth 10 points each - 10% of their grade.  However, In order to unlock their full homework grade (also 10%), students were required to pass 6 of 10 benchmarks.  (See this article for more detail about this).   


The Logistics

Students took the quizzes each week at the beginning of their lab section.   I passed out the main quiz for that week to the entire section.  As students turned in their quiz, they could pick up re-quizzes from the previous two weeks to complete.  (For example, quiz 1 was available in weeks 1, 2, and 3 – but not afterward.) 


Because each quiz was pass-fail, it didn’t take me long to grade (about an hour per week).  I simply sorted quizzes by pass-fail, then entered the passing grades.  I kept hard-copy grade sheets for each benchmark.  I recorded a “1” for students who passed the first week, a “2” for the second week, and a “3” for the third week.  This allowed me to track performance week to week. 


One of the biggest challenges was staying up-to-date:  I had to post grades each week, so students knew if they needed to re-take the quizzes.  With 210 students, this seemed like the most labor-intensive part of the experiment.

The Results

Ultimately, I didn’t make it through every benchmark.  I made it completely through 6, and gave a 7th twice, but at the high-stress end of the semester, I decided to give full credit for everyone.  Here are the results:




In general, most students who were going to pass did so in the first week, or in the second.  Very few students passed the third week.  A fourth week clearly was not justified.  The one glaring exception to this was week 4 - naming ions and compounds.  I think that in this case, it took most students longer to really master the ion names and the nuance of naming the compounds, so even the above-average students needed a couple extra weeks before they could get the quiz 100% correct.


To be candid, I found these results discouraging:  I designed these quizzes to keep students on-track with lower-stakes weekly quizzes, rather than waiting for the exams to realize they were unprepared.  I also wanted students to have the opportunity to correct their mistakes if they failed the first time.  But some students simply didn't put any effort into preparing for these.  Perhaps because it is a freshman level class, and the only chemistry requirement for several majors.  Or perhaps the stakes were too low, or the grading scheme too complex.


Compared with previous semesters, my retention rates remained strong (>90%).  Scores on the ACS standardized final were slightly lower.  Despite the considerable effort, I did not see the effects I had hoped.


But there were also bright spots:  While the benchmarks didn’t motivate every student, there were students who came to me to figure out what they missed, and to practice with me until they could work the problems correctly.  This was what I was after.



So what do I make of this?  Using benchmark quizzes had a profound positive effect in my majors organic class, but a negligible effect in my non-majors class.  I suspect that a lot of this has to do with the psychology of the majors versus the non-majors.  For highly motivated pre-med students, it was a challenge to meet.  For the non-majors, the effect was different.


I’m not ready to give up on the model yet.  I think it can still work in the non-majors classes, but I’ve got to tweak it for that group.  This fall, I’m planning to make two adjustments:  Simplify and raise the stakes:


Spring 2017Fall 2017
10 quizzes @ 10 pts.each5 quizzes @ 20 pts. each
3 attempts3 attempts
6/10 required for full homework creditNo connection to homework


My hope is that these changes will make it easier for intro students to see the importance of the quizzes, and give them more priority.  We’ll see how it goes.

John Osterhout

What's Your Style?

Posted by John Osterhout May 3, 2017

It is clear from our posts that there are many ways to flip a chemistry classroom. I'd be very interested to survey the flipping styles of our community.


Here are some questions you could answer:


Have you flipped all of the General Chemistry at your institution or do only certain professors flip?


Do you use videos?
Did you make the videos in house or do you get them externally?
Are the videos lecture-like or topic oriented, short videos (6-10 min)?
Do you require the students to view the videos?
If so, how do you monitor?


Do you use a textbook?
If so, which one?
Why did you pick this textbook?
Do you make daily (weekly, chapter-based) reading assignments?
Do the students have the option of using an electronic textbook?
If so, what percentage use the ebook?


Do you give quizzes?
If so what is the frequency: daily, weekly, pop, after chapters?


In-class activities
What is your typical class size?
What sort of in-class activities do you use?
Do the students work in groups?
Do you grade the activities?
Does everyone in the group get the same grade?
Do you use transponders or cell phone responders (such as Top Hat)?
Do you have TAs or student helpers in the classroom?
If so, what is the ratio of students to (helpers + professors)?
If you use TAs or student helpers, do they receive special training?


Do you use online homework?
If so, what is the frequency of the assignments (daily, weekly, chapter-based, or other)?
What percentage of the final grade is the homework?
If you don't use online homework, describe your homework practices.


Do you do anything else that you consider important to the success of your flip?


If you have not already written a post describing your flip, please consider doing so. Or, you could answer the questions above and send them to me at JohnOsterhout<at>JohnOsterhout<dot>com and I'll consolidate the responses and post the results.


OK, I'll go first.


The style of the classroom is left up to the professors. In the Fall, I'm the only professor flipping. In the Spring, another professor uses my materials and flips as well.


I have not made my own videos. I use the ChemTours in the Smartwork system that we use for online homework. I also look for suitable videos on the internet to supplement the ChemTours or to fill gaps in the ChemTour coverage. I often use Khan Academy videos or random videos from the internet. Sometimes, students suggest a video and I will incorporate it into my worksheets if it is better than the one I have. I do not require video viewing.


Our textbook is Chemistry, Fourth Edition (Fifth edition next year), by Gilbert, Kirss, Foster, and Davies (Norton). Our faculty picked it because the content was acceptable and the price was lower than most of the other textbooks. I make daily reading assignments from the textbook. The students have the option of using an electronic textbook only. About fifty percent of the students have opted to use the ebook only. Unfortunately, most of these have only their cell phones to access the book in class. A few students bring laptops.


I give daily quizzes that count for ten percent of the final grade. I give the students an assignment sheet that includes the day's learning objectives. The quiz comes from the learning objectives. I use the quiz to encourage the students to make at least a minimal effort to engage the material before class.


In-Class Activities
My class size is about 30. I don't have TAs or student helpers so the student to me ratio is about 30 at the beginning of the semester. My students work in groups of four unless I am forced to make groups of three. At the beginning of class, I assign the groups by major and consolidate them as students drop out.


I use worksheets that I have developed myself. These are available to teaching professionals. The worksheets are a series of problems that require the student to practice the learning objectives. The problems are more involved than the quiz problems. If the students finish the worksheet in class and it all the answers are correct, then they can leave. If they do not finish, they have to turn the worksheet in completed at the beginning of the next class. I has to be perfect. I post the keys so at worst the students copy the key onto the worksheet. At best, they engage the material. Some do, because they report mistakes in the key.


I use the SmartWork online system from Norton. I give daily assignments. The assignments cover the assigned reading & learning objectives for the day and one or more questions from the previous day's material. The homework counts for twenty percent of the grade.


My flipped class is designed to put the ideas through their heads several times: the reading, the homework, the quiz, the worksheet, and the follow-up homework.


I look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, Happy Flipping!







What made you think that it might be a good idea to abandon hundreds years of lecturing tradition and do something different?


I would like to develop a post about why you, the members of our group, first decided to flip, how you took the first steps in flipping, and how your flip has developed.


As a beginning, I offer my story.


When I moved to Angelo State University, I was assigned to teach both General Chemistry and Non-majors Chemistry in my first semester. I am a biochemist and was previously teaching Biochemistry and the honors section of Biochemistry to juniors and seniors at the University of Arizona. ASU hired a young biochemist at the same time as they hired me to be department head so she got the biochemistry assignment and I got the freshmen. This freshman thing was new to me. The best that can be said of my first semester was that I survived.


After that, I concentrated on General Chemistry and started to seriously consider how to improve my Gen Chem teaching. I always considered myself a bit of a ham and thought I could pull off this lecturing thing as well as anyone. However, the performance of my sections was low to middle based on student performance on the American Chemical Society final exams. How to improve?


The idea of flipping was first instilled from articles in Higher Education and the Chronicle of Higher Education. I read with interest about the successes of active learning and the improvement of student learning when the students did the homework in class and watched the lectures at home.


I decided to dip a toe into flipping. I was at ground zero: no video lectures, no classroom materials, no online support, no TAs, and no one else flipping at the university. I was teaching a Tuesday-Thursday section of Gen Chem and so had over and hour to work with. I decided to do a half-lecture then pass out an open-book worksheet.


The fateful day came. My first day of (sort-of) flipping. I was nervous. I explained to the class what we were going to do. The students were skeptical. I gave my lecture; business as usual. Then I passed out the worksheet. There was an ominous pause while the students came to grips. Then the first question....


The first question was about how to work number one. The first problem concerned the first thing that was in the reading assignment. It was also the first thing I covered in my lecture. To add insult to injury, the student had his book open on his desk and key word concerning the first problem was in bold at the top of the first page.


The writing was on the wall. I resolved right then to change the way I was doing things.


I had suspected it before, but this confirmed two of my suspicions: 1) the students din't do the reading so they came to class completely unprepared (but you knew this) and 2) the students were too busy trying to write down everything I said to actually assimilate any knowledge. What to do? I resolved to completely flip the following Fall semester.


The next year I used online homework to try to enforce engagement with the material before they came to class. I assigned online homework every day. I tried to find the simplest problems so the students would be getting an introduction to the material. This didn't result in their actually reading the book, but I knew from overheard conversations that they resorted to the book or the internet to find out how to solve the homework problems. I developed worksheets for each class, but that first year I didn't have any video component whatsoever.


The class averages jumped up by about a letter grade. My sections started to show up 1&2 or 2&3 (out of 6-7, depending on the semester) on the exams.


In subsequent semesters, I added the daily quiz, I incorporated video help into the worksheets, and I modified the homework to include follow-up problems after class. I am still refining. I describe how I run my class on a page on my website. The worksheets are available for download (free) to teaching professionals.


I want to hear from you. I would like to hear your story and see how you developed your flip. I'd like to consolidate the stories for a later post or encourage you post your own story. Contact me at JohnOsterhout<at>JohnOsterhout<dot>com or look me up on the Angelo State University web page and email me there.


Happy Flipping!

In the Fall of 2016 I posted that I was making my Flipped General Chemistry I worksheets available on my website,, for teaching professionals. Now, with the close of the Spring 2017 semester, I have just finished putting the General Chemistry II worksheets up as well (eighty three worksheets in I & II). My Flipped General Chemistry Page contains a description of how I use the worksheets. The worksheet are posted on a separate password protected worksheets page. If you are a teaching professional and send me link to your school so I can verify your position, I will send you the password. All materials are free. Contact me at John<no space>Osterhout<at>John<no space>Osterhout<dot>com or look me up in Chemistry and Biochemistry at Angelo State University and email me there.


The worksheets have three sections: the Daily Quiz, the Introduction Page(s), and Key Questions. Here is Worksheet 25 pH of Salt and the Common Ion Effect. The Daily Quiz is usually seven questions, two covering the previous day's material and five on the current material. I try to make the five current questions correspond exactly to the learning objectives. After class, I post the Introduction Page for the next class as an assignment on Blackboard.


The Introduction Page(s) consist of several sections:

  • Why?, a short section to put the material in context. My Why? sections are very short because the student don't read them.
  • Learning Objectives. This section contains the learning objectives as a bulleted list. For instance: Students should be able to: Predict whether a salt solution will be acidic or basic. As mentioned, these learning objective guide the content of the daily quiz.
  • Resources. This sections contains the reading assignments, usually two sections of our textbook, Chemistry Fourth Edition by Gilbert, Kirss, Faster and Davies.
  • ChemTours. ChemTours are very short, topical videos provided through the SmartWork homework system.
  • Videos. This section contains links to video content.  Links in the Videos sections are to any content I can find that seems suitable. Sometimes these are Khan Academy videos and sometimes they are random videos I found by searching the internet. If I were a young chemist, smart and energetic, I would make my own. However, I am old, tired, and ugly so I doubt that any self-respecting student would sit through any video I'd make.
  • Prerequisites. This is a short list of ideas from previous work that are needed to understand the material coming up.
  • Vocabulary. As you might have guessed, this is a list of the new vocabulary in the section.
  • Focus Information. The Focus Information section contains information from the reading that might prove particularly useful. I put important equations here and very short explanations of important ideas. As far as I can tell, the students don't read this section either, but it comes in handy for exam preparation and I can refer to it in class.
  • Potentially useful information. When present, this section contains information that is usually necessary to solve problems in the worksheet. An example is the density of some liquid. The student must recognize that the problem requires the density and go find it.


The final part of the worksheet is Key Questions. This section contains the problems for the day. I usually start with simpler problems and build up to more complicated ones, but I can't always do this depending upon the material. I try to make the worksheets long enough that the groups do not finish during my fifty-minute classes.


Each link on my worksheets page will download a folder as a zip file. The folder contains everything you need:

  • PDF files of the Assignments (the Introduction Page(s)), Worksheet, and Worksheet Key.
  • Open document text files (.odt files) of the above for editing. I use LibreOffice on Ubuntu, but you can get LibreOffice or OpenOffice for Windows or Mac. These fully-featured office programs are free.
  • A folder of graphics files. (Use the GIMP (raster graphics) or Inkscape (vector graphics) both free.
  • A .png of a screen capture of the Smartwork homework assignment.
  • A wxmaxima file of the calculations for the worksheet. Wxmaxima is a algebra program (sort of like Mathematica) that is available for Linux, Windows, and Mac. It's free.


The worksheets are just one part of a classroom flipping strategy. However, it is daunting to contemplate making videos, developing classroom materials, and arranging homework assignments, all so you can give flipping a try. I have posted the worksheets for those who would like to try flipping without having to develop all of their materials from scratch. Since the files are editable, you can take the worksheets in any direction you wish.


Good luck and have flipping fun!