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All Places > Flipped Chemistry > Blog > 2018 > December > 07

Introduction. I wrote this post primarily for professors that might be considering flipping their classrooms. The tips and tricks below I developed while teaching General Chemistry to freshmen for eight years at Angelo State University. Of course, some, if not most of these tips would apply to upper division classes as well.


First Tip. Bookmark Flipped Chemistry. It is a great resource for classroom flippers.


First Day. Explain yourself. Most freshman students have never seen a flipped classroom. So it is a shock. Explain how it works, but as importantly, explain why you are flipping. I found that the students tolerated the approach better if they thought it would improve their grades. Tell them that the process of learning is on them, that only they can put in the effort to learn the material.  Assure them that you are there to help them and that you want them to succeed. You are there to coach them and to provide them with exercises and help. Go over their sources of help. List them explicitly: you, the book, on line tutuorials or videos from the textbook company, videos that you have produced, tutorials run by you, office hours, the tutor center, the library, the internet, Khan academy, and so forth. See my post, Hello Class.


First Day Quiz. Give a them a basic math and chemistry quiz on the first day. See what you are up against. I gave a first day quiz that was about half simple math problems and half basic chemistry problems. The quiz mostly helps to identify students with math troubles (see It's That Chemistry Algebra). I once gave a more extensive chemistry quiz on the first day and tried to correlate it with final grades. There was no correlation. Gumption trumps prior knowledge. For more about what I am calling gumption see Brandon Tenn's post Developing Grit.


Videos. Make the videos mandatory or not, in either case assume that the student do not watch them and plan accordingly. Alternatively, use technology to ask questions during the videos. Be sure there are points at stake and that the students can't continue without answering the questions. See my post To Video or Not to Video on my website.


Before class. The important thing is to try to get the students to engage the material before coming to class. Videos might do it. Reading might do it. I assign reading and provide links to videos when I can find them. I also assign online homework before every class. Usually, the students skip the reading and go straight to the homework. If they can't work the homework, THEN they go to the book or the internet. For more about using homework in the flipped classroom, see my post Homework as Engagement.


Group Worksheets. Absolutely have the students work in groups. Do not let them turn in one worksheet per group. This encourages the slackers to talk about football or relationships while the only motivated student actually does the worksheet. If everyone has a stake in the worksheet there is at least interest in finishing as many questions as possible during class. If you haven't got your own worksheets, I have posted all the worksheets I used for General Chemistry I and II on my website. Here is the link to my Flipped General Chemistry Page, which contains a description of how I flip and a link to the worksheets. You need a password for the worksheets. Send me an email at JohnOsterhout<at>JohnOsterhout<dot>com with a link to your professional page and I'll send you the password.


Choosing Groups. When I first flipped my classroom, I made up groups randomly at first. After the first exam, I choose one student from each quartile of the class for each group. This was a disaster because the top student would do all the work while the others slacked off. The method I settled on was to make up the groups by major. Honors students were together, as were pre-meds and pre-dents, regardless of major. Mostly, the motivated students were in the honors/pre-med/chemistry major groups. The other groups were at least all in the same boat. Since their majors were all the same, they were having about the same experiences in their classes, and had the same motivations (mostly get through chemistry.) For more on groups, see On Groups.


Homework. I have noticed that many professors using a flipped classroom still give homework as a summative exercise. Since you are essentially doing homework every day in class, it seems a better idea to use the homework daily to prepare students for the material to come and to reinforce the ideas the day after the class. See Homework as Engagement, which I alluded to earlier in the "Before Class" section. Exceptions that I make to the daily use rule are to give online homework as a review before exams and to use online homework for bonus exercises.


Keep Up the Heat. Try to get the students to engage the material multiple times. I try for 1) the reading, 2) the online homework before class, 3) the daily quiz at the beginning of class, 4) the worksheets, 5) homework questions on the next days assignment about the previous days material, 6) exam reviews, and finally, 7) exams.


Quizzes. Use daily quizzes at the beginning of class. The idea is to put a premium on preparation. I usually allow the students to take the quizzes as a group. Group quizzes engender discussion. I sometimes spring an individual quiz on them to encourage them to keep on top of things. The students hate the individual quizzes after they have done a few group quizzes.


Worksheets. I use paper worksheets. The students work on them in groups during class and I post the answers immediately after class. They are required to turn in their worksheets the following class day corrected and complete. The get a check (100%) credit or an X (0% credit). I know some of the students copy the answers and don't think about it. However, I know from the number of mistakes that get caught that some of the students are using the worksheets to understand the material. I did not find the perfect approach.


Large classes. I have been lucky in the last six years to teach classroom sections of thirty two students. If I were required to teach large classes I would consider using classroom responders to do the "worksheets". One could do a series of problems in the usual fashion or give the students a worksheet accessible on the web and let them enter answers at their own pace. I would also try to find students to serve as in-class helpers.


Summary. Be interested. Be kind. Be helpful. Be fair. There is no perfect way to flip. Give it a try. Enjoy!

It's a beautiful day in the land of Flipped Chemistry. The students arrive with bright eyes and inquiring minds. They've done the reading, achieved a basic mastery of the concepts, and are now ready to polish their newly-won knowledge in their groups. I usually wake up right at that point.


When I first flipped my General Chemistry class, I assigned reading and hoped for the best. I had assigned reading when I was lecturing and found that almost none of the students actually did the reading, but hope springs eternal. After all, this was the new, improved, flipped General Chemistry class. Surely the students will do the reading.


Nope. Most of the the students arrived with zero preparation, zilch, nada, nothing, goose egg, squat. Here we are doing the worksheet: (Student) What's this here? (Me) That's the first thing in the reading and it's right there in bold in the book in front of you. Arrrrgh! (That was me, again. Although I do try not to say that last part out loud...)


My class evolved over the next few years. Now I use online homework to elicit engagement with the material before the students arrive in class. My flipping scheme goes like this: 1) reading assignment, 2) online homework, (in class the next day) 3) group quiz on the reading assignment/homework, 4) worksheet. Repeat until we run out of semester.

In my mind, the students do the reading then attempt the homework, going back to the book as needed when they work the problems. Ha! In reality, they almost universally skip the reading and dive right in to the homework. I know this from direct reports. The students tell me right out that they go straight for the homework. I've seen them in action. They open the homework, read the problem, fire up the online textbook, and scroll rapidly until an equation appears that has potential. Then they try to plug and chug. If that fails they scroll to the next equation. The process is very utilitarian. It cuts out most of the time wasted, you know, thinking. A shame, really.


Is it worth having the homework at all? The first that happens in my class is a group quiz. There are usually seven problems, five from the reading/homework and two from the previous worksheet. I overhear a lot of conversations that start with "There was one like this on the homework last night." So, yeah, the homework is worthwhile. It engenders engagement in the material even if it isn't exactly the kind of engagement I was hoping for.


I know that many flipped classes use videos for an introduction to the material. My experience is that student hate the long ones (45+ minutes) and will only use the short ones (six or so minutes) as a last resort.

Some classes make the videos mandantory. Many of my colleagues report that enforcement is a problem. In some cases, it is possible to monitor who has opened the video but not how much of it was watched. Of course it is not possible to tell if the brain was on while the video was playing.


I have talked with colleagues who are using systems in which you can post questions during the videos that have to be answered before the video can continue. Giving points for these questions motivates the students to participate and, possibly, even learn something.


I am interested in what you do to engage the students and, for that matter, in how you flip.
I've developed a questionnaire that I've sent to all the people who got the password for my worksheets. The returns have been interesting. I hope to post about this in the future. If you would like to participate, download the flipping questionnaire and email your answers to me at JohnOsterhout<at>JohnOsterhout<dot>com.