A new form of learning is sweeping through the US higher education system in response to recent discoveries of how students learn best. A few weeks ago I visited Penn State University, where I taught for four years earlier in my career. I was advised by the Dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Science that over 90% of his professors had adopted this new learning format, the “Flipped Classroom.”
The First “Flipped” Classroom
This new learning format is founded on the basic understanding that students do not learn very effectively when a professor presents a lecture consisting of a series of power point slides. About five years ago I read that a well-known Harvard professor of physics gave such a power point lecture and then asked his students if they understood what he had taught. They all replied with a confident “yes.” Without prior notice he then gave them a series of exam questions on the lecture using a wireless response system. To everyone’s surprise their average score was only 65. He then asked those who did not answer correctly to huddle with those who got it right for three minutes to learn where they went wrong. He then gave them another exam and this time the score was 100%. Using this learning experience he “flipped” his teaching approach and may have been one of the first professor to apply this new academic approach: he replaced his traditional “professor lectures” format, illustrated in the above figure, to “professor mentors” approach.
In essence, he asked students to read, view video, access e-Learning or related media in advance of the class session (Before Class), and when they attended class (During Class) they formed teams to discuss what was not clear and ask questions of the professor, who now acted as a mentor to guide them in their learning. He might also give them assignments that cause them to practice what they had learned. In essence he was applying one of the major Adult Learning Principles: “Adults learn best from each other when they are given a problem to be solved.” This process is similar to but different from the learning process that has been used for years at graduate business and law schools where case studies and legal opinions are read in advance and where the professor questions individuals using the Socratic Method during class.
Note that there is a third box in the illustration referred to as “After Class” which could include applying the new knowledge to more complex tasks or assignments to build competency level proficiency. This could include software applications or related assignments, performing mentored tasks, laboratory sessions, or field trips to view equipment or operating practices.
IHRDC Flipped Learning Process and Resources
IHRDC is now applying its Flipped Learning Process with a variety of its clients by combining our many e-Learning resources and generic competency models to meet individual client learning needs. The Before-Class sessions are selected from our extensive inventory of e-Learning resources (commercial, technical, soft skills, operations and general management) or recorded webinars. The Class Sessions are then devoted to the discussion of the content with experienced mentors/specialists followed by team assignments and/or simulation games selected from competency models that build Awareness and Practical Application to meet their job competencies.
In some cases the e-learning and mentored sessions are done virtually, 2-3 hours per week, while the trainees are undertaking on-job assignments in various company locations. Then, if appropriate, during Post-Class Sessions, participants are given more substantial work assignments, make presentations, visit corporate sites to view equipment in operation and/or to speak to specialists who demonstrate their applications or elaborate on best practices. The process is summarized in the figure below.
For more information on our approach please contact Dr. David A T Donohue at IHRDC ()