Thursday, February 13, 2014

Flipping out

To me, the idea of "flipping your classroom" has been presented as The Next Big Thing by its advocates, and Just The Latest Fad by its detractors. I have toyed with it some, but not seriously, and I have been looking for someone who's actually doing it in high school psychology and was willing to share the experience with our readers. 

I connected with Melissa Schaefer via Twitter, and she agreed to do a guest post about her experience. I am thrilled that she was able to do this, and hope that our readers will chime in the comments with their take on this new trend. Take it away, Melissa!

So I’ve been expressing my love (okay obsession) with the flipped class on #psychat for months now, and I thought I would give a little more explanation into my quest for those who are interested.  Last year I had 62 class days to teach the AP Psych curriculum.  We are on 4X4 block, and there was construction that summer.  While I had no experience in video, I was hoping the flipped classroom would be my key to success.  I attended a conference on the flipped classroom where I was provided the Camtasia software as part of the cost.  I started with the first lecture and just kept recording- usually only 1 or 2 nights ahead of the kids.  In class everyday we would start by reviewing the notes with a partner, which is great practice for Cornell Notes.  Most students don’t look at their notes again until the night before the test, so I was able to show them how to review each day.  Next we would go through questions, and then I would pick the 5 or 6 most important terms to do activities or simulations.  The feedback was overwhelmingly positive from my students- each one said they would suggest the videos again for next year on their end of the year evaluation.

In that first year, I learned a few lessons.

1. It can be very hard to lecture to your computer screen- but even worse for students if you are boring … so it is important to still be yourself.  Sometimes I wear hats or have challenges for them to complete.  I often act like a fool- but I do that in class anyway.  In addition, a signature “sign off” makes the videos your own.

2. The videos are best kept between 10 and 15 minutes.  Depending on the intensity of the content, it can take some students 60 min to do a 15 minute video.

3.  Save your favorite examples and stories for class- but still put a few in the video.  I was able to get a lecture that would take the whole period into 10 minutes when there were no interruptions.  While I’m sure my students will say I talk fast, it is totally possible.  I was shocked how much time is sucked up by a computer error, a class interruption, etc.

4. Watching the video must be essential for class.  Students who did not do the video (which honestly did not happen that often) realized quickly that they were completely lost the entire period.

Now starting my second year, I have learned a few more:

1. I will need to redo several of the videos.  However for those I will use again, I rewatch them before class.  It is hard to remember exactly which examples you gave and so rewatching helps me prepare for the lesson.

2. This year after reviewing the notes, they create a mindmap that they add to each day.  This is another way to digest information without adding more homework.

3. While I did not have too many problems with students who did not watch videos in my first year, this year if they do not have all their video notes, they cannot take the test for that unit.

Finally, please feel free to look at the videos I have created on my YouTube channel and use them in anyway you would like!  I would love any feedback or comments! I did not originally plan to share them so please forgive mistakes or errors I make.  I tried to catch them- but my students are always much better at that :).  I will tell you that my “sign off” may be slightly unconventional, but I do take great care to explain the political and social issues within psychology to my students.  Also, please feel free to contact me at or @MT_Schaef on Twitter if you would like to talk about the flipped class!

Melissa Schaefer teaches AP Psychology at Mundelein High School in Mundelein, Illinois. Thanks for sharing this, Melissa!
- posted by Steve

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