During the “Explore” phase, I noticed something interesting and also very encouraging. Because every single outcome (unpacked standard) was essentially “locked” into an inquiry learning cycle this year, unlike at the beginning of the year, my students appeared to be attacking the problem with an incredible sense of confidence and strength. A year of inquiry had, I hope, rubbed off on them, and observing them test and re-test the different metals, monitor their produced voltage, and explore a myriad of other intricacies I had not even hypothesized they would was extremely rewarding. Within a half-an-hour, students had not only figured out the direction of electron flow, respective charge of the anode and cathode, and how to determine cell voltage (at standard conditions), but more importantly, had fully construct the knowledge I had planned on delivering during the “Flip” phase. Instead of holding out, and requiring that they view the instructional screencast, I decided to test their constructed knowledge via a game of “Battery Relay.” I had each lab group report to the chalk board and with a chart of standard reduction potentials in hand, yelled out two different metals, and challenged each group to draw a battery. Randomly I would yell “switch” or “rotate” which would signal another group member to continue from where the other left off in the diagram.
Moral of the story, inquiry pays off, and although I had an elaborate plan of “filling in the gaps” via and instructional video, with a little time, space and guidance, students just might construct that knowledge on their own. Check out a video clip of our relay race below:
Having a large surface on their desk to perform and create problems seemed like a perfect way to check for understanding and empower students to demonstrate critical thinking. Moreover, using their camera phone/video camera, groups could easily “hover” above the desk and record quick tutorials, bypassing the need for screencasting and tablet technology, iPads, etc. Despite the obvious benefits, my administration did not approve the painting of our classroom desk tops.
In search of a cheaper and less-permanent substitute, I stumbled across Self Adhesive Dry Erase Material. It is working like a charm! I purchased a few rolls, and measured out sheets that stick to the top of our classroom desks. The sheets can be removed at the end of the school-year, and for now, appear to work as well, or better than, a traditional whiteboard. See below for a video of a student in my AP Chemistry class working through a problem “on her desk” at the conclusion of a learning cycle on atomic structure:
Because the “Explore” and “Apply” phases of the “Explore-Flip-Apply” learning cycle rely heavily on collaboration and model development, quick group presentations and sharing of information is essential. Below is a list of different ways I have been using Reflection App, in conjunction with our classroom LCD projector, to better facilitate inquiry and collaboration:
- Mobile Document Camera: Using the camera, move about classroom displaying student work, laboratory procedures, demonstrations, etc.
- Spontaneous Group Presentations: Using the camera, quickly interview different groups during various phases of the inquiry cycle. For example, feature a group’s problem solving strategy, or ideas re: a specific model they are currently developing.
- Annotation of Student Work: Using the camera, take a picture of various student solutions during a problem solving session and using apps like PhotoPen, annotate and comment on problems.
- Quick Slide Shows to Summarize Activities: Snap pictures of student work, and upon conclusion, quickly scroll through your camera roll to serve as a daily summary. Alternatively, revisit the pictures at the beginning of the following day as a transition into the next phase of the learning cycle.
- Screencast iPhone/iPad Applications: Although more connected to the “Flip” phase of the “Explore-Flip-Apply” cycle, by mirroring your display onto your Max OSX display, you can use programs such as Quicktime’s screen recorder and Screencastomatic to capture applicable information from your device.
Day 1: Explore
Topic: Effusion and Diffusion.
Task: To compare the effusion rates of helium gas and nitrogen gas.
Materials: Three balloons, measuring tape, helium tank, your breadth (for nitrogen gas…yes, I know, this is a HUGE REACH, but whatever, it was fun..), scotch tape, a thumbtack, and a stopwatch.
Procedure: We use a guided inquiry approach during exploration days. Whenever appropriate, I try to put the procedure development process in the hands of the students. In this lab, I gave students 15 minutes to brainstorm a procedure of their own. Students had many different procedures, but after pulling their hair for 15 minutes, the majority of groups developed a process that looked something like this:
1. Fill one balloon with nitrogen gas.
2. Fill the other balloon with helium gas to the same volume using tape to measure diameter.
3. Blow the third balloon up to ~ 2/3 the size of the other two balloons. Use this balloon as the “reference”.
4. Secure a piece of tape in nitrogen filled balloon.
5. Insert thumbtack into tape.
6. Remove tape and record time (sec) it takes for balloon to deflate to size of reference balloon.
7. Repeat for nitrogen.
8. Estimate rate by taking the reciprocal of the time.
See images of process below:
Data Analysis: Students then entered data into a class chart where effusion rates were gather across groups, a class mean was taken and percent error data was calculated. See images below:
Model: Students worked in groups to analyze the data and create a model. The group mean diffusion rate was ~ 2.6! Students ultimately, with a bit of prodding :), realized that the this was approximately the square root of 7 (how many times larger the molar mass of nitrogen is than helium). Students recorded this data and conclusion in their notebooks and were assigned a lecture on effusion and diffusion for homework (the flip).
Night 1: Flip (Instructional Video)
For homework, students were assigned an instructional screencast video that addressed their observations from the laboratory, formally defined effusion and diffusion, presented the equation for Graham’s Law, and solved a few example problems. Students reflected on the video via a google form embedded below, where they provided a 5 sentence summary of the video and entered in answer to the second worked example (video ended abruptly in the middle of the second example). Below is a quick snippet of the video:
Below is a screenshot of the google form used for reflection:
Day 2: Apply
Goal: To apply knowledge of Graham’s Law.
Task 1: Work individually and collaboratively to practice released AP Chemistry problems related to Graham’s Law of Effusion-Diffusion.
See examples of problems below:
Task 2: Use new assimilated knowledge of Graham’s Law to verify the equation with respect to diffusion, rather than simply effusion (See Day 1).
Materials: Clear plastic straw, two cue-tips, ammonia, toilet boil clear (source of hydrogen chloride), ruler.
Procedure: We again guided inquiry approach, however, because students have already explored this concept and have viewed and instructional screencast, the goal is to verify, rather than develop, Graham’s Law.
1. Simultaneously place ammonia and toilet bowl cleaner soaked cue-tips in both ends of a clear plastic straw.
2. Work together on practice problems while waiting.
3. Measure distance from top of cue-tip to cloudy ring in straw (location where ammonia and hydrogen chloride gas meet).
4. Calculate rate (distance/time) for each gas.
5. Determine value of rNH3/rHCl and share data.
6. Evaluate class mean and calculate percent error.
See images of process below:
Night 2: Prepare for Quiz
Day 3: Quiz and new cycle begins
This is my 5th year trying implement an effective model of the “inverted classroom” (Lage, Platt, & Treglia, 2000) in my AP Chemistry class. I say “trying” as that is exactly what the past 5 years can be reduced down to: an attempt. While class-time was opened up for student problem-solving, and the video responses and reflections were amplified via the use of a google form as a tracking device, students seemed to be passively learning the material, at best. For all the benefits of flip teaching with respect to class-time, I now realize the HUGE negative was not flip teaching as a pedagogy, but simply the order of learning activities. Students come to my class with a rich and diverse prior knowledge, derived form 17 years of living “in” the subject. In the previous model, while my focus was on using class-time effectively, I failed at giving my students an opportunity to access their prior knowledge, tackle their misconceptions actively, and work to construct their own meaning FIRST. Derek Muller explains this extremely well in his video Khan Academy and the Effectiveness of Science Videos.
To address this issue, my first step was to RE-ORDER the way my class is structured and give students an opportunity to construct their own ideas and models BEFORE learning anything directly from me. Because, I still passionately believe in the time-shifting benefits of flip teaching (added classroom time, catalog of basics, focus on problem solving, etc.), my goal was to merge inquiry learning with flip teaching to promote knowledge construction, while also opening up class-time by off-loading any aspects of direct instruction as homework via annotated screencasts. I am definitely a rookie in this regard, and given the pace, content, and high stakes nature of an AP Chemistry class, I decided to make a list of all things factual, mechanical, and low level (definitions, equations, few examples, etc.) and create instructional videos around those ideas only. All other forms of learning are incorporated in a Explore-Explain-Apply learning cycle. Because the “explain” portion is off-loaded to the homework setting, I refer to the cycle as “Explore-Flip-Apply”. Mayer (2004) articulates the goal of this process well: “Students need enough freedom to be cognitively active in the process of sense making, and students need enough guidance so that their cognitive activity results in the construction of useful knowledge.”
Basically, there are still things that I, as the instructor, want control over teaching. I just won’t be using class-time to teach those concepts. I fully accept that this is where the model diverges from a truly strident-driven inquiry learning cycle. Even though I do play an active role in the “flip” phase of the cycle, not front-loading students with content, as I did in the past, but rather giving them at least one opportunity to form their own models first, has felt like an effective merger of both pedagogies…for me. Anecdotally, my students seem to be much more invested in the laboratory activities, and more motivated to apply their knowledge towards complex problem solving given an initial phase of exploration. A student approached me today and I feel his comment sums this process up well. Word-for-word quote: “Mr. M. In all my other classes, we learn all this complicated %&$* first, then do boring labs. In this class, the labs kinda make me think, and then you help me understand during the vids. I guess it helps me understand what my answers mean, or something…” Beyond the Napoleon Dynamite esque lingo lies for me, subtle evidence that I am working towards a model of Flip Teaching that I feel is sustainable, effective, and respects the way my students naturally all “want” to learn.
Below is an example of one “Explore-Flip-Apply” cycle. I will be posting different examples frequently throughout this year, and conclude with an action research report on the efficacy of the project in May, with a midterm report in January. As an aside, this re-structuring has also opened the door for me to touch on a wide range of strategies, not solely the inverted classroom. Other strategies addressed in “Explore-Flip-Apply” include:
Explore-Flip-Apply (Example 1)
Day 1: Explore
Step 1: Opener (~ 10 minutes)
The following question is displayed: Why is salt placed on icy roads in the winter? I use a variation of Peer Instruction to facilitate this process: a) Students work for 3 minutes to answer the question individually on their opener sheet. b) Students then group up (3 or 4) and share their responses and agree on a collective answer. c) One student “buzzes” in answer from smart phone or computer device using a google form embedded in class website designed to collect both multiple choice and free response openers. d) I display the google spreadsheet where data is collected and we as a class investigate all answers, discussing trends, commonalities, etc. I never explicitly give them the solution to the opener when collected on Day 1, as the purpose is purely exploration of concepts.
Step 2: Lab Exploration (~ 65 minutes)
Students are given a lab worksheet (Yes, I love the old paper-based lab worksheet action!) where, after a pre-lab discussion, they work in groups to develop and outline a procedure to answer the following question: How does the addition of sodium chloride affect the boiling point of pure water? This is where aspects of Guided Inquiry enter as students are given a research question and asked to design their own procedure. Students were only given the following materials (temp probe/computer w/ LoggerPro, two beakers, glass stirring rod, table salt, hot plate):
In the “data” section of the lab worksheet, students are asked to provide both a data table and a graph. An example of a graph gathered from one group’s procedure is below:
Students then work together to write conclusions and provide and “explanation” of the phenomena in their lab worksheet. Explanations are translated onto class-whiteboards and we spend the last 10-15 minutes of class discussing their explanations group by group. This may bleed into the “application” phase the following day. I guide this process without ever actually revealing the correct answer to the initial question posed in the lab. Various group procedures are highlighted and trends between groups are noted. This process might continue into the next day, however I usually plan lab explorations to take about 45 minutes, allowing time for an opener and group presentations. My classes are 75 minutes long.
Night 1: Flip (Instructional Video)
Students watch a screencast instructional video where I introduce additional concepts, definitions/equations and provide two problem-solving examples that relate to the exploration that current day. The purpose is to build on their exploration by introducing more structured concepts, providing any mechanical knowledge (definitions and equations) and briefly model a few problems. I am still trying to figure out exactly how much information to include and what to leave out during this phase. I find myself falling into my old bad habits of providing too much information and not letting the inquiry, and subsequent application phase, play a larger role. Perhaps I need to reflect on this Clough and Kruse (2010) article more? In order to engage students in the video process, and also promote reflection, a google form is embedded DIRECTLY BELOW the video that asks the students to provide a structured summary of the video according to a guide I provide for them. Additionally, the video ends in the middle of the second example. Students are asked to complete the problem and provide the numerical answer in the box labeled #2. Click here for an example of the video and form layout. My hope is that by asking students to reflect via a summary, and complete a problem, I am addressing both the conceptual and algorithmic side of the concept, and also obtaining information about what students struggle with via their responses (they are asked to indicate something they did not understand or still have questions about). This is where aspects of JiTT enter. The video for the exploration phase described above is below, along with a screenshot of the form and google spreadsheet where data was collected:
Day 2: Apply
* Activities on the “application” day vary from more directed lab application tasks, to individual/group problem solving sessions, to challenge problems and class competitions. Students have problem sets we refer to as “Learning Packets” that house the majority of practice problems used during the “application” day often. Click here for an example of a Learning Packet designed around “Free Response #4” on the AP Chemistry examination. Below is an example of an application day that involved a more specific variation of the lab activity from the previous day described above. Guided Inquiry is used again, but informed by the screencast lecture.
Step 1: Opener (~ 10 minutes)
Follows the same Peer Instruction model described above. This time, the question is more specific (usually AP multiple choice question). After individual attempts and group discussion, groups buzz in answer and we collectively go over responses by displaying google spreadsheet. I highlight groups who obtained the correct answer and keep track of this as a motivational tool for the opener. We critique wrong answers and discuss logic behind test construction of that item (good and bad distractors, etc.). See spreadsheet below:
Step 2: Lab Application (~ 65 minutes)
Students are given a blank sheet of paper to show their work in route to answering the following question: What mass of sodium chloride do you have in your tray? Prior to the lab, I measured the same mass of sodium chloride for all groups (50 grams). Students are instructed NOT to use a balance, but instead, the concepts they learned in the night’s lecture to obtain the mass of sodium chloride provided. Although students’ lab procedures ended up being fairly similar to the prior exploration, the specific task of determining the actual mass of sodium chloride, forced merger of skills constructed in the exploration phase and applications learned in the instructional video. Students were only given the following materials (temp probe/computer w/ LoggerPro, two beakers, glass stirring rod, to plate and 50 grams of sodium chloride):
Night 2: Prepare for Quiz
Students prepare for a quiz the next day by finishing problems in their Learning Packets. Quizzes usually have a total of four questions and ask students to apply and synthesize concepts from the application day. Quizzes are standards based, and I allow students to reassess as they strive towards mastery of the standards (many different versions of the quizzes are made to facilitate the re-assessment process). Students must wait at least one day after meeting with me for additional instruction before reassessment. Click here for an excellent post that describes the logic behind separating the re-teaching and reassessment process. Although I provide opportunities for students to reassess, for me, I have a hard time merging the “Explore-Flip-Apply” with an asynchronous mastery learning system. Because emphasis is placed on student construction of knowledge during the “explore” phase prior to video instruction, I find it easier to keep all students on the same cycle, rather than monitoring which videos each student has progressed through, and making certain that they were exposed to the laboratory BEFORE each video. To keep this cycle in-tact, I publish each video sequentially, as the associated exploration phase ends. To keep advanced students motivated, I scaffold the “application“ day to provide additional resources and challenge problems.
Day 3: Quiz and new cycle begins