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Making the flip: Victoria Shropshire’s experience with a semi-flipped classroom

vshropshireVictoria Shropshire, instructor in English, is teaching three English 110 College Writing classes this semester. She is using flipped instruction to: give students more options for how to absorb material, reduce lecture time and focus on class discussion, and use technology to acquaint students with the types of writing and research they will be doing throughout their lives.

The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning defines flipped instruction as “a teaching approach in which students get a first exposure to course content before class through readings or videos, then spend class time deepening their understanding of that content through active learning exercises.”

Learn more about the flipped classroom model here.

Shropshire will be the first to admit she is not tech-savvy. So when she took the Teaching and Learning Technologies’ class on Flipped Instruction this summer, she was immediately captivated by how simple it was to incorporate flipped instruction into her course.

While some professors may think they don’t have the time to flip a course, Shropshire attests that the work they do ahead of time will “save them [time] on the back end.” Shropshire invites any professor considering flipping a course to reach out to professors who have had success with flipping courses, herself included.

“It’s a little time of investment and it has big dividends,” she says.

How it helps students

Because many students taking English 110 come from different backgrounds technology- and research-wise, Shropshire provides online resources to help each student work at his or her own pace. Every resource for her entire course is on Moodle, where students can access it easily on their own time. She says the elements of flipped instruction have helped her first-year students get acclimated to college life.

“When you come to college, everything is new – everything,” Shropshire says. “So to be able to give students something and say, ‘This is yours, you have control over it, and you can access it when you want to. Here’s the deadline, but between now and that deadline, have at it,’ I find that more students actually do the readings, more students actually engage in class.”

In fact, Shropshire says her students have been getting higher grades on reading quizzes and other assignments because they have the freedom to learn in their own style outside of class.

“It sort of takes the pressure off me a little bit, but it also gives them more control over their own learning,” she says, “And that becomes a huge part of them learning not only what they’re supposed to learn from the class, but being able to take that and put it into more sophisticated courses that come down the road.”

Shropshire has used tools like online video lectures, both from Ted and some of her own (see below), and Librivox, a free audiobook website, to provide students with more options aside from just reading or listening to a lecture.

Shropshire has also made group discussion forums and collaborative Moodle submissions a part of her course. She recently used these tools to the benefit of her and her students when she was away at a conference. She said it allowed her students to start talking about the material “before [she] was even off the plane.”

“Your course can basically keep running without you,” she says. “Not forever, but for a few days. It basically sustains itself because you can set these things in motion.”

Flipped instruction, Shropshire finds, is ultimately most helpful to students because it takes the boredom out of class time.

“For a writing course, it’s about talking and sharing and writing and then exchanging, reading, writing and then talking that out again,” Shropshire says. “They’re doing the work [in class] as opposed to listening to me quack about the work, and that’s the most valuable thing to me.”

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