I’m tired of talking. Let me explain. One of the basic rules of thumb for adult learning says that a class should be a little more than half practical application and workshop material to appeal to the audience. That aside, classroom (or instructor-lead) training has become expensive, and managers and consumers have become vocal in letting us know that they want to make sure it’s worth their time and money. To be plain, are we doing all we can to make the trip worthwhile?
I have always been an advocate for lots of hands-on activity in class, probably because it matches my own learning style but also because the majority of the attendees enjoy it. Not surprisingly, in the midst of teaching a class a few years ago, I started to wonder if I could get more time for discussion and activities, and lessen the burden we all felt in getting through the lecture pieces to the workshops. In this particular case the lecture was preparatory to the workshops and provided necessary background required to complete the labs and assignments. Fortunately, in addition to instructor-lead courses, I also work on web-based training and have done many voice over and narration tracks for online and computer-based presentations. Eureka! I found a way to off-load all the passive broadcasting of background material and recoup the time for projects, experiments, discussion and debate–the things that make class interesting and engaging. Although I didn’t have a name for it, I adopted the Inverted Classroom and have since learned that many others have had, either from desire or need, their own Eureka! experiences.
The “Inverted Classroom” as coined by professors Lage, Platt and Treglia in a paper presented to the Journal of Economic Education, Winter 2000, moves away from the traditional lecture. In it they describe how they saw a need to serve a wider variety of learning styles in class:
“Recent evidence has shown that a mismatch between an instructor’s teaching style and a student’s learning style can result in the student learning less and being less interested in the subject matter (Borg and Shapiro 1996; Ziegert forthcoming). This finding implies that either educational administrators should strive to ensure a good match between the instructor’s teaching style and the students’ learning styles (a difficult task) or that concerned instructors should use a portfolio of teaching styles so as to appeal to a variety of student learning types. Unfortunately, a majority of introductory economics courses are taught using only one teaching style–the traditional lecture format (Becker and Watts 1995).”
Lage, Platt and Treglia define the inverted classroom in simple terms:
“Inverting the classroom means that events that have traditionally taken place inside the classroom now take place outside the classroom and vice versa.”
What this means is that the class is designed in such a way that “passive” activities (such as listening to a lecture) are done outside class and what was lecture is replaced by workshops, discussion, and activities that require interaction. In theory this should increase the value of class time and provide more time for new and additional material. Educators are still unsure how to optimize the inverted classroom, but what seems clear is that inverted classes will use of a mix of technologies like podcasts, DVDs, PowerPoint, text, video and interactive media in conjunction with hands-on projects and group activities.
Researchers Gerald C. Gannod, Janet E. Burge and Michael T. Helmick of Ohio’s Miami University are carrying out a study to evaluate the design and delivery of inverted classes in computer engineering. In a work-in-progress report delivered to the ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, 2007, Gannod states:
“Based on the SGID analysis performed on the course, student acceptance of the inverted classroom process has been well-received. Over eighty-five-percent of the students (in a class of twenty) have responded favorably to the inverted classroom structure, while over ninety-percent prefer the short learning activities over more prolonged assignments. In regards to the use of podcasting as a lecturing medium, students have indicated that the ability to use the play, pause, reverse, and fast-forward capabilities of the podcasted videos beneficial to their ability to learn the material.”
From the standpoint of instructor overhead, questions remain concerning the difficulty in designing, deploying and maintaining an inverted class. Certainly, the initial chore of creating podcasts (if they are used) may be considerable. Further, a sufficient number of high-quality projects and activities are required (vapid “busy work” may be less tolerated than boring lectures). Finally, the students must rise to the new class format and, to use an expression from the past, “come to class prepared.” Gannod plans to address issues of faculty overhead, podcast production and course maintenance in an upcoming report.
Lage, Maureen, J., Platt, Glenn, J., and Treglia, Michael, “Inverting the Classroom: A Gateway to Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment”, Jnl of Economic Education, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Winter 2000), pp. 30-43.
Gannod, Gerald, C., Burge, Janet, E., Helmick, Michael, T., “Using the Inverted Classroom to Teach Software Engineering”, Technical Report MU-SEAS-CSA-2007-001, Miami University, Department of Computer Science and Systems Analysis, School of Engineering and Applied Science, 2007.
Gannod, Gerald, C., “Work in Progress – Using Podcasting in an Inverted Classroom”, 37th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, October 10-13, 2007.