What if the current vehicle of learning was flipped upside down, and student success rates went up because of it? This concept is what Central Oregon Community College chemistry instructor Zelda Ziegler has been putting into practice with her students since 2006 in the form of a flipped classroom.
This style of learning is an educational model in which students listen to the lecture on their own and come to class to do their homework with the professor’s guidance.
“It always starts out the same way,” Ziegler said. “It goes through a little resistance and then [students] start realizing how much they understand–the quality of conversations are better and there’s very little sitting and passively listening.”
In a flipped classroom setting, there is more accountability than in a standard class because students are expected to watch the lecture and do supplemental reading before they come to class, Ziegler explained. In class, students then receive assistance working out problems and understanding any concepts they have difficulty with.
“I feel like using class time for sitting through boring lectures isn’t a good use of my time as a student,” said Nick Bozilov, a first-time student in one of Ziegler’s winter term chemistry classes. “I really like the independent learning [the flipped classroom offers] and working through the material in groups.”
The most important part of this approach to learning is the guided inquiry, Ziegler said. To make this approach work, the course uses a workbook that asks students questions that prompt them through the learning cycle, similar to what a tutor would do.
“[Students] have to develop their own model for looking at the information that’s there, and then apply it,” Ziegler said. “This completes the learning cycle, which is to explore, generate a concept and then apply it.”
This is a different approach to learning than most classes at COCC, but statistics show that it is working. The shift in Ziegler’s classroom to what is called Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning caused a seven percent increase in passing grades and a lower dropout rate for the course.
At the end of a year of general chemistry, students take a 70-question standardized national exam from the American Chemical Society. In 2007, Ziegler’s students, who learned using a traditional classroom model, landed in the 25th percentile of the national average on this exam. The lowest score in 2007 was a 13. After using the POGIL approach, the lowest score was a 20, and the average of student scores in 2011 increased to the 44th percentile.
This approach, in addition to increasing test scores, better prepares students for a workplace they may experience after graduation, Ziegler said.
“I think the word on the street is that [lectures] aren’t as valuable as people think they are; in fact, Harvard has devalued their lectures to the extent that they put them online for free,” Ziegler said. “I don’t know any work situation where sitting passively and taking notes is going to get you paid.”