Last year, I used the flipped classroom pedagogy to deliver my first year seminar on “Understanding Conflict and Cooperation Through Film: Making Sense of the Politics of the 21st Century.” The results, as I’ve blogged about before, were pretty exciting: near full engagement from students; extremely high levels of attendance throughout the term; improved writing and oral communication skills; and high quality critical thinking, debate, and discussion.
So this year, I was excited to teach the course again, only this time with some modifications based on some of the lessons I learned from my first go around. These included posting participation grades after each class, adding an extra assignment to fill a “homework” gap in my course scheduling, and fixing some of the units, among other things.
This year, so far at least, has been quite different from the previous year. There have been some classroom management issues, a slower buy in among students to the logic and activities of the class, and an alarming trend with respect to attendance and assignment completion. The latter has been the most concerning, with somewhere between 7 and 11 out of 13 students showing up to class on a regular basis. Indeed, the average attendance tends to hover around 60-75%, far below my 95%-100% average last year. Also troubling is that usually only about half the class completes the major assignments (e.g. the summative papers and the formative online quizzes).
So what is going on here? I’m using the same model and the same exercises (with some improvements), but with different results.
I’m not exactly sure what’s going on. Some possibilities include:
a) the first time I taught the course, it was in the first term and this year it’s in the second term. Perhaps Fall term first year students are more open to this type of course because they have yet to be socialized into the university environment. By the winter term, it’s too late and so it takes more effort to get them to buy into the course structure.
b) last year, the course was in a regular classroom with crappy wifi. This year, this course is being held in the active learning classroom, which is bathed in and pulsates with wifi and so students are able to surf the internet more than they were able to last year.
c) course title effects: last year, the course was advertised as “Understanding Conflict and Cooperation Through Film” whereas this year it is “Making Sense of the Politics of the 21st Century.”
d) random sampling differentials: maybe I just got two really different groups of students.
The good news is that the course is getting better, approximating the type of outcomes I was getting last year. Last week’s class was on social class. Students read two readings, completed a quiz and then came to class where they heard a 10 minute lecture on the social class (covering the issues they had trouble with from the quiz).
Then we played monopoly for 30 minutes, and then stratified monopoly for another 30 minutes. We then discussed what happened at each board, how each player felt, how each player did or did not take up the persona of their social class, etc. It was an extremely interesting and indepth discussion, with the students linking their experiences to the readings (e.g. means of production; the merits and flaws of capitalism; the barriers and relationships inherent in social class; habitus dislocation, etc.).
After a short break, I divided the students into pairs and asked them to play the following online game: http://playspent.org/ Students were asked to record and then discuss the various choices they made as a single working class parent trying to survive a typical month. Students had to make choices and tradeoffs as they decided between work, leisure, housing, medical bills, and the like. We ended the activity with a discussion about the barriers, tradeoffs, and resources available to working class individuals and families.
Students seem to come away with an appreciation of some of the real world implications of social class. Indeed, students mentioned at the end how they liked that the activities helped them experience some of the things mentioned in the readings.
I’m optimistic that this class was a turning point. Time will tell!