– Errol St.Clair Smith –
”Make measurable progress in reasonable time” – Jim Rohn
Everything about the Flipped Learning project at Anahuac University screams advanced. The strategy they developed to move away from lecture-based instruction is exceptional in its detail, scale, ambitious timeline, and masterful execution. The way the university selected participants is beyond anything we’ve ever seen. Most importantly, the progress Anahauc made since we last visited in October was breathtaking, record-setting and trailblazing.
The three days we spent on campus confirmed how serious this university is about putting their faculty at the forefront of active teaching methodologies. By the time we left, all agreed that we had experienced a master class in what works when transitioning a school or university to Flipped Learning. On the very last evening, we debriefed over pasta and red wine and asked again, “What have we learned that could help other transitioning universities and centers for teaching and learning? Below are the 10 big takeaways:
The administrators at Anahuac University are very proud of their professors and the process they used to select them for the Flipped Learning pilot. “We wondered how the program would be going if we had chosen different people,” said Dr. Diana Galindo, Director of Academic Development. Once again, we saw how getting the right people involved in the program made a palpable difference. We all know what it’s like to work with cohorts who are “voluntold” to participate in professional development initiatives. We’ve all walked into workshops that felt like a colonoscopy waiting room. But as this new cohort of 28 professors streamed into this Anahuac workshop, we saw big smiles, hugs and cheek kisses – some included us. The front of the room filled up before the rear, and the energy in the space was high. This was clearly another exceptional group of educators. We were told that the enthusiasm of the first cohort had spread throughout the 19 schools on campus, so expect this second cohort to be excited and ready to go. They were…. ( See Anahauc’s selection process here)
Typically, we introduce the tech tools needed to flip instruction online, followed by a short primer during the workshop. But Anahuac center for teaching and learning, CEFAD, took the extraordinary step of hosting a hands-on technology workshop a few days before we arrived. The university brought in their local tech gurus and familiarized all of the participants with video creation tools, interaction tools, screencasting tools, and video hosting options. The result is the “tech terror” level and actual tech issues were dramatically reduced during the main workshop. With more freedom to focus on the activities, we noticed that the creative use of the tech tools soared compared to past sessions without a pre-tech workshop.
We introduced gamification during the pilot workshop at the University of Northern Colorado in 2019, but we’ve been refining the game elements ever since. New features include Flipped Learning Jeopardy, the 12 sector roulette wheel, and giving away advanced courses as prizes. It’s all about modeling that even serious learning can be fun. Creating teams and gamifying the activities created an engaging and fun-filled experience regularly punctuated by outbursts of laughter and applause. Our surveys revealed that a few participants didn’t like gamification, but 97 percent gave high ratings to the gamified workshop. We also discovered that participants take getting points and keeping score seriously, so using a rubric and having a system are important.
The right space and tools make a huge difference. We completely reconfigured the room to support active learning, collaboration, and gamification. Notice the stacks of three colored cups on each table –blue, yellow and red. The cups are used to signal the facilitators when the group needs help. Anahuac’s project coordinator, professor Analee Barrera González, arranged for extra outlets to support personal computers for all participants. We discovered through trial and error that even the little details can make a big difference.
Anahuac University professors participated in the first Advanced Flipped Learning Strategies workshop focused on the Global Elements of Effective Flipped Learning, (GEEFL). Participants engaged in a hands-on introduction to the 12-Sectors Color Wheel and the GEEFL. Teams of four to six professors were tasked with selecting an element and creating a flipped lesson to teach that element to the rest of the class. Participants created both pre-class videos and group space activities.
The recently enhanced GEEFL makes it easier to learn and master the essential best practices of Flipped Learning compiled by 100 delegates in 49 countries through the Academy of Active Learning Arts and Sciences (AALAS). The Anahuac cohort embraced the assignment, produced a creative set of videos and in-class activities, and demonstrated an impressive entry-level understanding of the best practices they covered. During our debrief, professor Ines Botero Cuervo (the director of Anahuac University’s Faculty Development Center) affirmed that covering the Global Elements of Effective Flipped Learning was an essential addition to the program that should be expanded. We took notes.
We’ve learned that setting appropriate expectations for educators transitioning to Flipped Learning is vital. One of the global best practices is to identify each institution’s (and each educator’s) unique barriers to successfully implementing Flipped Learning. Another is to accept the natural trial-and-error process of facilitating active learning activities during class time. Simply said, on the way to mastering Flipped Learning, some lessons will not go as planned.
One of the highlights of the workshop was an activity aimed at encouraging the new Flipped Learning educators to suppress any perfectionist tendencies and celebrate learning from mistakes. The power of this exercise surfaced during the reflection period when one of the professors shared a powerful personal story. She came from a home where failure was not an option. So during the workshop exercise, when she caused the tower her team was building to collapse, she was consumed by terror. When her colleagues quickly minimized the mistake, supported her, and immediately returned to rebuilding, she was emotionally moved by the experience. Another professor was effusive as he shared his big aha! He said the exercise revealed to him that “the culture of education needs to change to support learning through failure.” The class applauded.
The Master Class model was developed in response to the shortcomings of the single-guru method of teaching Flipped Learning. Often what participants learn about Flipped Learning is limited by the preferences and niche experience of the sole facilitator. The premise of the master class model is that teaching Flipped Learning through multiple experts provides a richer, deeper, more well-rounded learning experience to educators. In this blended model, the fundamentals of Flipped Learning are presented online by 26 Master Flipped Learning practitioners. The online prework is combined with an on-site workshop where participants apply the principles and get practical experience, through active learning exercises. We learned from participant surveys that teaching Flipped Learning through multiple perspectives created deeper understanding, was more reenforcing, is highly valued, and preferred. One participant said it this way, “Having several points of view gives a richer experience and helps develop your own position towards Flipped Learning, taking what serves better for your discipline, personality, and experience.”
Participant surveys revealed that assessment in a Flipped Learning class or course is a big issue that needs addressing sooner than later. The change in instruction creates a need to adapt the assessment process. Specifically, flipped classrooms require alternative ways to measure more authentic learning and link that learning to institutional requirements. Dr. Caroline Fell Kurban’s research and work are on the leading edge of assessment in Flipped Learning. Caroline led the assessment session and provided a basic framework, a set of guidelines, and a timetable for effective Flipped Learning assessment in a higher education context. During our debrief with Anahuac University’s project leadership, they confirmed their finding that to successfully migrate to Flipped Learning, some early introduction to adapting assessment is pivotal.
In a discussion with Dr. Eric Mazur, he noted that his class in applied physics at Harvard University could be mistaken for a kindergarten classroom. “Some students sitting on the floor, It’s noisy, chaotic, and sometimes students are so engaged with each other that they don’t hear me when I try to get their attention.” Mazur makes it clear that the look, feel, and sound of authentic learning can be very different from the lecture hall in many universities. The priority of the workshops at Anahuac is to enable professors to **experience** Flipped Learning. The on-site workshop is divided into a series of 12 experiences, where the participants work through the practical elements of Flipped Learning to include the following:
No principle that could be taught via active learning is conveyed via lecture. The workshop is turned over to the participants as soon as possible. The facilitators are guides on the side who give assignments, provide support, and give feedback to achieve the learning objectives. The workshops at Anahuac once again confirmed the obvious. Active learning is more engaging than passively listening. Teachers like to teach, learn from each other, and apply their expertise in a workshop setting. Most importantly, we can create more powerful and satisfying professional learning experiences when we shift the focus from teaching professors to unleashing professors’ experience and innate skills.
We learned that administrative support has an outsized impact on how well a school or university transitions to Flipped Learning. It’s hard to say enough about the support Anahuac University’s administrators are providing to the faculty participating in this project. We detailed their planning and execution in the last story we did on Anahuac back in October, How Anahuac University Built a Flipped Learning Dream Team. We were thrilled to discover that the university has taken that support to a new level. It was “ooh and aah” time when we toured their new studio replete with green screens, teleprompters, professional lighting, a movie clapboard, and the most advanced lightboard we’ve ever seen. If there was any question about whether Anahuac is aiming to deliver world-class Flipped Learning, their studio puts the question to rest.
It’s too soon to tell if the model can be replicated in any university or k-12 school. What we do know is that educators from the US, Australia, Central America, and Europe have validated the model. The model has been introduced at the university level in schools of medicine, architecture, language arts, political science, communications, business, economics, engineering, bioethics, tourism, psychology, humanities, philosophy, social responsibilities, design, global studies and education.
Anahuac University has helped pioneer an effective model for transitioning to Flipped Learning at scale. There are certainly others, but if you are in search of a proven roadmap, their model is a good place to start.
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