Friday, March 7, 2014

Versatile Scheduling in a Flipped Class

I'm co-clerking a group charged with proposing a new schedule for the school. Part of the process entails getting feedback from the community. My department predictably prefers extended but less frequent meetings to accommodate labs. In the past, I would've considered lab periods as nonnegotiable in a new schedule. (Currently, middle science does not have lab periods.) However, I no longer have a burning need for the lab period model. This is all because of the flipped class. Now that direct instruction, including directions to labs, happen via video and hopefully out of class time, I no longer have those concerns. This is especially true in my asynchronous course. Since students are collecting data at different times, I don't have to slow down the entire class with step by step directions and fielding questions that other students don't need answered. When it's time for a small group to collect data, I am available to address their particular needs. Some groups are ready to go without any help from me, while others need one or two minutes of guidance. The result is an overall increased pace and more effective use of lab time. The other benefit is that I no longer need lab supplies to be available to all students in the same period. Again, leading to more effective use of time and created by the flipped class. 

The lone exception has been the Socrartic Seminars. Our periods are 44 minutes long, which could accommodate two discussions. I use the fishbowl model of concentric circles; the discussion takes place in the inner circle, while the rest of the class observes and takes notes to give feedback from the outer circle. Students switch their roles in the second discussion. I can have two engaging discussions with eight or so minutes to spare. Those eight minutes almost always get wasted. I could easily extend the discussions but I want my students to be able to get done work done every class. I've decided to have both seminars on consecutive days without the outer circle. This adjustment has worked well. While half of the class is engaged in discussion, the other half are getting work done. Even the students who participate in the seminar get half the period to do work. 

I don't know what kind of schedule models we will propose but I am comforted with the revelation that my flipped class will thrive in a variety of schedules.