Well, SFS is in. My results are still well above the Faculty average, but lower than last year when I began flipping, so I was a bit disappointed. What went wrong? Well, nothing really, it is just that I experimented with a new tutorial dynamic, which did not work, and had to change mid-semester to right the ship. I thought a good idea would be for students to reflect on the pre-class learning materials and then each generate a question/query to be sent to me before class on the Monday. These would set the focus of the tutorial. It worked for a short while, then died [no accountability – no mark for this], so I switched back to last year’s style of getting students to take turns at summarising readings and leading the class in discussion. That was only partially successful too. I gave the students the option of continuing to work in groups for the second half of the semester after the case studies were finalised. Most voted not to do that. So now I am convinced of 3 things: students need to be made accountable and demonstrate they have done the pre-class learning and the only way to do that is attach a mark to it; secondly, tutorial has to be better structured with a variety of interactions to prevent boredom; thirdly, I need to think much more deeply about group work. I am on the case (have spent the last 2 weeks on and off looking at ways to improve before next August).
Some student comments for suggested improvements: “I sometimes found it difficult to make my voice heard (literally and figuratively) over the louder characters in class who seemed to constantly share their own opinions and sometimes the topic had moved on before I had any opportunity to express my views or queries”; “the tutorial structure could be tweaked so as to force students to actively contribute to these class discussions” [this will be done, but not in a punitive or overbearing way – the key is to persuade]; “I would like to see more group work and more debates. To include all members of the class, I think each student should be made to comment in class upon the readings for that week” [yes, but this will be managed through group brain-storming and collective responses]; “classes need to be made mandatory” [I have a trick for this (student suggestion): students must submit a written summary of pre-class learning materials or some such thing upon entering tutorial – no summary or no attendance = 0 mark]; “I disliked the idea of the test as an assessment task as I prefer going away and researching specific topics, preparing my thoughts and then arranging my arguments to the best of my ability than having to do this in the atmosphere of stress and panic an exam can elicit” [test is dead and buried for next year – mark to be replaced by demonstrated engagement with pre-class learning materials]; “most of the time in our tutorials Jeff was the one that was talking” [I couldn’t get them to talk much, especially since there was no coercion with pre-class learning. It may be the particular cohort, but more likely tutorial design was weak – mea culpa!].
What they liked: “a lot of freedom when selecting a topic for the assessment tasks“; “I enjoyed the flipped learning model used in this subject so as to engage students in the content”; “I like the personal touch there, it feels like we can really work with him to improve our academic skills”; “I really enjoyed the blog as a tool to provide the students with information. As a creative space, it encouraged my learning and was a great way to access readings and any other information needed”; “I enjoyed the variety of assessments task, allowing to present critical analyses in a creative manner. I also enjoyed the way lectures/tutes were set up with active and thought provoking discussions rather then being spoon-fed information. coming from a business background this was a refreshing break from other subjects” [of course this contradicts the negatives above]; “The CLA website/blog with all the materials I thought was very helpful and easy to use. I also think that it was good that we were able to choose our own topics for the case studies and literature reviews“; “Really appreciated how we were set the same assignment formats that we will be required to submit next year whilst on ICS [In-Country Study]. Jeff gave very thorough and prompt feedback for all assignments too. Also really appreciated his very fast response to emails”.
So, improve tutorial dynamic and ensure pre-class learning engagement and I’ve got it nailed.