I have been planning to write about my teaching in quite some time. One way or another, I’ve been drawn to make changes to my classes that have led me on fairly new paths of teaching methods and pedagogical skills. There are many, many resources that can explain the methods and directions I describe below, and I will not do them justice by exhaustive linking, but will offer instead just a taste of the virtual possibilities .

It all started with a teaching retreat that I attended while I was still in graduate school, which introduced me to active learning as a significant paradigm change towards more effective learning and away from traditional teaching, teacher, and classroom models. It has been part of my teaching philosophy for a while then to engage students in class content in an active, dynamic, and more creative way – rather than traditional lecturing at them.

Then, a few years ago, I changed two of the classes that I teach in in-person format for online teaching. They are both skills classes and therefore have taken quite a bit of work (they still do!) to ensure that students learn in a similar way online as they do when they have to come to class. There have been many downs and rewarding ups. Like I said, still working on them.

Then I became introduced to the concept of “flipped classroom,” which is still a new terms, not really easily definable because there are so many ways to do it and so many disciplinary variations. Basically, what is done in traditional classrooms is now done at home (lectures or even tests) and what is traditionally done at home is now done in the classroom (homework as hands-on activities, practicing, demonstrating understanding). What I love about this model is that the class time is spent on actual work, the instructor thus working individually and in small groups with students as they engage with the content – rather than, again, lecturing at students. This is what I’m practicing now, and so far so good. Of course there are a lot of details involved – from conceptual to assessment issues. But I’m determined – and convinced of the pedagogical significance of the model.

I am also quite intrigued by the idea of mastery learning – having students engage with the class content at their own pace, asynchronously, based on course objectives (rather than my own design of a weekly schedule or a textbook order of chapters). I’m learning about this as we speak, and will be doing some experimenting and trial over the summer and next fall. More on this later.

Cheerio! And happy learning.

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