About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Flipped Classroom: How many hours does an instructor REALLY put into teaching

I'm writing my blog instead of preparing for my class today. Part of the reason is that I find Blogging a way to ease back into academic writing that will be published (rather than writing my dissertation which I have now completed). However, this blog post has weighed on my mind for the last 24 hours.

I have previously written about my participation in a "flipped classroom" project through our school. The last class was less than stellar! First, we woke to some bad weather in the area, and since I teach first thing in the morning, I sent out email instructions for students that may not have been able to come into class because of the weather. Unfortunately, I teach two levels of Group Communication and I mixed the two up, sending the email to the wrong (later) class. More than that, I am using 2 new technologies this semester. The combination of two new technologies (I usually only introduce one new technology each semester) made transitions in set up slow.

So coming home exhausted from 3 straight hours of teaching, I came across this article about how the IRS has warned colleges that the calculations for hours adjuncts work may need to be recalculated. This is the first time that I have seen someone recognize that adjuncts do more than classroom contact hours. It got me to thinking about how much time I put into my classes compared to a full time faculty member. Likewise, while on paper the "flipped classroom" may look like it is less work for the instructor because the "students are teaching themselves", like online learning, in fact, the instructor's role requires a lot more time commitment, often outside of anyone else's view.

Prep Time

There are a number of factors that come into prep time. As mentioned before, I am using two new technologies: clickers and an ipad. I usually only use one technology because of the learning curve in using the technology, figuring out timing (for set-up, transition from activity to activity, student interaction with technology before they feel comfortable). However, I was willing to use the two technologies because I had some prep time and support in using both (something I know many adjuncts or part-time instructors don't have).

Many of the activities I use in class, had to be modified for the flipped classroom. Halfway through my second class, the class chosen for the training, I realized I was "directing" the conversation too much, taking it away from the students. This is something that will be difficult to change. At the same time, I don't want to loose some of the concepts I want them to walk away with. This balance is something I will need to work on in the next few weeks, perhaps coming up with some additional discussion questions before class (I have always been good at reacting to student comments, but now I need them to also participate in directing the conversation).

Another difficulty (and this is just the nature of the demand for our courses, lack of faculty, and the ability for students to drop/add) is putting together groups, getting to know students/student strengths and weaknesses. As a result, I spend the first two weeks frantically putting together groups, coordinating supporting information, answering emails, making sure students have access to the technology we will be using, and collecting information about the students.

This semester so far, I have put in about 50 hours of prep work even before classes begin.

Class prep and assignment management

I usually have a class of 35-45 students. This semester, because one of my courses was added at the last minute, I have a class of 42 and a class of 39. Off courses, this still may change over the next week or so, but these are the numbers I'm starting with.

I have always taught using a style in which I take the content (which I am familiar with) and modify it to meet the needs of a particular class. Sometimes, student written skills are strong, but they lack interpersonal; sometimes their know of communication theory is strong, but they lack practical experience. It is important for me therefore to always prepare before my class. However, with the flipped classroom, I feel I have to be even more prepared, understanding ALL the reading concepts as students my bring up concepts I had not thought of in our discussion. It is not that I don't know the concepts, but rather the vocabulary used by the author. This means, my usual 45 minute prep for class will require twice that amount. I need to be prepared if students bring up concepts I did not necessarily feel were important.

Because I will be evaluating students in class more, I will need to be more "present" in the class (so I can evaluate them). This is very fatiguing especially when teaching 3 hours straight. In addition, there is more assessment after class and follow up (I tape a review of the key points I wanted them to take away from class based on what we did in class). I have cut down on some of my written assessments, but I still need to figure out how to access the statistics from the clickers that I will use in my in-class assessment.

I estimate that I will be spending about 10 hours a week per class in class prep and assignment management (this means 26 hours a week of work on my class alone for 2 3-hour classes).

Other school related responsibilities

In addition to my classroom requirements, our department expects us to have office hours. I have about 3 hours a week scheduled, although I don't usually have students during that time. In addition, I often meet with students when they can't make my office hours. Being part of a large university, most students don't take advantage of office hours. However, I put in as many hours with students outside of the class as most full-time undergraduate instructors/professors (graduate student interaction is different).

Because of my style of teaching, I get know my students as individuals. Because of this, I have requests for 4-8 letters of recommendation per semester. This is not overly time consuming, but does take about 15 minutes per student (an additional 1-2 hours a semester). Those students that do come to speak with me, usually do not discuss the course but rather graduate school and career advice. Our department is lucky in that instructors are part of the faculty and there are a number of faculty who are term (have worked for more than 3 years and therefore are offered full year contracts). As a result, students view these instructors as valuable resources when they have professional and academic questions.

Finally, if I want a tenure track position, I will need to continue to participate in profession activities such as blogging, publishing, attending conventions (if I can get funding for it), interacting with the community, networking, and reviewing journal/conference papers. In this area, expectations for part-faculty are the same as for full-time, but full-time/tenure track faculty get paid for it.

The only area that differs between full-time faculty expectations and part-time is in the area of college service. While I was asked be a representative for part-time faculty for the faculty senate, without being paid for it, I could refuse without it hurting my career.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Flipped Classroom: My project for this semester

I know I haven't blogged for a while. Partly it is because I have been busy participating in commencement (it's official, I'm a Dr. and I have a picture to show for it), partly its family responsibilities (I AM in the sandwich generation), but mostly its because I'm working on some very interesting projects.

The first is a blog I have started with my sister, a 50 something who I convinced should learn more about social media. With this in mind we have started a blog in which she posts questions as she navigates the ins and outs of social media (getting stuck, confused, and otherwise frustrated) and I try to answer her questions.

The second is part of a program I was chosen for through my university: the flipped classroom. Honestly, one of the main reasons I applied for the program was to get an ipad I could use for my classes and figure out the technology my students all seem have at their fingers tips. This was a smart move on the part of our Leaning and Instruction Center to get us into the door.

The fact is, I wasn't sure I'd be accepted for the program. After reading through the information and watching the videos they sent us about the "flipped classroom" movement (see below for those resources), I wasn't sure I'd be able to change my class much since my current teaching approach (based on experiential learning theories)seemed to "flip" the class so students had a lot of control over their learning. However, as I discussed "flipped learning" and read some of the background information on it, I realized there was a key weakness in one of my classes especially.

For the last 3 years, I have been having an increasing difficulty in getting students to link what we do in class to the assigned readings. Now granted, some of this is students not doing the assigned work. However, many times I would see the frustration of my best students who would look at me blankly when I asked them to link the reading concepts to class activities. I could see in their body language the question: Why are you here? Aren't YOU going to tell us what is important? Why aren't you teaching us? What do you mean there is no right or wrong answer???? What are we PAYING YOU FOR? HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO KNOW THIS IF YOU DON'T TEACH US !!!!!!????

I don't blame the students for being unable to make the links, but rather have identified the problem as years of education where testing for the "correct answer" has been drummed into them. The results of this type of teaching is that students are afraid to take risks (they get it wrong, they fail) with their learning; they are unable to develop hypotheses and/or are not confident in their own abilities to draw their own conclusions; and they look to resources and teachers to tell them how to interpret information. Many of my students just had never had their critical thinking, critical reading, and problem solving skills developed so they were able to make the links between the reading and active learning activities.

So my goal for this semester is to:

1) Develop my skills in teaching them critical thinking, problem solving, and critical reading

2) Make the links I make between the activities and reading more transparent, so my students learn to make those links also

3) Rework my syllabus and class activities so students feel safe in making mistakes, yet learn from the activities and apply assigned reading concepts to those activities.

To do this, the learning team I am working with has suggested I use clickers (helps focus reading and promote discussion around questions), video recordings to summarize the most important concepts (or fill in spaces of understanding) from the reading, and (my idea) use the video recording capacity of the ipad to record specific examples from class activities, that the class can then review and critique.

Hopefully, throughout the semester, I'll be able to blog about the process. Already I'm working on writing objective questions that will provoke discussion. I also have gained a better insight into the tone of a syllabus and how it can empower students (or take away their choices, and therefore responsibility, for learning).