Green Chemistry: Flipping the Classroom

Course Green Chemistry
Lecturer Chris Slootweg
Context Master Chemistry, track Molecular Sciences (joint degree)
Master Chemistry, track Science for Energy and Sustainability (joint degree)
Master Physics and Astronomy, track Science for Energy and Sustainability (joint degree)
Master Science, Business & Innovation (VU)
Challenge Stimulate students from day 1 in order to achieve an immediate, and lasting, interest resulting in high participation levels.
Intervention Flipped-class pedagogy in combination with team-based peer-review and feedback.
Evaluation Students appreciated the challenge; participation level was high.
Related Topics Student activationFlipped ClassroomMethods to enhance interaction in the classroom

Interview with Chris Slootweg

Could you tell something about this new course? (e.g. context and learning goals)
The course Green Chemistry was created for the new master Chemistry & Physics track Science for Energy and Sustainability as well as for the Master Science, Business & Innovation and therefore targets a multidisciplinary student population. The students learn to work in multidisciplinary teams and present and discuss all aspects of green chemistry from lab to market, such as the principles of green chemistry and green engineering, alternative feedstocks, biofuels, biodegradable and bio-based materials, economics of green and sustainable chemistry, sustainable chemical logistics, governance, policy, and sustainable management. In short, sustainable chemistry at the people, planet, profit level (triple bottom line).

In what way was this course blended? Why did you choose this approach?
To stimulate active learning and participation of all students in the course from day 1, I have applied the flipped classroom concept. The student teams all prepare one lecture (45min) based on the study material (multiple e-books) that is made available. In addition, all other teams prepare a master level exam question (incl subquestions and answers) where they apply the knowledge of the topic discussed in class. All the exam questions provide the students ample material to practice for the written exam. The presenting team is judging the quality of the exams (peer review + feedback). The second part of the class focusses on a case study connected to the topic of the lecture that is discussed in detail in class. Furthermore, the students write an 1 A4-page essay about a new concept, e.g. circular chemistry, or the chemical ladder of circularity.

Are you satisfied with the result? (e.g. design, learning activities, student participation)
Definitely. The student participation is high, the students learn a lot, and also (based on their feedback) enjoy the course very much.

How was the students’ experience?
The students appreciated that they were challenged from day 1 of the course and learned a lot.

What did you think of the process? Did you like creating a course in this way?
In order to flip a classroom you need to master the topic. If this is the case, this teaching format is really enjoyable and stimulates active learning tremendously.

Is there anything you learned that you would like to share with other teachers?
Flipping the classroom is a very interesting teaching concept that can even be applied in all courses of an entire bachelor’s/master’s degree.

Would you recommend this approach/design to other teachers?
YES. I definitely recommend other teachers to apply blended learning to their courses and pick the right educational tool that fits their course, target audience and personal teaching style.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Flipping the classroom is an adventure (freestyle teaching), and very enjoyable.

Interactive teaching for large groups

Course Pathophysiology and Neuropharmacology
Lecturer Erwin van Vliet
Context Part of the BSc Psychobiology, this course focusses on the pathological mechanisms of various brain disorders, as well as the pharmacological treatment of these disorders.
Challenge Student numbers were rising and there were not enough resources to continue the tutorial sessions.
Intervention Flipped-class pedagogy in combination peer instruction using an online voting system during class.
Evaluation The evaluation showed that the students liked the flipped-class and peer instruction very much.
Related Topics Student activationFlipped ClassroomLarge groupsMethods to enhance interaction in the classroomVoting in the classroom

Interview with Erwin van Vliet

Can you tell something about your course before the innovation?
In previous years the course consisted of lectures from several experts in the field, combined with tutorials. While lectures were given for the whole group, tutorials were given in multiple smaller groups and several teachers were involved in these parallel workgroups. Over time, student numbers were rising and the expectation was that about 200 students would register for this course. Although the students indicted in evaluations from previous years that they liked the tutorials very much and learned a lot, there were not enough resources to continue the tutorials.

What intervention was chosen?
Flipped-class pedagogy in combination peer instruction using an online voting system during class. Students were asked to post questions at exam level on an online discussion board about the topics that were taught in the previous days. They could use their notes, the presentation provided by the teacher or make use of video recordings of all the lectures which were provided to the students.

Did it solve the issue?
Using this intervention it is possible for one teacher to provide tutorials for a large group of students in which students actively participate.

How was the students’ experience?
The evaluation showed that the students liked the flipped-class and peer instruction very much. In order to determine whether this intervention lead to a better performance we investigated the effects of this intervention on motivation and learning strategies using a controlled, pre- and posttest approach. Our data showed that flipped-class pedagogy enhanced student metacognition and collaborative-learning strategies (Van Vliet et al., CBE Life Sci Educ 2015,14(3):1-10).

Are you going to use it again?
Flipped-class and peer instruction will also be used in future courses. Based on our research we recommend the use of this intervention throughout the curriculum. We typically observe a decrease in the number of students that prepare (on a voluntary basis) for the classes during the course. Therefore, the aim of this year was to increase the participation of students by team-based learning. Our recent data show that team-based learning could attenuate the decline in participation that is commonly observed when students are studying individually.

How much (extra) work did it cost you?
Getting to know the tools that are needed for flipped-class and peer instruction takes some time, but it definitely outweighs the benefits. The software needed is very user friendly and can be implanted easily.

Do you recommend this approach to other lecturers?
I certainly recommend the flipped-class pedagogy in combination with peer instruction and team-based learning. It improved metacognition and collaborative-learning strategies, which most likely enhance “deep learning”.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
If you like to know more about flipped-class pedagogy in combination with peer instruction and team-based learning, feel free to contact me or follow these links.

Impression

Preparing for the lab using a digital manual

Course Molecular Techniques
Lecturer Richard de Boer
Context A molecular biology practical course in which students work on one long experiment and continue each day with their own research materials, illustrated with a few bio-informatics tools
Challenge Students came unprepared to the laboratory and had difficulty grasping the bigger picture for the whole experiment
Intervention We set up an e-learning environment using LabBuddy in which we made a digital lab manual
Evaluation Students indicated they liked working with labbuddy and the setup of the course helped them in making the right choices
Related Topics Student activationInteractive & adaptive course material,

Interview with Richard de Boer

Can you tell something about your course before the innovation?
Students came unprepared to the laboratory and had difficulty grasping the bigger picture for the whole experiment. Somewhere along the practical they started to understand the purpose of each of the experiments instead of first making a good experimental design and thinking about the bigger picture.

What intervention was chosen?
We set up an e-learning environment using LabBuddy in which we made a digital lab manual. All protocols and theory were digitized and illustrated with movies. At the start of the practical, students had to set up their own experimental design for the whole experiments and, along the line, had to answer questions about the theory and decisions they had to make.

Did it solve the issue?
Yes, students had a much better understanding of the whole experiment and understood much better how each of the experiments were related to each other.

What was the students’ experience?
The students were very positive. They indicated they liked working with labbuddy and the setup of the course helped them in making the right choices.

Are you going to use it again?
Yes, I very much plan on using it again. In fact, I would like to take it to the next level by no longer planning the experiments for the students anymore. This year, the students had to make their own experimental design, but afterwards they all had to do the same experiments in the same order on the same day. I would like to go further by just providing the students with the materials and protocols, and give them a set amount of time for the experiments, but no longer plan each day for them. Also to encourage preparing more, I will no longer provide them with specific protocols, but rather the generic protocols that they need to make specific for their situation. This way, they need to think about the way an experiment is set up. This will much better prepare them for the bachelor project.

How much (extra) work did it cost you?
Setting up the digital lab manual does cost a lot of time. The company behind the LabBuddy system can do a lot of this work for you, but this will cost money, and still requires a lot of input from the teacher, especially when it comes to the course setup. Digitizing a protocol is quite easy, but integrating it into a whole course in the way you want takes a bit more time. However, the benefits do outweigh this in my opinion.

Do you recommend this approach to other lecturers?
I do recommend this to other practical courses. One of the benefits of a digital manual is the extra information that is very readily available to the students. This takes many of the questions away from the assistants and gives them more time to talk about the experiment and the theory behind the experiments. Also because the students have to think about the whole setup of the experiments, instead of handing them a “cookbook”.

Impression

 

Learning to Learn

To help students in their own learning process, Ilja Boor came up with the idea to develop explanations (short animated explanation videos) in which concepts and themes around self-directed education are explained to first-year students.

It’s on a meta-level, so for example an explanation about learning to learn; how do you deal with it when you start your studies? Or videos about metacognition and a healthy balance between your studies and your social life, how can you achieve that?

The videos were developed in a team of teachers who made the scripts and storyboards themselves.

What I really like about that is the fact that we also learned a lot from it as a teaching team. For example, we have to think carefully about our message, because you only have one and a half minute to finalize the concept.

She had not realized the positive effect on herself and her colleagues when she made the application.

I really wanted to make something for students but that we, as teachers, also learned so much I find really fantastic too. For example, we had a workshop script writing that was really helpful, and something very different from what we normally do.

The explanimations are currently being used in teaching and will be evaluated afterwards. The results of this will also be made available here. You can watch the finished explanimations below.

The text above was adapted and translated from here. Photo of Ilja Boor by Liesbeth Dingemans.

Voting in the classroom

Course Basic Mathematics in Psychobiology
Lecturer Marthe Schut
Context This course (250 students) covers Calculus techniques from a basic level (fractions, exponentials, logarithmic functions) to a more advanced level (complex numbers, differential equations etc.) including several applications of the given mathematical techniques in the field of Psychobiology.
Challenge Shy students hesitated asking questions
Intervention Use a live, online voting tool during the practice sessions
Evaluation From the teacher’s point of view it seems that students ask questions more easily
Related Topics Large groupsStudent activationMethods to enhance interaction in the classroomVoting in the classroom

Interview with Marthe Schut

Can you tell something about your course before the innovation?
Previous year we replaced the traditional lectures by classes in which we use a combination of traditional lecturing and practice sessions in the e-learning system SOWISO. The students were more focussed during classes and the overall course seemed more appealing. However, we noticed that the rather shy students still hesitated to ask questions.

What intervention was chosen?
We have chosen to replace the practice sessions with quizzes in Shakespeak.

Did it solve the issue?
From the teacher’s point of view it seems that students ask questions more easily. Since they have to apply the explained techniques in the quiz, they really seem to want to understand the concepts. Furthermore, when the answers on a question divert, we let the students discuss the matter amongst each other and vote again. In this way the more shy students are addressed as well since they can contemplate with other students.

Are you going to use it again?
I will continue to incorporate voting systems in my lectures. Since the students already work on their laptops, the voting possibilities of Shakespeak (via a website or via messaging), are very good. At some point it would be useful to be able to incorporate an online system suitable for mathematical expressions (or even better; a system that can be used on top of a latex Beamer presentation).

How much (extra) work did it cost you?
Unfortunately, Shakespeak is not necessarily intended for mathematical expressions. It took some trial and error to work around this issue. Splitting the screen with Latex beamer slides on one side and the PowerPoint presentation with Shakespeak on the other side works quite well (the PowerPoint slides only contain question numbers and the letters for the answers).

Do you recommend this approach to other lecturers?
I certainly recommend to use a quiz system during lectures. It activates the students and ‘forces’ them to apply the explained concepts immediately.

Impression

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