This is an archive of the 2013 version of ocTEL.

One thing for Week 1 – Eric Mazur

For the ‘if you only do one thing’ activity, I picked Eric Mazur. I believe the approach he is using is often referred to as the ‘flipped’ classroom.

I was interested in this as we have some lecturers trying out this approach as part of an Innovation project (the Teaching and Learning Institute where I work fund projects to develop innovative approaches to teaching and learning) and I thought it would be useful for me to learn more about one of the people pioneering this approach.

Collaboration not technology
Wen I watched the snippet of video, I came to realise how this approach is really not about technology – I have a feeling I should have known this already but the snippet of video and another link (posted by #ocTEL’er Joseph Gliddon)to a video showing Eric Mazur and his students in action brought this home to me. I think it was the amount of noise and discussion in the video that made me take extra notice.

In what I have read previously (granted probably not that much academic literature) the focus is often on the technology used to deliver materials prior to the face to face interaction and the clickers/voting pads used by the students in the lectures.

In a way the focus on technology is a kind of misdirection, because what is actually the main activity is the student interaction, the engagement with their peers, the students are learning from each other.

So, in my opinion, calling it the flipped classroom focuses on the wrong aspect of this approach. It is not really about inside/outside the classroom, it is about enabling collaboration and an approach to learning that acknowledges that learning is situated in a social context. Obviously, this is why Eric Mazur talks about peer instruction rather than technology.

I should just point out that I am a bit suspicious about the simplistic two steps of education outlined by Eric Mazur in the video, i.e. information transmission and assimilation. Perhaps his approach is more complex than that and I need to read a bit more about this. I was also wondering how this approach, although leading to peer engagement in the classroom, works for students outside the classroom? Does the design mean that student collaborate when not in class, does the collaboration extend beyond assimilation so that students can use their understanding of knowledge/skills gained? Are the students using technology outside the classroom to collaborate?

National differences in approach?
The video also made me consider my own experience. Doing preparation for class and coming prepared to discuss the material or sometimes prepared to present the material to your fellow students was how most of my university teaching and learning was structured when I went to Copenhagen University in the 1990s.

Kathrine Jensen – research assistant at the Teaching and Learning Institute at the University of Huddersfield. My responsibilities are to support and connect colleagues to develop inspiring and innovative teaching.

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