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 Power Learners Blog

Flipped Learning Makes Competency-Based Learning Practical

I know a retired dentist who volunteers lots of his time to helping students in primary and middle schools. He does many things for the students, but I will focus just on his regularly spending time in math classes, individually tutoring students having difficulty for various reasons. One day we had this conversation.

Bob said, “I have been tutoring a middle school student. A few times a week I re-explain the lesson, demonstrate doing the problems, answer questions, and encourage as I walk him through doing the assigned problems. But he is making no progress and I do not know what to do to help him. What do you think?”

“Do you mind if I ask you a question about… Continue reading

My 40 Years in Flipped Learning, Part 5 of 5: No More Academic Drownings

To conclude these posts, I will tell you about what I consider the most conclusive and inspiring case history of the large-scale power and potential of flipped learning.

Before starting the story, here is some context. We all know there is lots of room to improve educational outcomes. So, I won’t re-hash depressing statistics. We also know about many well-financed and well-meaning initiatives that either didn’t work or couldn’t be replicated. I think there are the two main problems, both of which I know can be overcome with flipped learning ideas and methods.

The Two Main Barriers

The first problem is that almost everyone in the U.S. emphasizes the importance of teaching over studying. We—parents, politicians, faculty, and students—continually talk… Continue reading

My 40 Years in Flipped Learning, Part 4 of 5: Flipping Courses or Students

In 1970, I started using flipped learning for a Criminal Law course in community colleges. Then, in 1973, I won a million-dollar contract from the U.S. Army to develop multimedia lessons for their 1125 self-paced, mastery learning centers. Today I would call that flipped learning because the soldiers watched short lessons and then practiced to mastery in the classroom. These projects were wonderfully effective, as described in Parts 1 and 2 of this 5-part series of posts. In 1972, I had the opportunity to buy a small private 4th-12th grade school run by some people who already had ten or more years of experience with flipped learning. The entire school used flipped learning. Our success in helping students catch up… Continue reading

My 40 Years in Flipped Learning, Part 3 of 5: Avoiding the Flipped Learning Flop at West Point

Sometimes flipping produces extraordinary results. Sometimes the results are about the same or worse than conventional instruction. In this post, I will use the example of the West Point Military Academy to illustrate what I think are the key success factors for flipped learning.

Effective Flipping at West Point

The Army’s West Point Military Academy launched in 1804 to train Army civil engineers. Under Colonel Sylvanus Thayer, Superintendent from 1817-33, West Point developed an instructional model which they describe with these guidelines:

  • At the start of a course, students get detailed learning objectives and a readable text.
  • Each lesson has specific performance objectives.
  • Periodic reviews and quizzes verify progress.
  • Sufficient faculty provides individual attention.
  • Classes are formed of students grouped… Continue reading

My 40 Years in Flipped Learning, Part 2 of 5: 1125 Flipped Learning Centers

In this post, I will share my experience with flipping 1125 Army learning centers from 1973 to 1980. Here’s what happened.

Training Needs of the All-Volunteer Army

In 1972, with public sentiment running anti-war, the U.S. ended the military draft and switched to an “All-Volunteer” force. Partly because of the Viet Nam War and partly because of low pay and the danger of getting killed, joining the Army was not popular. The Army could not recruit college graduates. They were getting high school graduates and high school dropouts—about half and half. The Army needed these soldiers with weak academic records to learn to maintain and use computerized and electronic weapons on the battlefield. The Army knew their conventional classes weren’t… Continue reading

My 40 Years in Flipped Learning – Part 1 of 5, Flipping a Criminal Law Course in 1971

By Peter Lenn

In the 1960’s, I was a Ph.D. rocket scientist working on controlled nuclear fusion. On the side, I taught Advanced Calculus for Engineers at U.C. Berkeley. The usual 25% in that Master’s degree course did fine. The problem was that, despite my terrific lectures and good intentions, 75% didn’t. They passed the course but didn’t gain any useful or lasting competence or confidence.

In school, it had seemed natural that some of us got A’s and a lot of others didn’t. But now I was the teacher. I was collecting a salary but I wasn’t delivering the goods. A 25% success rate is embarrassing. It indicated I simply didn’t know what I was doing as a teacher.… Continue reading

Fresh Learning VS Familiar Learning

Several years ago, I was talking about learning with my friend Larry. We were, I thought, talking about helping teens do better in high school and college. But something was wrong. We two imminently reasonable people were not understanding each other. It turned out he was talking about his time at Harvard Law School and I was talking about junior college students struggling with math. Ever since, I have found that my discussions with teachers, students and adults are frequently more productive and satisfying if we take the time to clarify what aspects of teaching and learning we are talking about. In particular, I have found it helpful to distinguish between familiar learning and fresh learning.

    Familiar Learning

Learn more… Continue reading

Jump the Pitfalls in Flipping Your College Success Course

If you are an instructor at the college level, you may have heard of, thought about and even tried Flipped Learning. The flipped courses my colleagues and I have delivered have helped 85% about 1 million young adults and teens succeed in learning subjects they found difficult. This has included math, English composition and public speaking, in addition to computer programming, electronics and criminal law. We have repeatedly faced some issues that you may be facing. Perhaps our experience will be of value to you.

First, a definition of Flipped Learning: In a flipped classroom, the primary activity of the learners is studying using videos and books, and then practicing—writing, reciting, solving–until the lesson has been mastered. Only then does… Continue reading

The Germ Theory of Teaching is Killing Learners

The germ theory of teaching goes like this. The teacher knows something and wants to transfer that knowing to learners. So the teacher tells and shows that knowing to the learner. This may be done live or by means of a book or video. Often, some mix of all three.

Teaching PlanTeaching a subject moves at some pace, as shown in this graph. The teacher assumes the learner has some pre-requisite knowledge and builds from there. The hope is that the teaching can be done so well that most of the learners catch the new knowledge. That’s why I call this the germ theory of teaching.

Now the reality of most teaching is this. Instead of most learners catching all or… Continue reading

Using What is Known About Learning in Your Course

You are probably like almost every college instructor I have ever met. You want your students to succeed. You and your students face difficult barriers, ranging from students of varying degrees of college readiness to financial needs and outside jobs. The blog is dedicated to helping you, an individual college faculty member, deliver the student outcomes you and your students want.

This first post sets forth some general principles that I and others have found extremely useful toward that end. Subsequent posts will describe things my colleagues and I have done, things we have seen others do, and posts from others on their approaches and results.

What is the Goal?

A college education consists of a body of knowledge–information, skills… Continue reading