No need to flip-out over student-centered learning

Mohammad Syed

Lecture. Notes. Cram. Exam. Students of all ages are accustomed to this construct. The process starts with students entering class with loaded pens and empty notebooks. The professor then opens a PowerPoint and lectures. The students frantically write down everything the professor says, often not understanding concepts because they’re too busy transcribing. This inefficient traditional classroom setting has slowly assumed the role as the standard means of educating. It’s time for a flip.

Student-centered learning aims to shift some responsibilities away from the teacher and to the student. Students are expected to learn the material outside of the class and apply their knowledge within the classroom — essentially flipping the tradition. Min Liu, learning technologies professor and education college advisor, said she feels this idea of student-centered learning is beneficial in that it promotes student engagement.

“Lecturing is common — if it’s a long class, people might get bored. With a flipped classroom, because the focus is student-centered learning, instructors think about activities to engage students,” Liu said.

Through technology, students are able to view pre-recorded lectures online at whatever speed and however often they want. This also allows instructors to designate what previously was lecture time to other engaging activities.

“I’ve done debate with freshmen. In the graduate classes I teach, we do discussion a lot with the students,” Liu said.

In addition to increasing engagement, flipped classrooms reduced failing rates in English courses by 41 percent and math courses by 31 percent, according to a meta-analysis by the Knewton Education Company.

STEM classes usually require the students to first learn, then apply. Because current lecture style only focuses on the learning, the application aspect doesn’t occur in traditional classes. However, in a flipped classroom, students are exposed to both learning and application — this leads to higher grades and a better understanding of material.

Senior vice provost David Laude has seen this trend manifest itself in his own flipped chemistry classroom.

“The number of A’s I’ve given in my course has gone up since I’ve flipped the classroom,” Laude said. “It’s not because my tests are easier. About four years ago, I did away with my calculators just to show we can do it with our hands tied behind our backs — the students learn.”

Some might argue that after being brought up in a traditional classroom, students could find the transition too difficult. Because of this, there exists some uneasiness about the progressive nature of the flipped classroom. However, it’s important to understand that the indoctrination of archaic ideals within society is not a reason to continue with such ideals. Student-centered learning has proven to be effective in many cases, and so long as education is meant primarily for educating the student, it’s the approach we must take.

Out with the tradition, in with the flip.

Syed is a biochemistry freshman from Houston.