I’ve found that teaching execs (usually in their 30s and 40s) is a little difference from teaching the typical university class (folks in their 20s). In particular, with execs there is zero emphasis on homework, quizzes, and the like. Getting execs to do prep readings is also a challenge. Conversely, lively discussion, different sorts of positive feedback mechanisms, and competitive games are a little important than in the university classroom.

I’ve had the chance to see in action a couple of (what I can only label) master exec ed teachers in my institute in Delhi. For instance, a key learning from their success at exec ed is that laser beam (embroidering one Big Idea) beats string of pearls (introducing multiple ‘equally important’ topics).

How active learning (or ‘flipping’) can be applied in that situation, I’m think trying to work out.

]]>When I was a grad student in mathematics, back in the ’70’s, there were rumors of a professor of mathematics at the University of Texas who taught topology using an unusual technique known as the Moore method (because his name was Moore.) I say ‘rumors’ because all I know is word of mouth.

The Moore method did not rely on lectures by the professor. Instead, the professor would ask his students to demonstrate, in class, the various propositions. The overall result was that the students in his classes were exposed to fewer ideas, but knew those ideas better, than students in a standard lecture class.

I imagine (but do not know) that such a technique was documented and analyzed in the mathematical journals of the time. If someone has access to an index of, say, the American Mathematical Monthly, it may be possible to describe better the ‘Moore’ method.

It certainly sounds like ‘flipping’ the classroom. ]]>

While they have some experience with this technique in basic mathematics and science, using it for OR or advanced science is perhaps an innovation. ]]>

At the same time, I don’t think you can entirely replace lecture-based teaching with this method. Having someone more experienced than you stand in front of you and tell you how things go down is enormously beneficial to learning; you’re able to cover a lot more material that way, because the students aren’t muddling through on their own. Plus, some people do actually learn better that way.

I guess the bottom line is that it’s a balance. Where exactly that balance is depends on the students, the teacher, the classroom, the subject being taught… it’s like a giant optimization problem!

]]>I had the students present the results of their in-class activities. They wanted to look smart in front of their peers, so they worked hard on their problems in class. I forgot to mention that. While no one else flips or uses PBL in the department, my colleagues aren’t pure lecturers either, which is helpful for those who wish to experiment.

Some students clearly did not watch my lectures ahead of time. Others asked me about the sound quality in the slidecasts, so I know that they were at least watched by the top students.

The top three students I have ever had in this course were in the semester when I flipped (I am teaching this course for the fifth time now). It did seem to help with exam scores.

]]>* If you are the only lecturer using a flipped approach, students will resist preparation on the basis that none of the other courses require this level of preparation – the ‘conditioned passivity’ argument mentioned above. Building more lecturer-student interaction into the curriculum as a whole might go a long way in combating the passivity.

* If students are not evaluated on their effort in class, but only promised that the pay-off will come in the form of higher exam scores (all carrot and no stick), they might still not prepare. Giving students a leading role in the discussion might allow you to get around this and avoid having to call them out on their laziness.

So the evaluations were lower – how about the exam scores?

]]>I too have found that as the semester goes by, I start spending just a little more time every class lecturing in order to make sure that students know what they need to before starting to work on problems. I don’t like that because it reinforces not preparing. However, I agree that a mix of both might be the best solution. On the bright side, many students love working on problems during class and comment that class time just flies by.

Overall, at this point in the semester (end not yet in sight), I find that I also long for the old days of just showing up in class and talking!

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