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Flipping at an Open-Enrollment College


Kelly B. Butzler, Pennsylvania College of Technology

05/23/14 to 05/29/14

The flipped classroom is a blended, constructivist-learning environment that reverses where students gain and apply knowledge.  Many instructors from K-12 to college level are excited about the prospect of flipping their classes, but are unsure how and with which students to implement this learning environment.  Many instructors at competitive colleges and universities as well as those who teach higher-level secondary students report increases in achievement and satisfaction in the flipped classroom.  However, there has been little discussion regarding flipping the classroom with students who are less academically prepared specifically those students at open-enrollment colleges.  The author found that many students at an open-enrollment college disliked the flipped classroom even though the overall test averages were similar to previous semester tests.  Open enrollment college student perceptions were found to differ from that reported by instructors in Advanced Placement high school chemistry classes or chemistry at competitive colleges and universities.  Students reported that the technology used to deliver content and the overall flipped structure hindered their learning and suggested that the flipped classroom was the reason for lower than expected grades.  The focus of this paper is to provide the reader with insights about flipping a general chemistry class at an open-enrollment college where the mathematics level and academic preparedness are much different from students at competitive universities.  The author will provide student comments on the flipped classroom as well as changes that provided students with more structure and autonomy support.  


Flipping at an Open-Enrollment College

Kelly B. Butzler, Associate Professor, Pennsylvania College of Technology



The flipped classroom is a blended, constructivist learning environment that reverses where students gain and apply knowledge.  Instructors from K-12 to college level are excited about the prospect of flipping their classes, but are unsure how and with which students to implement this learning environment.  However, there has been little discussion regarding flipping the classroom with students who are less academically prepared specifically those students at open-enrollment colleges.  Many students at the open-enrollment college did not perceive the flipped classroom favorably.  This differed from the perceptions reported by instructors in Advanced Placement high school chemistry classes or chemistry at competitive colleges and universities.  Students reported that the technology used to deliver content and the overall flipped structure hindered their learning and suggested that the flipped classroom was the reason for lower than expected grades.  This study compared class rank (academic preparedness) and mathematics level to overall course grade in a lecture, flipped class, and stealth flip class learning environment.  The focus of this paper is to provide the reader with insights about flipping a general chemistry class at an open-enrollment college where the mathematics level and academic preparedness are much different from students at competitive universities.  The author will provide student comments on the flipped classroom as well as revisions to the flipped class structure that provided students with more structure and autonomy support.  





The basic definition of the flipped classroom is a learning environment where content knowledge acquisition is moved outside the classroom and knowledge construction and problem-solving are moved into the classroom.  The flipped classroom can be considered a blended learning environment (Strayer, 2012) and a practical application of constructivism (Felder, 2012).  A blended learning environment infuses technology into the learning space and allows knowledge acquisition to occur in a differentiated manner (De George-Walker & Keeffe, 2010) .   With the increased availability of the Internet and electronic devices, instructors have slowly integrated technology into the practice of teaching and learning (Strayer, 2012).  Ideally, content acquisition via technology has the potential to free up face-to-face (F2F) class time for more meaningful learning experiences.  Blended learning restores the focus of the classroom to the learner and learning as opposed to teaching (De George-Walker & Keeffe, 2010).  However, the focus is not about the actual technology, but how the individual learner uses the technology the acquire knowledge.  The learner is provided choices of how and when to learn and given the opportunity to construct knowledge in a social constructivist learning environment with the teacher as a facilitator. 

Motivation and Academic Preparedness

A student’s motivation to learn increases when perceived value and meaning in the learning tasks increases and the student is able to take an active role in his or her learning (Baeten, Struyven, & Dochy, 2013; Tuan, Chin, & Shieh, 2005).  Blended, constructivist learning environments like the flipped classroom provides autonomy support, as well as active and differentiated learning.  Students’ motivation to learn is found to be more important to learning science than cognitive processes (Ning & Downing, 2012; Tuan et al., 2005).  Motivational factors include self-perceived ability, self-regulated learning processes, self-efficacy, goal orientation, test anxiety, and learning strategies (Baeten et al., 2010; Ning & Downing, 2012; Tuan et al., 2005 others).  These factors are strongly influenced by the type and quality of motivation (Niemiec & Ryan, 2009; Ryan & Deci, 2000). 

The self-determination theory (SDT) purports that different types of motivation influence why and how a person orients themselves to a task (Ryan & Deci, 2000).  A student is said to be intrinsically motivated to learn when the learning is out of inherent interest and the student learns for the sake of learning.  However, when a student learns for the sake of obtaining a grade or external outcome, the student is said to be extrinsically motivated.  Finally, an amotivated student is not motivated to learn for any reason.  Simply, the student lacks the desire to learn. The reasons students learn content can be regarded as a student’s goal orientation.  Goal orientation is related to the level of motivation in that students who exhibit intrinsic motivation and mastery-orientation are focused on becoming proficient in how knowledge is acquired through an increase in skill and understanding compared to their previous performance (Ning & Downing 2009; ).  Those students who exhibit extrinsic motivation and performance-oriented learning are concerned about how knowledge is acquired in comparison to others (Ning & Downing, 2009).  Students with high levels of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation were found to have the strongest academic performance in high school (Wormington, Corpus, & Anderson, 2012).  Therefore, one can conclude that students graduating in the top third of their high school class have higher levels of quality motivation. 

The Flipped Classroom

            The flipped classroom is a subset of a constructivist, blended-learning environment (Felder, 2012).  The flipped classroom capitalizes on technology that delivers content that can be assimilated by a student using surface approaches to learning such as recall and memorization.  In class, the students are given instructor guidance and peer-support to solve problems and organize content in a meaningful way.  While there is no prescribed method of flipping a class, students are generally required to come to class prepared to actively participate (Bergmann & Sams, 2012; Lancaster, 2013; Smith, 2013).

            The questions that arise most when teachers consider implementation of the flipped classroom are: (1) Are students more successful (course grades) in the flipped classroom? (2) Do all students prefer the flipped classroom?, and (3) What are considered  the best practices for flipping a class taking into account the characteristics of the student population?


Overview of Class Structure. The focus of this discussion will be the General Chemistry classes of Fall 2012, Fall 2013, and Spring 2014, where each class will be labeled Lecture class, Flipped class, and Stealth Flipped, respectively.  The Lecture and Flipped classes had the same textbook, semester tests, and final exams.  The Stealth Flipped class used a different textbook and different semester tests.  A new textbook was selected based upon agreement between the chemistry instructors.  The new textbook had a supplementary site called Mastering Chemistry.  It was decided that Mastering Chemistry would provide students with greater visuals and tutorials. 

The idea of and term “Stealth Flip” is attributed to the Turn to Your Neighbor blog.  About 80% of the students taking General Chemistry are Pre-Physician Assistant majors.  Other majors taking General Chemistry include general studies (with intentions of transfer), Plastics and Polymer Engineering Technology, and Civil Engineering Technology.  To be admitted into the Physician Assistant major, students must maintain at least a 3.0 mathematics/science GPA and a 3.5 overall GPA.  General Chemistry is considered a “gateway” course for this major where the focus for most students is “getting an A”. 

The Fall 2012 Lecture class was split between two physical classrooms; one section had 30 students (divided into two lab sections) and the other 15 students (one lab section).  The 30 student section was taught in a computer lab and the lectures were recorded live using MediaSite.  Students in both sections were able to access these recorded lectures after class.  Assessments included chapter quizzes, three semester tests, and a final exam. 

The Fall 2013 Flipped class was not divided between two sections and had 43 students in one physical classroom.  The students were asked to view the recorded lectures (vodcasts) from the Fall 2012 class and/or complete a reading assignment prior to coming to class.  Links to these recordings were found in the course learning management system (LMS).  The class began with the instructor answering student questions from the vodcast or reading.  After the question/answer session (sometimes up to 30 minutes in length), a vodcast quiz was administered.  While taking the vodcast quiz, students could use their notes from the vodcast or reading.  Further assessments included chapter quizzes, three semester tests, and a final exam. 

The Spring 2014 Stealth Flipped class was divided into two physical classrooms where each section had about 16 students each.  Each section also had a lab component similar to previous students in the Lecture and Flipped classes.  Students were asked to complete a lesson prior to coming to class. An example of a Lesson can be found in Figure 1 below. 


Figure 1.  Example of Lesson Activity in Stealth Flip Class

Lesson 4

View Vodcasts:  Resonance(a little silly), Ch. 4 L4 ResonanceCh. 4 L4 Resonance mp4Ch. 4 L4 Formal ChargesCh. 4 L4 Formal Charges mp4

Reading sections:  4.9-4.10

Virtual Lecture:  Drawing Resonance StructuresCalculating Formal Charges

Before Class problems and Gate Check:  4.18-4.22 and Gate Check Ch. 4 L4


Students were instructed to complete the lesson in the order given where the vodcasts and readings were considered “knowledge acquisition”, the Virtual lectures “guided instruction”, before class problems “try it yourself”, and the Gate Check “self-assessment”.  Students completed the Gate Check and were given credit by entering a personal ID code.  The instructor began each class with a review of the Gate Check.  Misconceptions and “muddy points” were clarified at this time.  This took about 10 minutes at the beginning of each face-to-face class session depending on the content.  This was a decrease in review time from the Flipped class and due to the Gate Check.  The responses on the Gate Check were used to focus the review as opposed to individual student questions posed in the Flip Class. 

After the Gate Check review, students were given a list of “in class” problems to complete.  Each lesson had its own set of in class problems.  Students could work on the in class problems together in their groups or on their own in class and the answers were provided in the textbook.  The instructor roamed the room answering student questions and monitoring progress.  If the instructor saw a common misconception or question, the instructor asked the students to turn their attention to the board where the problem was explained to the entire class.  Any problems not completed in class were completed outside of class.  All in class problems were collected upon completion of the chapter. 

Summative assessments included chapter quizzes, four semester tests, and a final exam.  The chapter quizzes were administered in the LMS and could be taken unlimited times up to the due date.  The highest grade was recorded for each chapter quiz.  This provided students with extra problem-solving practice on a relatively low-stakes summative assessment. 

High School Class Rank and Mathematics Level.  Since Penn College is considered an “open-enrollment”, there are no minimum criteria such as SAT scores or high school GPA for a student to enroll.  After applying to Penn College, a student must take placement exams in reading, English, and mathematics.  The description of the mathematics placement levels are found in Appendix A.  A student could place at the remedial level for mathematics (below College Algebra and Trigonometry I, Placement 3), take the remedial class, and register for General Chemistry.  Of the students in the Lecture class, 29% entered Penn College at the remedial level.  Of the students in the Flipped class, 40% entered Penn College at the remedial level and 63% of the students in the Stealth Flipped class entered Penn College below College Algebra.  Figure 2 below illustrates the Math Level upon entering Penn College for each class. 


Mathematics ability entering college does seem to significantly influence course success (overall course grade) in general chemistry (However, the significance is not as great as class rank.  This is most likely due to the fact that students remediate their math skills before taking general chemistry.  When overall course grades were compared to the math level upon entering Penn College, mathematics preparedness upon entering Penn College did affect students’ overall grades especially if a student entered at a Level 4 and above. These data are illustrated in Figure 3 below. 




Using SPSS software, a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted to determine if course grade (dependent variable) could be predicted from mathematics level entering Penn College (independent variable).  Data from the “other” category as well as those students who withdrew from the course were removed in the analysis.  The results of the ANOVA indicated that mathematics level explained 17.6% of the variance in course grade (R2=.176, F(1,84) = 17.131, p < .001). 

In addition to mathematics preparedness, success in general chemistry might also be influenced by academic preparedness.  Even though SATs are not required for admission at Penn College, a GED or high school diploma is required.  Most students’ class ranks are listed as part of their demographical information where the College lists them as top third, middle third, or bottom third of their graduating class.  If a student went to a private or preparatory school or is a non-traditional student, this information is frequently not provided.  However, if a student received a GED, this information is available.  Class rank data were aggregated for the Lecture, Flipped, and Stealth Flipped class.  These data are illustrated in Figure 4 below. 


The differences in mean course grades are not significant when comparing the overall course grades in the Lecture, Flipped, and Stealth Flip classes (R2=.005, F(1,84) = .220, p = .803).  However, the overall course grade in the Lecture, Flipped, and Stealth Flip classes did not take into account the differences in high school class rank.  To explore the hypothesis that academic preparedness influenced success in general chemistry, overall course grades were compared to class rank in the Lecture, Flipped, and Stealth Flipped classes.  These data are presented in Figure 5 below. 


Figure 5.  Percent of Students in Top Third, Middle Third, and Bottom Third of High School Graduating Class Versus Overall Course Grade in Each Class


Using SPSS software, a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted to determine if course grade (dependent variable) could be predicted from class rank (independent variable).  Data from the “other” category was removed in the analysis.  The results from the ANOVA indicated that class rank explained 20.965% of the variance in course grade (R2=.208, F(1,84) = 20.965, p < .001).  In other words, the higher the student’s class rank in high school, the higher the overall course grade.   

In summary, students graduating in the upper third of their high school class were 4.3% and 2.6% more successful in terms of overall course grade in the Flipped and Stealth flip class respectively than the Lecture class.  Students in the middle third of their graduating class were more successful by 3.6% in the Lecture class than the Flipped Class.  The middle third students in the Stealth Flip class were 3.4% and 6.8% more successful than the Lecture and Flipped Class respectively.  However, students at the bottom third of their graduating class were more successful by 2.6% in the Flipped class than the Lecture class, but were 5.0% and 8.0% less successful in the Stealth flip class than the Lecture and Flipped Class respectively. 

From the math level and class rank data, the Stealth Flip students were not as academically and mathematically prepared as the students from the Flip class and much less so than the Lecture class.  Even so, the cumulative course grades for all three groups were not statistically significant from each other (p = .803); in fact, the overall course grades were almost identical.  As a result, the structure of the Stealth flip class did not show any significant decrease in student achievement, and indicates that the new structure is as equally successful as a traditional classroom

Overall, the average student (middle third) was more successful in the Stealth Flip class than both the Flipped and Lecture class.  Students with a class rank “not given” and the non-traditional students comprised the “other” category and were removed from the statistical analysis.  Considering the graphical data only, these students appeared to be more successful in the Lecture and Stealth Flip classes than the Flipped class.  Non-traditional adult learners are generally more focused on their academic pursuits and have high quality motivation (Pew, 2007) and expressed more favorable reactions to the flipped classroom learning environment. 

Class Rank and Perceptions of Flip Class.  Learning environment in the Flipped class was measured using modified items from the College and University Classroom Environment Inventory (CUCEI) with Likert-scale response choices (Fraser, Treagust, & Dennis, 1986; Strayer, 2012).  Following these survey questions, students were asked to comment about their perceptions of the flipped classroom and how this changed their study habits.  The information in Appendix B provides a snapshot of their responses. 

The more academically prepared and non-traditional adult student responded favorably to the flipped classroom.  Even those who “hated” the flipped classroom noted a change in study habits.  Ironically, many said they had to learn how to find information on their own and learn on their own.  Although they did not think this was positive, it is in fact what college learning is all about.

In both the Flipped and Stealth flip classes almost every non-traditional student made comments that the ability to learn the material at his or her own pace was extremely beneficial.  These same students also commented on many of their classmates’ inability to stay on task during class.  The instructor also made similar observations.  Because of high percentage of students with low academic and mathematics preparedness, many in class sessions deteriorated into social hour in the Flip Class due to the large (N=43) class size. A similar situation arose in the Stealth Flip class, but because of the small class size (N=16 each), the instructor was able to keep students on task to a greater extent. 

In the Flip Class, the instructor had to spend too much time with each student due to their lack of preparation before class.  Students in the Flip Class resented the fact that they had to learn outside of class and were very vocal when expressing their sentiments.  Those students who wanted to concentrate had to use ear buds to drown out neighboring conversations.  Anecdotally, non-traditional adult learners expressed satisfaction with the flipped classroom learning environment to a greater extent than the traditional student.  Top third traditional students also expressed little discontent in the Flipped Class.  Students who were less academically prepared and had a lower level of mathematics ability were most vocal in expressing their discontent in the Flipped Class. 

Interestingly, only two students in the Stealth Flip class cited discontent with the learning environment.  Both students called the learning environment the “flipped class” when expressing their displeasure.  Of these students, one did not graduate from high school but instead earned a GED.  One student who was in both the Flip and Stealth flip class expressed much more satisfaction with the structure of the Stealth flip class.  She said it was more organized and “easier to follow”.  She also described the short vodcasts as “much better and not as long and boring” than the MediaSite classroom recordings. 

Personal Discussion on Changes to Flip Classroom. 

I now consider myself a “Stealth Flipper”.  No need to call attention to the learning environment.  This is the way this course is taught because it is best for the student.  In addition, by not labeling the learning environment as a “flipped classroom”, students who are not performing optimally do not have the excuse of “not being able to learn in the flipped class”.  Interestingly, the negative comments received this semester from students about the learning environment used the term “flipped classroom” when addressing the question about the learning environment. 

Structure of the Stealth flip Pre-class Lesson.  In the Stealth flipped class each chapter consists of 3-8 lessons.  Each lesson will include a series of vodcasts, virtual lectures, section reading, before class problems, and a Gate Check.  This is a lot of work, but students are reminded that a 3 credit class = 1 hour in class/2 hours outside of class.  Each lesson in the Stealth flip class includes the following:

1.  Instead of MediaSite Classroom captured videos, short vodcasts from a variety of sources (Bozeman ScienceTyler Dewitt, as well as instructor-made vodcasts.   Personal vodcasts were recorded using a pdf annotator, Wacom tablet, and Camtasia Relay.  Links to these are provided in the Lessons section within each module. 

2.  In addition to the vodcasts, the new textbook includes Mastering Chemistry.  Mastering Chemistry provides short video clips of problems being solved on a whiteboard.  These short tutorials were included as part of each lesson and were labeled as “virtual lectures”.

3.  A few problems were assigned for students to attempt BEFORE class.  These are called “before class problems”.  These problems were straight forward and the instructor-made vodcasts often solved at least one of these assigned problems. 

4.  Finally, students complete a Gate Check BEFORE class.  Google forms were used as a method to assess whether students viewed the vodcast lessons.  Within the Gate check, students were asked to write their muddy and clear points on the Gate Check.  Each class began with a review of students’ anonymous, aggregated, responses.  This provided the opportunity to focus on the content that is most confusing.  Students enter their own confidential ID so that student completion of the Gate Check is confirmed.  At this time, Muddy Points were addressed without reviewing all information.  This is aligned with the “Just-in-Time” teaching techniques outlined by Eric Mazur at Harvard (Mazur, 2009). 

            Following the Gate Check review, students work on problems in groups from the text.  All “problems” are done in class.  Midway through the semester, the group work was modified so that it was less like a study hall and more collaborative.  This modification has worked, but it has also made some students (pre-PAs) disgruntled (students voiced their displeasure and noted it on the end-of-course survey).  Those who do not complete them in class need to do so at home and were collected for a grade.  In class problems were not collected in the Flipped Class as I ASSUMED college students would complete them.  I was reminded that unless an activity is graded, some students will not complete it.

After the content was complete, students are given several days to take the chapter quiz (quiz due date on LMS calendar).  This is administered in the LMS.  The quiz consists of 10 multiple choice questions taken from a pool of 50-100 questions.  Each student’s quiz is different.  There is a time limit, but each student has up to unlimited attempts to take the quiz.  This has made this previous “high stakes assessment” more “low stakes” and a good learning tool.  However, about 33% of the students either did not take the quiz or only made one attempt. 

Stealth Flip class observations.  Many students complete the Gate Check and did not view the vodcast.  In fact, several students in the Stealth Flipped class are completing the Gate Check and skipping class.  Students who followed the directions, viewed the vodcasts, and took notes, earned a C or better.  Students who did not prepare for class earned a D or lower.  In future flipped classes I plan hold students more accountable for pre-class preparation than simply filling out a form.  However, I do not want to lose class time policing whether students completed the lesson prior to class.  Students will be required to keep a Lesson notebook with notes from the vodcasts and readings as well as before class problems.  I plan on collecting these unannounced and periodically. 

            The class size of 16 per section has been a huge benefit.  I am able to spend quality time with each student.  The Stealth Flip class students are less academically and mathematically prepared than the Lecture and Flipped classes therefore each student needed more attention and guidance.  I also teach the lab sections for the Stealth Flip class as opposed to Lecture and Flipped classes where I only taught one section and no lab sections respectively.  Teaching the lab component for the Stealth Flip class has also allowed me to get to know the students better and work one-on-one with them in a more relaxed environment.  Most of the Stealth class students are respectful and thoughtful.  They are curious and not as focused on earning an A.  To that end, the Stealth class students are a joy to have in class and as a result, I am much less uptight and anxious around them.  I do not think this pleasant environment is solely due to the Stealth flip structure; rather, it’s just the luck of the draw to get a nice, respectful group of students. 

Many have reported to me that they love the vodcasts and really like working on the problems in class.  These are the revisions I plan for the Fall 2014 semester.

1.  The class size will be approximately 48 students.  I solicited volunteer teaching assistants from previous semesters.  Several responded and are excited to help me. 

2.  Students will record all Lesson activities in a one-subject spiral bound notebook.  The Lesson activities will be checked periodically (unannounced) and graded according to completion.  The notebook will be organized as Chapters and Lessons and include notes from the assigned vodcast and/or textbook readings, demonstrated problems from the vodcast, and assigned problems to try on their own.  The inclusion of the Gate Check questions will be optional.  Essentially, the Lesson notebook will serve two functions.  It will provide me with more insight about what each students does to prepare for class.  The Lesson notebook will also provide opportunities for discussion about note taking and self-regulated learning.  Many students do not know how to learn and by collecting the notebook, I hope to guide them in this process. 

Adult learners and the Flipped classroom.  In all iterations of the flipped classroom, the adult learner responded more favorably than the traditional student.  Although the flipped classroom is thought to be favorable environment for the Millennial student (Bergman & Sams, 2012; Lancaster, 2013), the adult learner may be more successful and perceive it more favorably due to the andragogical underpinnings of the flipped classroom (Pew, 2007).  Suggestions for future research include determining the differences in course grade in and perceptions of the flipped classroom between traditional and non-traditional learners. 

Concluding thoughts.  Flipping in any educational setting is not a native process for either the teacher or the student.  Much consideration must go into the process before implementation.  Student characteristics such as academic preparedness and motivation to learn should be considered when designing the flipped class structure.  Candid conversations about methods that do not work and student perceptions should continue so that instructors who are interested in flipping their classrooms are fully aware of the best practices for their particular student population.  Students who are less academically and mathematically prepared should have a very structured learning environment with continual instructor feedback and prescribed pre-class activities. 


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De George-Walker, L. & Keeffe, M. (2010). Self-determined blended learning: A case study of blended learning design. Higher Education Research & Development, 29(1), 1-13. doi: 10.1080/07294360903277380

Donnelly, R (2010). Harmonizing technology with interaction in blended problem-based learning. Computers & Education, 54(2010), 350-359. doi: 10.1016./j.compedu.2009.08.01

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Fraser, B. J., Treagust, D. F., & Dennis, N. (1986). Development of an instrument for assessing classroom psychosocial environment at universities and colleges. Studies in Higher Education, 11(1), 43-54.

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Appendix A


Placement Into Mathematics Curriculum

The goal of the placement process is to identify the initial placement into the mathematics curriculum that will facilitate the student’s success in college mathematics. Multiple measures are considered by a placement committee of mathematics faculty to determine a student’s placement. Those measures include:

  • Scores on mathematics and reading placement exams
  • High school math courses completed and level of success achieved
  • SAT/ACT scores, if available
  • Time lapse since completing last math course
  • Motivation and attitude, as determined by an affective survey
  • High school rank


 The committee assigns students to one of the following placements:


Placement One

Students have a weak current working knowledge of basic arithmetic. Students will need to complete prerequisite, develop-mental course(s) before attempting any certificate or degree-level mathematics course. Typically, students assigned to this placement have experienced difficulty with mathematics throughout their education or have been away from mathematics for an extended period of time.


Placement Two

Students’ basic arithmetic skills are adequate, but current working knowledge of elementary algebra, required for success in all degree-level mathematics courses, is weak. Students will need to complete prerequisite, developmental course(s) before attempting any degree-level mathematics course. Typically, students assigned to this placement have not taken an algebra course, have experienced difficulty with algebra, or have forgotten algebra concepts because they have not used algebra for a significant length of time.


Placement Three

Students’ elementary algebra skills are adequate and current working knowledge of intermediate algebra is sufficient for success in some college math courses, but not adequate for the College Algebra I level and above. Typically, students who receive this placement have taken at least two high school algebra courses, but may have experienced difficulty with those courses or may have forgotten some algebra concepts because they have not used algebra for a significant length of time.


Placement Four or Five

Students’ current working knowledge of intermediate algebra is sufficient for beginning college math courses up to and including the College Algebra I level, but not Pre-Calculus and above. Typically, students who are assigned to this placement have experienced success in high school Algebra I and II, may have taken a course(s) beyond the Algebra II level, and have usually scored well on the math portion of the SAT/ACT.


Placement Six

Students’ current working knowledge of algebra is sufficient for all beginning college math courses below the level of Calcu-lus. Typically, students assigned to this placement have experienced success beyond the level of high school Algebra II, may have taken a trigonometry course, and usually have scored very well on the math portion of the SAT/ACT.


Placement Seven

Students’ current working knowledge of algebra and trigonometry is very good. Their skills are sufficient for all beginning col-lege math courses including Calculus I. Typically, students assigned this placement have experienced success in high school algebra, trigonometry, and possibly high school calculus. They usually have earned high grades in these courses and have a strong SAT/ACT score in mathematics.


Appendix B

Class Rank

Grade in Class

Comments on Experiences in Flipped Classroom


It has been a bit of a struggle with how large the class is. I feel like the group as a whole gets side tracked because so many people have questions so the work that we are supposed to be doing in class doesn't get done.


It was a different and okay experience.


I did not enjoy this set up at all. I think that lecture is necessary. I struggled in this class purely because of the vodcasts. I put my time and effort in. I excelled in chemistry in high school and being in this class made me feel like a weak student, for a lack of words, dumb. For being such a large class, one teacher answering 40 students questions is difficult. Even when there was time to see the other students, I felt more time was spent helping the students with higher grades in the course for reasons I am not sure of. If this method were to work there would need to be either a TA or a smaller class size. However, if I am ever given the opportunity to take a flipped course again, I will be the first to not sign up for it.



I think its wonderful! i enjoy being able to pause, rewind if necessary. I like being able to have an "office hours"-like environment in the class room. its not like we're not getting any instruction bc we are. there isn't a second during class, or out of class that we're not learning something. Often times, in past experiences, i would struggle just to write down what the prof is writing on the board, then try to understand it later. Here, the flipped classroom allows me the opportunity to understand the material better during class bc i received instruction prior to, during a vodcast.



The flipped classroom learning experience is not very successful in this class. The class is too large. The professor does not have time to go to each indivdual when they need help and give them the help they need. Trying to make up for that lack of time the professor tends to try to explain concepts on the board which some students do not pay attention to or listen to what she says during this time because some of them understand it from watching the vodcasts on their own time outside of class. In class the students were asked to do in class problems. Outside of class the students were required to watch vodcasts or read on top of doing assignments out of the book and on connect. This resulted in alot of time outside of class doing work and taking away from actual time to study material.


I personally was not fond of the flipped classroom method. I found it very difficult and ineffective for me. I'd prefer to be taught in the classroom.


I thought it was terrible it honestly didn't teach me a thing I learned nothing at all and in the classroom where we are supposed to be half the class has no idea what's going on. Terrible experience, don't think I should get a bad grade when I wasn't taught anything.




Enjoyed it, but still had to lecture in class


I do not like it. The vodcast are unclear. I would learn a lot more in a regular classroom.






I think it is a wonderful concept on paper and will benefit many students, however, for some students it does not work. More advertising of what exactly this class entails would be benefitial


Not my thing…. 

I got more of a chance to ask questions directly to the professor because of her not just standing and lecturing the whole time. 


Flipped classroom although took quite a bit of getting used to is very beneficial with this type of learning




Non   Trad/degree 


I find it to be a good learning environment for the self-motivated student. If the student is not willing to put in time outside of class then they are not going to do very well.

Non Trad 


The flipped classroom was trying at times. The downside to doing homework in class is that not everyone is willing to sit quietly and actually work on problems. This can be very distracting.

Non Trad/degree 


I enjoyed and now prefer this style. 



Horrible experience, How can a person teach themselves new material when they dont understand it to start off?










Class Rank

Grade in Class

Changes in Study habits


I was more structed and didn't get behind as easily as I have in other courses.


I learned most of the information outside of class. 


I study better from work not notes, so taking notes to study at home did not benefit me at all.



 I used more outside sources to augment my study material





I now spend a lot more time preparing before class.


It didn’t



able to rewatch vodcasts insead of reading book lessons; easier to understand so less time studying


I had to study more because I had to teach myself all the material, it created a lot more work than it could have been.






I found that studying is more difficult because there were no lectures that I can relate to a time and place (if that makes any sense).


Did not really change much, but the vodcasts did help with studying.


the time to watch the lessons because of know how long really let me schedule in the more appropriate time block for the out of class work.




Non   Trad/degree 


The flipped classroom forced me to use many other resources than just the book and the vodcasts. I used other internet resources to facilitate my learning.

Non Trad 


This type of class taught me to be more independent and to figure things out on my own.

Non Trad/degree 


Encouraged me to study in multiple ways.




No comment









Thanks for sharing your results and experiences with us. It's interesting to see how the variations of flipping work in different environments.

The term autonomy support is unfamiliar to me, as I am a chemist with no formal training in education. I suspect that many other readers have similar backgrounds and may be unfamiliar with this term. I Googled the term but that didn't make things crystal clear to me. Can you explain the term and perhaps point us towards a reference where we can learn more about this idea?

Kelly Butzler's picture

Hi Jennifer,
Thanks for the question! Autonomy support is part of the self-determination theory which focuses on the theory of motivation. The SDT was developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan in the 1980s. Here is a link to the SDT website:

Autonomy support as it applies to educational settings (you could also apply it parenting, coaching, etc) involves teaching style. You can think of it as being opposite from a controlling teacher. Teachers who have an autonomy-supportive style are "willing to take the student's perspective during instruction" Reeve, 2009. see: I consider autonomy support in that I give my students choices on their learning; where, when and how this learning takes place. I take into account their needs, interests, and preferences by giving them a wide range of opportunities for content acquisition.

Here is a great article that relates autonomy support and learning organic chemistry:

Hope this helps!!

malkayayon's picture

Thanks for sharing your research.
I teach Chemistry in High School; not all students major in Chemistry.
I haven't done any research on flipped classrooms, but some teachers and I have tried to include some videos in our programs and then shared our experience. We felt that many of the students prefer face to face teaching; videos were very helpful in case students missed the class, needed a "slower", step by step explanation or a reminder before exams. The length of each video was not more than 10 minutes, and preferably 5 minutes long.
It may be that less motivated students need to get used to being more active in their learning. Maybe we have to scaffold this transition.

Kelly Butzler's picture

Hi Malka,
We absolutely have to adopt a scaffolding approach to transition students from a teacher-centered learning environment to one that is student-centered, like the flipped classroom. I plan to adopt more "self-regulation tools" by means of the Lesson Notebook (teach students HOW to take notes, summarize, and critically analyze). I also plan to use what is called a "cognitive wrapper". Basically, it will be a set of reflective questions after each test. Students who complete this "wrapper" will gain extra credit points. Most of my students don't know how to approach their learning. I think this is why my adult learners like the flipped classroom more than my traditional learners. For more on the idea of "cognitive wrappers", visit this site:

malkayayon's picture

Thanks for the "cognitive wrappers". Good idea!

Holly Wiegreffe's picture

Thank you for teaching high school chemistry. It's an important and challenging job. I now teach at a State College but was in a high school prior. I tried the flipped classroom one time. I did the jigsaw method... The reason I only did it once was because I just couldn't figure out the accountability piece. In short, I couldn't get a critical mass of students to do the prework. I didn't see a way around the technology piece either as some students don't have computers at home for video viewing. That meant the prework had to be a reading assignment which is less effective. I always thought it might work if I had a section where the students and their parents "selected" the flipped classroom, with the flipped classrooom being "sold" as a 'new way' to get more help with homework problems. If there was buy in, it might work better. My children have both had flippped high school classes and with both, the teacher stopped after short order as too few students did the prework. Hang in there, what you do matters.


This is excellent work and addresses many of the questions that I have been thinking about wrt flipping my non-science majors course (I have only flipped my organic courses so far). My experience, with students working in groups of 3-4, is that I can't get to each group quickly enough with class sizes much more than 25. I had two of our strongest majors help with Organic 2 in the Spring which was good, but was surprised the number of times they misled groups. Timing didn't allow me to meet with them before the 8 am class, but I do wish I had given them more guidance...

Class size (35) is one of my biggest concerns with flipping the non-majors course because I don't have an effective way to recruit volunteer TAs for it and I suspect the lower motivation level of the non-majors will make that even more problematic. You did a great job of discussing intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and I am curious what you (or others) would think about increasing the extrinsic motivation for group work to keep them on task and learning. What has been or could be effective with a low-motivation cohort? What would be doomed to failure?


Kelly Butzler's picture

Hi Justin! Thanks for your question.

Regarding motivating students to stay on task... this had been one of the biggest challenges for me. I have several underlying issues that come into play.
1. Many of my students do not come prepared. Possible solution: have students keep Lesson Notebook.
2. Many of my strong students do not want to help the weaker students (they are all competing for 30 seats in the Physician Ass't program...imagine a class full of pre-meds who all want to go to YOUR college and there are only 30 seats).
3. Many of my students don't know how to learn and certainly cannot without direct guidance.
4. Many of my students do not see relevance in chemistry and career. (nor do they want to know.... most PA students only want to learn concepts that will be on the test... yes, I was told this).

So, I tried to make the class less competitive and more team-oriented. I told students that if the average on test 2 improved by 10% or higher, I would add extra credit to the exam. (didn't happen). I then tried the "Jigsaw method" for group work. See:

I think the jigsaw method will work if implemented early on in the semester. I tried it mid-semester and had a great deal of push back from my PA students. Interestingly, my engineering students much less "disgruntled" with this approach. BUT, they did lots of group work in their major classes AND were not competing with each other. I plan on trying the jigsaw method again. This time each group (or maybe each student) will have a small desktop whiteboard so that they can use it to teach their "home group" when they return.

I will also make sure I explain to them the benefits of teaching others. Bill Grayhack (RMU) shows his students a sample self-evaluation from IBM. "I walked them through the performance evaluation format we used at IBM. For each skill in your area, you had to rate yourself (and then your boss would rate you) as:
0 – no knowledge
1 – academic knowledge = read about it
2 – could perform tasks with supervision/guidance
3 – could perform tasks independently
4 – could supervise/teach others

No matter what profession students plan on doing, they will need to teach others. Our students need to realize that one-way learning is not really learning.

Holly Wiegreffe's picture

This is what I'm going to try in the Fall to address this issue. First of all, the students will be separated into two groups before the group work portion: Those who did the prework and those who didn't. I think stronger students will be more open to helping if they aren't expected to help slackers. Secondly, after the group work, each person in the group will be given an individual problem to solve as an Exit Slip (also keeps the group accountable for using the time effectively) but the grade the individual gets is the average of the individual grades in their group. That way, it's in everyone's interest to make sure everyone learns. My students will get three grades for the flipped classroom: the entrance slip (showed they did the prework), the group work and lastly the average of the Exit Slip problem. Now there are some pitfalls with this approach, namely the issue of giving a a student a grade by another... it order to avoid that issue I'm going to 1. have the blessing of my dean 2. spell it out in the syllabus and 3. call it "participation", which it really is. Either you participated in your group's learning or you didn't.

Roy Jensen's picture

I am planning to partially flipping my CHEM 10x classes this fall. I like the idea of self and peer-assessments and, instead of reinventing the wheel, was wondering if you had any rubrics that you could share?

The Teamwork rubric by Dr. Matthew Ohland might be of value to some:

On a related note, thinking about student peer review, is anyone aware of a rubric or strategy for 'reviewing the reviewer'?

Kelly Butzler's picture

Hi Roy- I don't use any kind of peer review for student groups in the flipped classroom. With the students I have (mostly Pre-physician assistants and all competing for 30 seats in the program), they would NOT be happy having to assess each other's participation or be assessed. I have a hard enough time getting them to help each other.

I do, however, give students the choice to work in a group on an authentic activity in my forensics class. I have not done much teamwork activities in gen chem other than working on problems in class and in the lab.

There is a program called Calibrated Peer Review ( that our biology department uses. It "trains" the students how to do reviews based on examples that you've graded. I think they have found it successful.

“Students’ motivation to learn is found to be more important to learning science than cognitive processes (Ning & Downing, 2012; Tuan et al., 2005).  Motivational factors include self-perceived ability, self-regulated learning processes, self-efficacy, goal orientation, test anxiety, and learning strategies (Baeten et al., 2010; Ning & Downing, 2012; Tuan et al., 2005 others).  These factors are strongly influenced by the type and quality of motivation (Niemiec & Ryan, 2009; Ryan & Deci, 2000). “
Do you do any pretesting of these factors, besides math scores in your students?

‘This has made this previous “high stakes assessment” more “low stakes” and a good learning tool.  However, about 33% of the students either did not take the quiz or only made one attempt. ‘

Is there any correlation with class rank and math scores and this apparent lack of motivation? Do you take any particular steps for these poorly motivated students.

Kelly Butzler's picture

Hello, Pankuch. Thanks for your questions.

I used class rank as the motivation factor. I have used the Academic Motivation Survey- College version (AMS-C) (Vallerand et al., 1993) and the Students' motviaton toward science learning (SMTSL) (Tuan et al., 2005) to determine pre-class motivation levels. In order to administer these surveys, an IRB needs to be obtained. In addition, I have found that my students (and maybe most students) don't answer surveys candidly and most have low response rates. In fact, one student when completing the SMTSL in gen chem said that she knew how she should answer the questions as opposed to how she really feels.

I decided to use class rank as a motivation factor because it was not dependent on one day's answers to a survey. And, if a student graduates in the bottom third of his/her HS class, one can assume the motivation to learn is low. Also, from my paper.... "Students with high levels of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation were found to have the strongest academic performance in high school (Wormington, Corpus, & Anderson, 2012)". Personally, I think class rank is a stronger factor than responses from a survey.

Regarding your other question about correlating class rank and math levels... I did not run a statistical analysis on this to find if class rank and math level were correlated with statistical significance. However, just eyeballing the numbers, in most cases they were. Let's just say there were no students with math level 6 or 7 that were bottom third. There were students who were in the top third and tested at math level 3.

I did not take specific steps to help the poorly motivated students. I did try to motivate with "carrots" in the form of extra credit. I also tried team-building incentives. If the class average increased by 10% on test 2, extra credit would be given to all (didn't happen). Those students who didn't come prepared were encouraged to see me during office hours so that I could help them one-on-one. I had conversations with these students to see what was going on in their personal lives. (many of my students have to work, family, etc). Motivating the unmotivated student is extremely difficult. I'm not sure how much more I could do.

While following the interesting conversation for the papers on “Flipping the Classroom”, I sense a continuing concern regarding assessment, which appears to focus on two areas, a rubric on student writing, such contributions to a blog, and grades, tests and final grades, without any apparent indication of measuring student learning. For those of us who have to deal with accreditation agency requirements for accountability, and documentation of student achievement, we recognize that it is no longer what we teachers are teaching; it is about what our students are learning.
It was surprising that Michael Seery’s response to the question, “Do you have data on learning outcomes” was not questioned by anyone. I had meant to at that time, but the busy work of May distracted me. Michael’s response referred to students’ use of textbooks as “a valuable outcome because students are learning how to work with a text again”. This may be an outcome important to Michael, but it is certainly not a “learning outcome”. A learning outcome deals with content and is meant to detail skills and/or knowledge that students should acquire from a learning experience provided in a course. Also, by specifying learning outcomes to the students, the students are being provided the expectations of the instructor, which can also serve as a motivational tool.
Meeting criteria of Accreditation Agencies means a specification of learning outcomes for a course, providing learning experiences so that students have the opportunity to acquire the skills and/or knowledge specified by the learning outcomes, and assessments that demonstrate student achievement of the learning outcomes. Test and course grades meet the necessary requirements of the reporting student performance in a course. But it has been shown in the literature that good grades are not necessarily indicative of student learning.
Flipping the classroom can provide the vehicle for specifying learning outcomes and assessing student achievement of the learning outcomes. As pointed out, the videos, now referred to by many as “learning objects”, should be short – less than 10 minutes – and an active learning component where possible, that has students doing something as they watch the video. My colleagues and I have been using learning objects for almost 3 years in an on-line professional development program for teachers, and one of my colleagues has been flipping the classroom with learning objects in an Electrical Engineering Technology (EET) course. The common approach for both efforts is to specify a learning outcome(s) for each learning object, which requires the students (or teachers) to complete an assignment which allow for assessment of each individual to demonstrate their ability to apply the skills and/or knowledge specified by the learning outcome(s). In the course, these learning outcomes are also the basis for tests. In addition, assessments are carried out for the video (i.e., learning object), as well as the learning outcome(s). A survey is completed for each video as to the quality of the video, and its usefulness to the student to achieve the learning outcome. Typically, feedback from these surveys has lead to improvements of the original video centering on the refining and clarification of the materials presented in the video.
Thought-full creation of videos (i.e., learning objects) can not only provide a stimulating learning experience for the students, but also provides a vehicle for assessing the video as well as assessing the student learning.

Kelly Butzler's picture

Thanks, Howard, for this comment. I will begin by differentiating between Learning outcomes (goals) and objectives. I consider Course goals as those that are listed in my syllabus and tied to the course description. These are overarching goals and can be met in different ways depending on the instructor.

Learning objectives are those that are more specific and tied to content in a chapter, module or section. I list learning objectives at the top of each of my chapter modules (divide content into Lessons, and have a vodcast each lesson... see my paper for a lesson example) as well as in the vodcast in the first lesson. I also use these as a "study guide" for my students. So, for test 1, the learning objectives were listed (again) for the content that could be covered on the test.

Do I list the objective after each test question? No. I could though, but it might get a bit confusing for my students. However, I use the learning objectives to design questions... these objectives are my template for assessment design.

I am in the process of re-designing an online Forensic science course. As part of the redesign, I will tie each activity and assessment to a learning objectives which is tied to a course outcome which is tied to a Department Goal and Institution Goal. The LMS makes this very easy to accomplish. At Penn College, faculty take the role of both SME and instructional designer.

Hope this description helps you visualize how I use objectives and goals to design my courses.

Thanks very much for your follow-up to my comment. I was hesitant , at the time I wrote my comment, to continue to the next level, as you have, so as to not overwhelm anybody who has not been working with objectives and outcomes. Of course, the progression from program to course to learning objectives;/outcomes is a critical part of what we do in the classroom, and for our students.
I have only one comment to follow up on what you have said. My colleagues and I have been providing workshops for faculty and instructional staff for several years, refining our; workshops over the years based upon the response from the faculty and instructional staff. I have been working with colleagues in chemical engineering in the specification of course objectives and learning outcomes for their courses. And you might note that I am using the terminology in a slightly different manner. Faculty and instructional staff do get confused by the terminology; part of the confusion caused by the accreditation agencies. So, we have made the “executive decision” to try to use consistent terminology in our workshops. We know the difference between objectives (what students will be able to do) and outcomes (what students have done). So we refer to course objectives, which must be included in all syllabi, as what students will be learning in the course, and learning outcomes as what students have learned as a result of the learning experiences provided in the course. And the learning outcomes are used to guide in the preparation of assessments, such as tests, reports, etc. As you correctly point out, tests then become vehicles for ascertaining how well students have acquired specified skills and knowledge as well as providing grades. Both your use of terminology and ours are correct, and are serving the same purpose. I just believe that everyone should realize the importance of consistent terminology, especially the fact that goals and objectives are different things.

Do you think having the weaker students fill out a 24/7 week schedule filling in all work , lecture, lab hours and especially the study hours required might get them to look more closely at their situation? Then follow up explaining to the weak group that heavy schedules and poor background make doing well improbable. Special extra credit work could be used as an incentive.

Kelly Butzler's picture

Interesting idea, Pankuch. I had not thought about asking students to reflect on their work/school schedules. This might be an interesting way for students to actually "see" where they could fit in studying or realize they were taking on too much. I have had conversations with several students about going home every weekend, working 30 hours/week, etc. I point out to them that these choices may not be conducive to earning the grades they want. Some students have no choice but to work. This is where I suggest not taking an 18 credit course load.

I might give this a try!

Combining the information you get from student work/ School schedules plus the class standing and any other pretest that you have available could allow you to identify the group of students at very high risk of failure. We have found that students who study plus work hours exceed 80 hours per week, have close to 100% failure rate. Identifying this group the first week of the semester could allow you to explain to the students that their heavy schedule, not their personal ability to pass the course, will probably cause them to fail. Reinforcing this would be pointing out on when they are failing successive assignments and tests as they occur during the semester.

Kelly Butzler's picture

Hi Brian, Good idea! I give a "syllabus" quiz to make sure all students read the syllabus and acknowledge that they have done so. I will add a few questions regarding work and school schedule to this quiz. I might also ask if they have had High School chem. Many of my students have not (even though it says in the course description that high school chemistry is HIGHLY recommended). Thanks!

My first homework assignment also includes a reading about plagiarism and requires students to sign and date a statement that they have read the definition, understand its meaning, and understand the academic penalties involved. I posted this to a general course web site for others in my (old) department to use. I've had dozens of people ask for permission to use/adapt it for their courses over the years:

Rob Toreki

Holly Wiegreffe's picture

With an un- or undermotivated student, I've tried this conversation before... I'll put it in conversation format with the kind of answers students have given me in the past.
Prof: I think it's safe to say that this class isn't going the way either of us would like it to.
Student: Yeah....
Prof: On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is doing well in class to you? Now, before you answer, really think about it. I'd like to hear a thoughtful answer.
Student: Oh, very veeeerrry important, so I'd say about an 8 or a 9.
Prof: Hmmm, that's interesting. Why didn't you say a 5? Honestly, I thought you'd say a 5, maybe even a 4.
Student: Oh, it's waaaaaay more important than a 5 because if I don't pass this class, I can't take microbiology and then I'll not be able to go into the nursing program and that will set me back an entire year.
Prof: Really? I'm confused - if it's that important, why is your effort a 5?
And then I walk away. What I like about it is that it makes the student explain the value of the class to themselves. It's not great strategy, but it's the best I've got.

Kelly Butzler's picture

Honestly, I could only have a conversation like this with a few students, mostly engineers. Most of my students would go to the dean to complain.

I'm thinking of doing something like this as part of a bigger class discussion by having them write down the importance and then talk about what an effort of ten looks like, 5, etc. however, this will probably be far more successful in my prenursing course than my science majors courses.

Kelly Butzler's picture

I am hoping someone give me some advice or at least use this as a springboard for assessing students in a flipped classroom. I am thinking about eliminating the summative "semester tests" (I give 3 of these/semester) and replacing with summative chapter assessments. Students would be assessed more often with less content on each assessment. I would continue to administer the comprehensive final exam (we have been giving the same one, with minor changes, for about 5 years).

Does anyone (besides HS teachers) have this structure for gen chem? My gut tells me it would be better for the student... less anxiety, cramming, etc. and perhaps motivate these students with the idea that all is not lost if they are not successful in one chapter. BUT, it will be a LOT more work for me in terms of grading.

Thoughts? Ideas?

Although I am not at this time teaching a flipped classroom, I have been collaborating with my colleague who is teaching the Electrical Engineering Technology class in a flipped manner. I can provide you with how he is doing the assessment, but not for at least a week or two, as I am currently in Innsburck, Austria (visiting daughter and family) and my colleague is in France on vacation. While I do have some of the information on my computer at home, I can also get updates from him when he reutrns. Apreliminary paper had been presented a couple of years ago at an engineering education conference and if I can find the link from here, I can send it to you. Otherwise, I can provide you with other information after this conference is over. If the forum can't be used at that time, then perhaps I can e-mail the material to you.

You may want to try frequent quizzes that are low cost to students but that give review of single units. I've given short online quizzes that students can have several tries to attempt. They get these on a regular basis and get credit for completion. If they get a certain number with 100% they get some (not a lot) of extra points. Students work very hard for extra points and this motivates them to get practice for more comprehensive exams.

Kelly Butzler's picture

I have implemented online chapter quizzes. Students can take these unlimited times with the highest score recorded. I have it set so that the LMS quiz feature pulls 10 questions from a bank of about 80 questions. Each student has a different set of questions each time he/she takes it. Even with these very lax parameters, only a few students take the quiz more than once and some not at all. I have it contribute 5% towards their course average.

Kelly - Is there a time limit on the quizzes? I'm considering something similar but not sure I want the hassle of dealing with extended time for the students with accommodation letters.

Roy Jensen's picture

This was discussed at length in our department. The decision supported by most faculty was to give students a window of 7 days to complete the quiz and give students 12 hours to complete the quiz once they start. Since we are drawing on a large question pool and the numerical values are different for each student, each quiz will be unique.

And HONESTLY, if a student gets help from someone else, its PEER INSTRUCTION, and only work 10 % overall. And they're actually doing the work!
From another perspective, some students cheat on homework by copying the answers from another student. [It's kinda sad that I just wrote this.]

Kelly Butzler's picture

My students also copy homework which is why I prefer the flipped classroom. I can see everyone completing the problems. Some still copy, but doing so is more difficult. Students can't "copy" class preparation. The onus is on them.

Kelly Butzler's picture

Hello- I do have a time limit on the quizzes. I explain to my students that this is like a scrimmage or rehearsal. (I use athletics and music to illustrate the need for practice and rehearsal to prepare for "game day" or "concert" day). This online quiz, although unlimited attempts can be made, it's really about putting themselves in a test situation. They would never go into a big game or concert without practice and a scrimmage. And I am their coach.

Layne Morsch's picture


I like this analogy (and will probably use it on my class soon). Quizzes as practice for exams. I used to give in-class quizzes every week with 3 exams and a final, but stopped giving the quizzes to try to regain class time (12 quizzes at 30 minutes each to pass out, take, collect -- this was the equivalent of 2 weeks of my course). Perhaps with my flipped class I would have time to add classroom quizzes back to my class.

The only concern I have with many brief assessments is if this replaces exams covering more material. I don't have a paper to cite at this point, but it seems that quizzes on small amounts of material allow students to memorize small bits that they can then dump before the next quiz. Exams covering more material require retention of information/problem solving skills.

In my semi-retirement with only part-time instructional duties, I have time to read (and correspond with friends) concerning what researchers say about how the student brain learns chemistry. Permit me to throw out some advice from the brain scientists on types and frequency of quizzing, which turns out to be very important in determining how much learning takes place.

First, quizzes promote learning. When studies have compared how students prepare for tests, comparing re-reading notes, re-copying notes, and taking short practice quizzes, the “practice quiz method” results in much greater long-term memory. Chapter 2 of the new book on student learning Make It Stick is titled “To Learn, Retrieve,” and the authors go into why self-quizzes, practice quizzes, and short class quizzes have been scientifically proven to be some of the best uses of limited student study time. The book is reviewed here:

But “open notes” quizzes, such as untimed online homework, are not very effective at promoting learning because they encourage students to just look up a worked example and follow it to solve. Some of the most highly acclaimed studies of cognition have been done by John Anderson and his colleagues at Carnegie-Mellon. They note that to solve science and math problems, students must “decompose” new information into its “elements” (they are psychologists, but they choose their vocabulary nicely, don’t they?), store those elements in long-term memory, and then construct meaning by connecting the elements other elements in memory that allow cued retrieval when needed to solve problems. One of their papers on this is here:

Making this work requires getting the elements of knowledge into a long-term memory that is resistant to change. To do that, cognitive science says the most effective strategy is “spaced overlearning:” practice to perfection at recall of elements (e.g. flashcard questions such as “What is Markovnikov’s Law?”) spaced over several days. The value of spaced practice is discussed in Make It Stick’s Chapter 3.

But this kind of practice needs to be “closed notes” to be effective. If students are allowed to rely on looking at notes or a text or the internet, the information is not likely to be retained memory for more than a few days at best. The cognitive science folks emphasize that the goal of learning is to get information organized in long-term memory, and the brain tends to construct memory of only what it practices recalling for at least several days. Because of the “30 second limit” on content in working memory, if students must look something up and then try to remember it during problem solving, rather than recall it quickly, they tend to get confused.

So the message to students needs to be: You’ve got to move this information into memory. That takes either closed notes quizzes, or an open notes quiz with such short time limits per question that there are limits to what they can look up to do more than quickly “refresh the memory.” But -- to get time in class for short closed notes quizzes takes flipping a significant amount of lecture content to study time.

Kelly Butzler's picture

Hi Eric- Thanks for this! I will definitely have to get the book.

So are you advocating more "high stakes" quizzes versus tests with quizzes being administered more frequently than tests? Or are you suggesting that both occur? I understand the need to assess more often, but I am concerned that it will cut into my face-to-face class time. Additionally, in the spring, we lose class time to inclement weather.

What the research says maximizes learning is “both” frequent quizzes that count and occasional tests.

In learning math and science, the well-documented “spacing effect” applies. The ideal spacing for encouraging the brain to construct long-term memory is to practice retrieval and application of new information for roughly about 3 1-2-hour periods in a week, then again a week or two later, and then a month or two later. This matches a system of frequent quizzes, some major tests, and a final exam. This spacing seems to persuade our evolved primate brain that information you need on that schedule really needs to be remembered, so the brain devotes resources to building that recall. Much of that memory construction goes on as your brain replays your day while you sleep – with PET scans and fNMI you can see the brain constructing this memory.

The way to encourage frequent student study is frequent quizzes that count, In the Gen Chem system Don Dahm at Rowan devised (over time by experiment), a 10-15 minute closed notes quiz that sampled the problems in the homework did this, and multiple choice is a good option for saving your time.

A sample of the quiz type Don uses is here: www.ChemReview.Net/SampleQuiz.pdf

In a 3-credit course, you have about 3 hours (about 150 minutes) a week with students, but expect them to study for 6 hours. Out of 150 minutes in class, 15 minutes a week to quiz I think would be manageable IF you can transfer a bit more of lecture content to study time.

What the research says is that students can learn from only about 15 minutes of lecture, lecture notes, or video at a time. However, if you then ask and answer clicker questions about that content, it drives the new content out of working memory, where it goes initially but not much can be held, and into initial long-term memory, which frees room for ANOTHER 15 minutes of new content in working memory. The rule is: Memory is the residue of thought. Students need to think about the meaning and use of small bundles of new content. Clicker questions do that.

A good article on this approach to building memory is at:

One more trick on presenting content: In recent research, completion problems have been found to work better at engaging students than worked examples. On your nitrate structure video, this strategy would be: List the rules at the top, then pose the problem. Tell them pause the video and try to draw the structure using the rules, then unpause. When they unpause, they listen to a portion of your explanation. Suggest that they pause and fix their work if needed, then unpause again. When they unpause, you finish explaining the problem.

A short demo on these steps is here: www.ChemReview.Net/DecayExample.pdf

This same completion problem approach can be used during lecture, but IF they have covered the fundamentals as homework, in lecture you can do higher level problems where they really need instructor guidance.

The result in your program will be: those who make it as PAs are those who do their homework. As an old person, that’s an outcome I like.

I cannot speak to more frequent assessment in Gen Chem, but my experience in Organic 1 is that there is a huge difference in exam scores (and presumably progress on learning objectives) in going from four unit exams to five. Average grades on the test (or tests*) covering substitution/elimination chemistry, alcohols, and ethers over five years have been 64, 60, 75*, 76*, 56. The average with a single exam upon flipping the classroom this year was a 71. If the scores are so much higher over this material upon doubling the number of assessments maybe I should always have the extra exam, or not. I had to drop the extra exam when we switched from evening exams (outside class time, highly resented) to in-class exams. Unless there is a reasonable way at your institution to do exams outside class time there is a major cost to more frequent assessment - it decreases in-class learning opportunities. This is particularly true if, like me, you teach twice per week rather than the more common three times. I have not been able to schedule more than four in-class exams and still cover the necessary content.

I am considering weekly summative assessments with just a midterm and final in my non-majors chemistry course this fall. The content requirement is fairly low and my goal is for them to gain a good understanding of the few topics we do discuss. My tentative plan is having them work in groups for one class period a week to complete quizzes using the Jigsaw method. The other class period would use JiTT to address their questions from the reading. Comments and suggestions welcome...

Kelly Butzler's picture

Justin, you are absolutely correct! I forgot to mention more frequent assessments = less class time. In the fall my class meets T/Th for 1 hr 15min. This past spring we met MWF for 50 minutes. It is easier to assess more frequently when the class meets more frequently. The other issue with this is that if I do assess more frequently and only a portion of the class time (like 20-30 min.) students will not concentrate on new material for the other part of the class. Essentially an entire class meeting will be lost. We currently do not have an alternative to assess than face-to-face. We have a testing center, but it is used for math and online classes only.

Roy Jensen's picture

I appreciate you sharing your experience. I have two questions:

1. Were some of the students in the Spring 2014 class students that had DWF the Fall 2013 flipped class? If so, was there any accounting for their knowledge of the flipped environment?

2. I am concerned that you had difficulty keeping 40+ students on track. I am planning to flip components of first-year chemistry classes that are 200 - 500 students with zero classroom assistance. Probably around 20 % of the classes will be flipped, primarily the material that was taught in high school and is being built upon in CHEM 10x. Any suggests on how I can keep these students focussed? I am looking for activities that will break up the problem solving, which will be the bulk of the class time.


Kelly Butzler's picture

Hi Roy-
To answer your questions....
1. I had one student repeat from Fall 2013 in my spring 2014. She and I talked at length about the new structure, ideas she had, etc. I ran most of the ideas I plan on implementing in the Fall 2014 semester by her. She much preferred the short videos, made in my office to the classroom captured ones recorded with a live class. She thought I was much more organized... each lesson had it's own "container" which helped guide her to what needed to be done. She much preferred the 16 student class to the class of 48. I could give all students more one-on-one. She suggested making students more accountable for the pre-class work (hence, the implementation of the Lesson notebook). Let's just say, she had a much better semester in gen chem.

2. This is still a huge concern of mine- keeping students on task. I plan on having former students as volunteer TAs. This won't be the answer, but it should help. You could use a polling system (clickers, Poll Everywhere, etc) to ask students to respond to a content-related question periodically throughout the class. Get students in teams and have a little competition with the teams to see who gets the answer first and correct. This might help students self-monitor their group members. You could collect problems or "something" at the end of each class. This holds students accountable for completing the work in class.

I am hoping others will chime in here as keeping students on task will be my biggest challenge in the fall.

I flipped my one-semester GOB course in the Spring with about 225 students. This class is an anomaly because it is 4-credit hours and meets four day a week. I don't have any assistance in the classroom so I split the class into two groups. Monday & Thursday, all students met together for a more traditional lecture with clicker questions. On Tuesday, half the students came and on Wednesday, the other half did. I assigned them to groups based on a brief Myers-Briggs test so I could have diversity in my groups. While there are definitely some things I will change for Fall, the basic concept worked out pretty well. They had enough videos outside of class to make up for the class time.

It was definitely a day to wear comfy shoes as I spent most of the class making laps around the lecture hall to answer questions and check in with groups. For a class that meets only two or three days a week like most of my classes, I"m not sure if this is a realistic option. They were pretty good about keeping on track but the class was 99+% pre-nursing students whose motivation tends to be greater than for my science majors.

I'm definitely going to ease into flipping with my science majors class but I am going to record some "interactive" videos with so i can spend more time in the class working on problems and having students work on the problems. I'm still trying to figure out the accountability portion to make sure they are watching the material before class.