Dr. Anthony K. Grafton, Associate Dean of Faculty and Professor of Chemistry at Lyon College, was awarded the Lamar Williamson Prize for Excellence in Teaching for Lyon’s 2014-15 academic year. The College awards this prize annually to the faculty member considered the most outstanding in four categories: professional competence, scholarly ability, exemplary humane values, and contributions to the community. In keeping with the tradition of the prize, he delivered a lecture for the Lyon community on February 23 titled “Meeting them where they are: turning the classroom upside-down to promote engagement and success in first-year chemistry.”
As the title suggests, Dr. Grafton’s lecture dealt with ways to reduce the D/fail/withdraw (DFW) rate for students in science classes, but this information could apply to any classroom. Dr. Grafton said in order to turn the classroom “upside down,” teachers and professors need to “flip” the way they structure their lessons to focus less on what they teach and more on what students learn. According to data presented in his lecture, the DFW rate is 50% higher in classes using a traditional lecture format.
Dr. Grafton cited Bloom’s Taxonomy, the pyramid structure depicting the least to most advanced categories of learning, in his lecture, stating that the “flipped” classroom helps students reach the highest levels of learning, the “Evaluating” and “Creating” levels. The traditional lecture format tends to keep student learning at the lower levels of simply remembering and understanding information. He also cited a study in which students gained 10-12 measured percentile points on learning assessments in the “flipped” classroom.
Dr. Grafton’s lecture shows that the method of presenting material is more important than the material itself when measuring student success.
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