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Photo: Jess Tsang

Curing lecture boredom with hands-on learning

In Business & Technology1 Comment

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By Sarah Jackson

First-year students in the course academic writing and research (SSH205) are experiencing a different kind of classroom this semester called a “flipped lecture.”

“Rather than coming to class and the professor lecturing at you — and then maybe you get to apply it if there’s enough time — you take the lecture home,” said Paul Chafe, instructor of SSH205. “The lecture becomes the homework. The homework is then done in class.” Chafe was awarded the 2014 Learning and Teaching Grant — worth $7,000 — for his proposal of flipping his class to online lectures and transforming classes into writing workshops.

Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, who won the Provost’s Experiential Teaching Award at Ryerson for her outstanding teaching records and contributions to advancing teaching, is assisting Chafe in this project.

The 15-minute online lectures are PowerPoint slides with a voiceover of Chafe teaching that week’s curriculum to his six sections of SSH205, which is a compulsory course for all students pursuing a social sciences or humanities major.

But Chafe, who has taught this course since 2008, had concerns about flipping his class.

“One thing I was worried about was, now that I’ve freed up all this time, what am going to do with my students for three hours?” Chafe said.

With the grant money, he hired Sydney Tyber and Cira Nickel, two graduate students from the English department, to build a file of activities for class time and a list of articles on best practices for using the flipped lectures.

Chafe’s goal is to have his students writing all the time, whether it’s working in groups or spending one-on-one time getting advice from him. Chafe now has more time to spend with his students in class and, according to him, flipped lectures are working so far.

“Compare my students now to where my other students were last term at this point, these people are miles ahead of just applying these ideas,” Chafe said.

But, like all classes at this time of year, the real test is coming up.

“The midterm is just before [reading week] so the proof will be in that,” he said.

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