In-class activities and assessment for the flipped classroom

In a flipped classroom students engage with lectures or other materials outside of class to prepare for an active learning experience in the classroom. For a more detailed description of what a flipped classroom is and what in-class activities are possible see  CTE Teaching Tips, “Course design: planning a flipped class” and “Online activities and assessment for the flipped classroom”.

In-class activities

After the preparation and design of activities for the in-class portion of your class, your primary role will be to monitor, guide, and support the learning process of your students. Students will have varied levels of understanding and comprehension after having completed the out of class work, and based upon their success by means of assessing their understanding in the online environment, you may approach the in-class activities in one of two ways: individual or group-based activities.

Individual Activities

Individual activities can be most beneficial and relevant if your students have demonstrated difficulty with understanding the content or material introduced to them out of class. Individual exercises can be used in advance of group ones to help students navigate a “higher-risk” group activity and can be helpful for students who need more individual reflective time to learn.

The individual activity can give students that additional time necessary to engage with the material and broaden their understanding. This doesn’t mean that you will just lecture to them to supplement the out of class activities, but that you provide students with the opportunity to engage with the material, reflect on it and synthesize or evaluate its content in a productive, rather than receptive manner.

Sample Individual Activities

Note: Activities with an * beside them are well-suited to larger class sizes where classroom layout may otherwise be an impediment to conducive group work.

iClickers/Polling – (Time on task: 5 to 10 minutes; Group size: 1 to 2)

  • In order to determine whether or not students have read and fully understood the out of class material, pose multiple choice questions and poll students to gauge the variance in answers
  • Quickly survey and gauge the understanding of a group, or if controversy is inherent in the question, demonstrate the wide range of possible means of thinking
  • If you choose not to have students purchase iClickers, consider asking them to hold up a piece of paper with a letter on it to indicate their answer, or just a different coloured piece of paper (see other tips)
  • Ideally used to provide immediate feedback to students about concepts tested outside of the class

Word Webs/Concept Maps (*) – (Time on task: 30 to 45 minutes; Group size: 1 to 4)

  • Done either individually or collaboratively, the word web can reinforce concepts learned out of class and build connections between various topics with the help of other students
  • Students map out how concepts, ideas or theories are thematically related in a visual manner
  • Any gaps can be useful inspiration for discussions either on a group of class level

Individual Problem Solving  (*) – (Time on task: 5 to 10 minutes; Group size: 1 to 4)

  • Done individually or collaboratively, students tackle problems in the class time and have an opportunity to ask questions of the instructor if they encounter difficulties
  • Ideally used to increase practice time on problem solving and provide immediate feedback to students about misconceptions

Group activities

Group activities, on the other hand, are usually the goal of the in-class portion of the flipped classroom. Each student will bring his or her own individual understanding of the content to the lesson, and together, in small groups, they will be able to draw on each other’s knowledge and understanding of the material to forge new understandings and better recall the content.

Sample Group Activities

Note: Activities with an * beside them are well-suited to larger class sizes where classroom layout may otherwise be an impediment to conducive group work.

Think-Pair-Share (*) – (Time on task: 5 to 15 minutes; Group size: 2)

  • Take a central concept presented in the out of class material, or a particularly controversial quiz question from the prior assessment, and have students reflect on it individually and then discuss it further
  • Think phase: students work independently and flesh out their thoughts/arguments and may write their thoughts down
  • Pair phase: students discuss their response with a partner
  • Share phase: elicit responses from all members of the class and begin to engage your students in a wider discussion demonstrating the many different perspectives
  • iClickers may be useful here as well in the share phase

Round Robin – (Time on task: 5 to 15 minutes; Group size: 4 to 6)

  • Small groups of students engage in rudimentary brainstorming
  • Each person is given the opportunity to say one word or phrase surrounding a central concept or topic
  • After that individual has contributed, the next person is given the opportunity to add an additional word or phrase to the list
  • The activity concludes after all members have participated
  • Each group can list their four to six main thoughts as a means of summarizing the topic before proceeding to do more in-depth activities

IF-AT (Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique) cards (*) – (Time on task: 5 to 15 minutes; Group size: 3 to 5)

  • IF-AT cards are unique pre-designed cards that function like multiple choice questions, yet instead of indicating an answer by circling a letter, a learner can actually scratch the card to reveal what they think is the correct answer
  • Students begin by answering the list of questions on their own without use of IF-AT cards
  • Afterwards, students work with a group to go through the questions, convince one another of the correct answer, and then scratch the card to discover what is right
  • Ideally used to provide immediate feedback to students about concepts tested outside of the class
  • CTE has sample IF-AT cards for instructors who are interested in trying this technique

Team Matrix (*) – (Time on task: 10 to 20 minutes; Group size: 2)

  • When new concepts have been introduced that are quite similar to one another, a team matrix can help parse the most salient features of each concept while differentiating between the intricacies of each
  • Present pairs of students with a list of characteristics that may or may not be shared between concepts and have the students determine which characteristics belong to each (or both) concept(s)
  • Discuss answers with the entire class afterwards to check comprehension

Fishbowl discussion – (Time on task: 15 to 20 minutes; Group size: 3 to 5 inside, remaining class outside of circle)

  • Small group of students sit in a circle and engage in a peer-mediated discussion (with instructor intervention if necessary)
  • Remaining students sit in a larger circle and watch the discussion, taking notes and critiquing the content and logic of the discussion
  • The outer circle can then discuss the interaction that occurred and provide additional insight into the topic and provide constructive feedback

Three-Step Interview – (Time on task: 15 to 30 minutes; Group size: 2, then 4)

  • Students are initially grouped into pairs whereby each student takes a few minutes to interview the other about the material that was read online
  • Students themselves come up with questions initially which they would like to ask, and after each member in the pair has interview each other, the pair summarizes their partner’s responses and then shares them with another pair of students

Role Play – (Time on task: 15 to 45 minutes; Group size: 2 to 5)

  • Role play can be facilitated in-class to demonstrate varying perspectives on a topic (such as a controversial topic in the media)
  • Students assume different roles in small groups and act out the parts with the varying perspectives they would have
  • After the role play, conclude with a larger discussion to see what approaches the groups or individual members took

Reaction Sheets – (Time on task: 30 to 45 minutes; Group size: 4 to 6)

  • Choose a number of broader, overarching questions based off of the out of class material that the students would have read
  • Once in-class, divide into small groups and give each group one of these questions
  • Each group spends ten minutes to write everything that comes to mind in relation to the topic
  • Afterwards, each group migrates to another table and looks at another question and the comments which have already been recorded, reviewing them and adding additional comments
  • After each group has added comments to all other groups’ questions, return to the initial question, review the additional comments provided, and summarize to the entire class
  • Useful  to solidify the understanding of a special topic or a threshold concept that the entire class needs to understand properly

Think-Aloud Pair Problem Solving (*) – (Time on task: 30 to 45 minutes; Group size: 2)

  • Present students with a set of complex problems that require multiple steps to solve
  • Pair up students and ask one student to be the problem solver, explaining his or her thought process in developing a solution based off of what was learnt out of class
  • The partner listens to this process and offers suggestions if there are difficulties, or expresses confusion should there be parts which are difficult to understand
  • After the first problem has been solved, ask the students to switch roles and begin again

Affinity Grouping (*) – (Time on task: 30 to 45 minutes; Group size: 3 to 5)

  • Students individually write down ideas on a piece of paper and then in a group attempt to classify them while discussing why certain items deserve to be categorized together
  • Helps with ensuring students are on the same page before embarking on a more complicated in-class activity

Dyadic Essays – (Time on task: 30 to 45 minutes; Group size: 2)

  • Students come to class prepared with an essay question they have written concerning the topic or concept learnt online, as well as an ideal response to that question
  • Once in class, students will share their essay question with a partner, who will respond to it
  • Afterwards, each student can discuss his or her response and compare it to an ideal response (prepared by the instructor) and discuss how they differ and how the responses relate to the concept

Critical Debate – (Time on task: 1 to 2 hours; Group size: 4 to 6, then 8 – 12)

  • Choose a controversial topic, and determine what side of the argument the students would be in favor of during the out of class task
  • Once in-class, separate the students into groups based on their alignment and have them argue for their chosen position
  • Have students in each group choose specific roles in the debate process, and after having sufficient time to prepare an argument (thirty minutes or so), have each group pair up with a group of the opposing viewpoint and engage in a debate
  • Afterwards, synthesize the various points of debate in a larger class discussion (iClickers may be useful here)

Case Study (*) – (Time on task: 1 to 2 hours; Group size: 3 to 6)

  • Students review a case study concerning a specific, real-life problem or scenario
  • Applying what they learnt in the out of class portion of the flipped classroom, the group will discuss how they would tackle the problem and what solution they would prepare
  • Each group can then debrief with the rest of the class and present their solution

Group Investigation – (Time on task: 1 to 2 hours; Group size: 2 to 5)

  • Students should come to class prepared after having read an article for the out of class task
  • Once split into groups, students will discuss the article in great depth, arguing its findings and their relevance or the general credibility of the article itself
  • This is very similar to a seminar style course, yet rather than having the instructor as the mediator of the discussion, students have to teach one another and come to agreements
  • Groups may be asked to produce a one-page summary at the end to be reviewed to ensure they understood the article sufficiently

Resources adapted from: Barkley, E. F., Cross, K. P., and Major, C.H. (2005). Collaborative Learning Techniques. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.