October 10, 2016
A Texas Tech University chemistry professor has been honored as a world leader in an innovative educational movement.
"Flipped learning 'flips' the traditional lecture-homework-lecture-test-lecture-homework paradigm on its head," said Casadonte, the Minnie Stevens Piper professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. "Instead of homework, the student watches a lecture before coming to class. In my version of the flipped classroom, the students then work a number of online homework problems based on the lecture. In this way, before they come to class they have already been exposed to the lecture material and done some engaging homework. We use class time, then, to recap the material, explain unclear points in the lecture and work advanced problems, all while using active and engaging learning strategies."
The concept was developed in 2007 by Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams, two high school chemistry teachers in Colorado who wanted to maximize the impact of their classroom time. Separately, Casadonte was working toward the same goal.
"I came to the same conclusion that Bergmann and Sams had: that the normal paradigm could and should be changed," said Casadonte, who started modifying his online classes in January 2008. "It was later in the summer of 2008 that I heard they had given a name to the process that we were all using. As far as I know, I was one of the earliest adopters of the flipped classroom model for university chemistry teaching in the country."
Why is he such an advocate for the model?
"Because it works," he said. "It improves both classroom performance and student learning outcomes."
Casadonte began flipping his face-to-face classes in 2009 and launched a six-year longitudinal study – soon to be published in the American Chemical Society book "The Flipped Classroom" – to evaluate its efficacy. During the study, test scores improved about 9.2 percent on average. He also administered an independent, standardized American Chemical Society exam at the end of each semester to see how students compared to their peers nationwide. After flipping the classes, he saw a 700 percent increase in the number of students performing at or above the 90th percentile.
In addition to the improved results, student surveys revealed 93 percent preferred flipped learning and would take another flipped class if given the option.
"It gives them the freedom to watch lectures on their own time at their convenience," Casadonte said. "They have the advantage of an expert working with them to solve problems in class, clearing up confusing points, etc."
In addition to the study and his own teaching efforts, Casadonte has organized three national symposia on course flipping and has participated in two others. He has worked with graduate students studying flipped learning and gives lectures nationwide on how to successfully flip college-level classes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). He credits these efforts for his inclusion on the FLGI 100 list.
"I have been very active in flipped learning research and development since nearly the beginning of the field," he said. "I am very thankful and humbled to be included as part of a great list of educators, especially in the STEM disciplines."
He admits flipped learning may not be right for all educators or all classes.
"It takes a lot of time to prepare," he said. "The students in our surveys indicated that while it works really well, it takes them more time in preparation than a normal classroom. They didn't think they could handle the workload of all flipped classes. However, the average time they needed to study for exams dropped dramatically, because they were being exposed to the material many more times in the flipped classroom model than they were in a regular classroom, so they didn't need to review as much."
He has received a great deal of support toward his efforts from university leaders, particularly those in the Honors College, the College of Arts & Sciences, the Office of the Provost and former President M. Duane Nellis and President Lawrence Schovanec.
"My experience is that flipping works to improve both interaction in the classroom and student learning outcomes," Casadonte said. "It is a great way to spend class time getting to know one's students and, more importantly, getting to know what they know or don't know and understand.
"Active learning is paramount to the flipped classroom experience, as is active teaching. Once a person makes the transition, I think they will find, if done well, that it is good for both the student and the faculty as a way to both teach and learn more effectively."
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