Phillip Townsend and Ryan Reeves, instructors in the CNC Machinist Certificate program, found that before they could successfully flip their classrooms, they needed to change their attitude.
About 5 years ago, they started reading “Developing Learner-Centered Teaching” by Phyllis Blumberg. She advocates moving one’s instruction from a teacher-centric approach to one that looks at things from the student point of view.
“Industry needs critical thinkers,” says Reeves.
“Putting the students in charge of their own learning requires a bit of courage,” says Townsend, “but it pays huge dividends.”
Putting students in charge
To flip their classes, Townsend and Reeves have their students engage with as much content as possible at home. When they’re in class, students participate in lessons and labs that apply their knowledge in an active way.
When observing Reeves’ and Townsend’s classes, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether you’re watching a lecture or a lab as both instructors have tried to remove the arbitrary walls between classrooms and the shop environment. As a result, when a machinist student asks a question about a specific tool, the class might find themselves in the shop.
Townsend goes on to say that “when the shop isn’t available because another class is in progress, the tools are brought back to the classroom so the students can explore the concepts and skills in a practical way.”
“The beauty of the flipped classroom approach,” says Reeves, “is that when students come to school having already read about the content or perhaps watched a video, now the onus is on us to let them apply their learning in a hands on way. To me, that’s what polytechnic education is all about.”
Blumberg, P. (2009). Developing Learner-Centered Teaching: A Practical Guide for Faculty. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.