ACS ConfChem on Flipped Lectures Now Online

ACSlogoFrom tomorrow, 9th May, the 2014 Spring ConfChem begins. ConfChem is an online conference, and the theme of this one is “Flipped Lectures”. The conference abstract is below. Each week, two papers are discussed, and my paper “Student Engagement with Flipped Chemistry Lectures” is first up! Do join in with the conference over the coming weeks. You can find the conference papers and joining instructions at: 

Conference Abstract

Among educational practice there has been significant attention on the flipped classroom, which is an innovative pedagogical method used by K-12 to college and university educators. There are many different approaches to implementing a flipped classroom. In particular, some educators pre-record lectures of themselves presenting material, others use screen casts to convey information to students before attending class in order to facilitate more peer-to-peer learning, and some teachers use a flipped classroom approach that does not involve videos. Ultimately, the shift in learning is focused on changing the classroom from passive to active.

The purpose of the symposium is to present papers on the flipped classroom and its development of flipped learning. Although some authors are invited to discuss the technical aspects of the flipped classroom, the focus of our symposium will be about how teachers use the face-to-face class time gained by changing from a completely lecture based classroom. Please join the discussion during this symposium as we explore the wide variety of approaches with the authors and other members of the chemical education and flipped classroom communities.

What happens during a lecture?

A question always likely to give strong response is whether PowerPoint should be used in lectures. Those advocating its use point to a more organised lecture where the structure has been thought out in advance. Those against it say that PowerPoint makes it too easy to put too much content in lectures and accompanying handouts. I don’t have a Yes/No opinion, because I think it depends very much on the person and what they do.

While raiding the archives of Education in Chemistry (EiC), I came across some old but interesting articles on the topic of lecturing. Before I was born, Alex Johnstone wrote an article “Attention Breaks in Lectures” in EiC. In it, he outlines a study he undertook where student attention was monitored by observers in 90 chemistry lectures. Attention drops—doodling, looking around, yawning, chatting—were recorded. Interestingly, the course been taught was delivered twice in one day, so a comparison could be drawn between groups. Not surprisingly, the average performance of a group was found to correlate with the level of attention paid. The twelve lecturers giving the course varied in style. The lapses in attention were more common in lecturers that did not vary their style compared to those that did: by using activities such as models, experiments, problem-solving sessions, etc. The general pattern of lapses in attention were found to exist at the start of the lecture and about 10 – 18 minutes later, with further lapses over the duration of the lecture. Attention span dropped during the lecture, so that by the end of the lecture, attention span was 3 – 4 minutes.

When I was starting university, Johnstone wrote another article for EiC. In this article, “Lectures-a learning experience?” Johnstone stated that the average lecturer delivers approximately 5000 words in a lecture, with a student recording about 500 of these. This article reports what students chose to write down and why they felt some information was more important. The study found that students recorded about 90% of what was on the blackboard, with inaccuracies ore common with diagrams or equations. Lecturer corrections, demonstrations and examples of applications typically went unrecorded. Note-taking styles did not vary for students, even if the lecturing style or content was different.  Students themselves ranked lecturers in terms of effectiveness, and those marked “ineffective” tended to have a higher word count per lecture—they cover more, although from the perspective of the student, they make less sense.

For me, the question is a lot bigger than “To PowerPoint or not”…

  • AH Johnstone and F Percival, Attention breaks in lectures, Education in Chemistry, 1976, 13, 49-50.
  • AH Johnstone and WY Su, Lectures – a learning experience? Education in Chemistry, 1994, 31, 75-76.

Implementing the Flipped Classroom

The magazine Education in Chemistry has launched a blog, and I am a guest contributor. My first article covers the topic of Flipped Lectures, and along with the information in the post itself, some really useful tips and interesting discussion points came up in the discussion. The first post begins below and you can continue it on the new blog itself!

eic-post-default_0As with most new blogs, I’ll begin with: “Hello world!” I’m delighted to be a contributor to the new Education in Chemistry blog and I’m looking forward to sharing ideas and hearing back from the chemistry education community. My own interests are based around the use technology in education and school to university transition, so I suppose that’s what I hope to share on this blog. I have a tendency to go on a bit, so I am imposing a restriction to my posts of 600 words, which is about the length of a cup of tea. There’s 97 so far; go on, have that biscuit… continue reading

Outcomes of #Flipped Lecture Trial

Last semester, I trialled a flipped lecture in my Year 2 module on Chemical Thermodynamics. This work will be presented at DIT’s Learning and Teaching Showcase in January, and an accompanying flyer is below. Overall, it has been a very positive experience, and as well as my own and student perceptions, there appears to be good evidence that there is a high level of engagement with the material in the classroom (which was the original motivation for introducing this method in place of the traditional lecture). I’m definitely going to keep going with this method for this module.

Michael Seery FLipped Lecture Flyer

Showing hints in Blackboard Quizzes


A previous post showed how to include hints and worked examples in quiz questions in the now old Blackboard, BB 8. With the new Blackboard 9, is this still possible?

It seems the hint option (i.e. an alert box) still works. Including the code shown below using the HTML editor option,  a button is included in the question text:

<form name="myform">
<p>(This is the Question text)What is the answer to 1 + 23</p>
<p><input type="button" value="Hint" onclick="alert('This is a hint')" /></p>

Note that the question text can be subsequently edited. The hint text “This is a hint” in the above code then appears as a popup alert (the box will resize to accommodate more text):

hint text


This allows for primitive hinting – it is difficult to include more detailed information in this template.

With that in mind, the worked example option detailed in the previous post, which opens a new window with pre-prepared HTML file hint pre-loaded onto blackboard is more tempting. Unfortunately, this javascript is decoded by Blackboard, so it doesn’t work. But it is of course possible to insert a simple URL.