Flipped classroom experiment

We learnt about Eric Mazur’s “Flipped classroom” theory in our TDP course. We had also recently been through a module on annotated writing and the benefits of encouraging students to read academic articles.

In my Supervisory Management class I had covered topics such as global economics and students had worked in groups to learn about economic groups such as BRICS, the EU, the G8, the difference between developed and developing nations and what is GDP. I had been doing some research on another module involving leadership and came across a South African article written about one of my personal heroes – Ricardo Semler – a Brazilian CEO who made radical changes to the way his company operated and treated its employees. This seemed like a good opportunity to practice a “flipped classroom” teaching strategy. (Eric Mazur’s “flipped classroom” encourages students to prepare the the class themselves and focuses lecture time on discussions and clarifying issues.)

I posted the article onto Blackboard and asked the students to read it before the next class:

Activity: Read the article “Democratising profit”[1] that appeared in Maverick on 14 June 2007.

Please read the following article in preparation for Friday’s lecture.
Start by reading through the article and underlining all the words you do not understand.
Look up the meanings of the underlined words and write a word or phrase near each underlined word.
Reread the article, and at the end of each paragraph, try to summarise what is being said in one short sentence.

When students arrived in class, I put up the following questions and asked the students to discuss the answers in groups.

1. What economic group do Brazil and South Africa belong to? What are some of the characteristics of the countries in this group? According to Semler, what are some of the similarities between Brazil and South Africa?

2. What is Ricardo Semler’s attitude towards competing with China economically?

3. What evidence does the article provide that suggests the type of economy in Brazil?

4. Do you agree with the statement that Ricardo Semler is a good leader? Provide examples from the article to support your answer.

5. How does control work in Semler’s organisation?

I then walked around the class, listening to the discussions and helping students when they required clarification or guidance. The questions forced the students to understand the article and to apply knowledge from multiple modules of the course. Some students struggled with this “multi-box” thinking but my hope was that by working in groups there would be opportunities for peer mentoring.

Once the students had sufficient time to discuss all the questions, I asked for complete silence and that each student individually answer the questions. I took these in for marking and overall I was very impressed with the level of thinking and understanding of the students. Although it took the entire lesson to go through 5 questions, I feel that the students learned more than just content – my intention was for them to also learn how to de-compartmentalise their knowledge and be able to apply their knowledge (thinking about Bloom’s taxonomy) and also to practice good academic reading skills.




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