Student Body President Andrew Powell said there has been a push to enhance the quality of the academic experience by moving to a blended learning style for science, technology, engineering and mathematics classes.
“We know that this works. We know that we can improve student learning,” he said. “The work that UNC is doing in flipped classrooms and active learning is certainly going to enhance the student experience at UNC but will also place Carolina in a leadership role that will ultimately become a big national change.”
UNC is midway through a three-year research grant from the Association of American Universities that helps fund course redesign in the natural sciences, said professor Kevin Guskiewicz.
“It’s probably not a method that’s going to work in every class, in terms of content, but it seems, according to preliminary data, to be working in the courses that we’ve targeted at this point,” Guskiewicz said.
Chemistry professor Michael Crimmins, who changed his teaching style to a more active approach in 2013, said he is excited about this change.
Some educators still prefer traditional teaching methods, such as lecturing, even though research shows that students learn more when they practice material in class, said Jean DeSaix, who employs blended learning in her Biology 101 class.
“It’s just clear. The research evidence is there. It’s so clear that it’s like malpractice if you don’t try to do it,” DeSaix said.
Freshman Jeremiah Hartsock is in Biology 101, a flipped class, and he said the flipped classroom method is helpful, although he wishes there was more time spent on clarification during class.
“It takes time getting used to, especially considering flipped classrooms require more comprehension beforehand, which is very different from when in high school you’re taught in class and you show application afterward,” Hartsock said.
Crimmins said active teaching can be taken as a short cut, but when done correctly, it helps students.
“You really have to think very carefully and critically about the material that you are presenting and how to uncover misconceptions that students have about the material.”