JJC teaching method flips traditional classroom teaching
By Tina Akouris firstname.lastname@example.org February 7, 2014 8:48PM
Russell Anderson (right), of Joliet, takes instruction from Catherine Anderson in a Joliet Junior College hospitality management class. Students received iPads for a human resources project. | Tina Akouris~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 10, 2014 6:39AM
It used to take Katherine Becker about 45 minutes to drive from her home in Peotone to Joliet Junior College, where she studied nursing last year.
Besides the commute to school, most of Becker’s time was consumed by working two jobs in the health care industry and dealing with family obligations — carving out time for lectures and extra studying was difficult.
Students like Becker are the norm at JJC, so a nursing professor decided to try a new learning concept in an effort to make these students’ lives easier. And it seems to be working.
The concept is called “flipped classrooms,” and it gives students some independence and freedom to listen to lectures and view Power Point presentations on their own time. Then students discuss the material in class and apply what they read through projects.
“It was beneficial, because I listened to lectures the night before and I was able to do that as many times as I needed to,” said Becker, who graduated from JJC in December. “Then I’d go into class and we would go in-depth to further my understanding.”
JJC nursing professor Kathleen Wolz, who lead the push in her department for the teaching method, said it was important for nursing students to have a different learning environment.
“Our students are not traditional,” Wolz said. “They are not 18 years old and right out of high school. You are dealing with a section of the population that is dealing with (families) and that’s why we looked at it. These students can’t always attend class, because sometimes they get a call where their kid is sick and they have to decide if they can even come to class.”
Wolz said applying what students learn is more important than memorizing what is read in a textbook. Wolz puts her lecture notes online and students are responsible for watching them. Once the students get to class, they get to work on projects and apply what they’re studying.
“Every disease takes a different course (of treatment),” Wolz said. “From a textbook, there may be things that are missed. We can apply what we learn in clinicals, but we had to step it up.”
Wolz has been using the flipped classroom method for about four years. Even though it may be obvious that the technique helps nursing students, there was concern when Wolz broached the subject to others in her department.
“There was a fear that students wouldn’t come to school. If they can listen to the lectures, do worksheets and texts online, what’s in it for them (to come to class)?” Wolz said. “We found that it is a lot of work, but the students’ attendance didn’t drop off.”
All of Wolz’s materials are on the JJC Course Management System online. Students go over the material on their own, and then when they come to class they take quizzes and discuss the material.
Classes in the JJC hospitality management program also use the flipped classroom method.
Professor Catherine Anderson said she thinks the method is beneficial, and the hospitality industry is changing faster than textbooks can keep up. Anderson said the majority of her students like the concept, although some who have not been exposed to it get frustrated.
“We need to stay current and we do that through hands-on activities,” said Anderson, who has been using the method in some form for the past five years.
Danielle Trombino, of Plainfield, a second-year student in restaurant and professional development, said she wasn’t used to this type of learning, but quickly grew to like it.
“We do a lot of work in groups and pairs, and in this industry you have to know how to work with a team,” Trombino said. “We have that freedom (with the flipped classroom) to make our projects how they should be, and we get to learn on our own.”