Antoni Luque

Inverting Math 342A: Learning Glass and Team-Based Learning, CTL Mini-grant Fall 15

Instructor: Antoni Luque, Mathematics and Statistics

Summary: With goals of increasing student confidence and skills through more engagement during class time, Professor Antoni Luque implemented two pedagogical innovations to flip his Math 342A course, Methods of Applied Mathematics A, a demanding course that challenges students to acquire high-order cognitive skills in a short period of time. First, Luque used the Learning Glass for recording his lectures so students could view them before coming to class. Once in class, his students engaged in Team-Based Learning activities. He ran this flipped class in a Learning Research Studio classroom, further enhancing the ability to fulfill his goal of promoting interaction and cooperative learning among students. He reinforced the recorded lecture material with in-class quizzes and team feedback, as well as application exercises and other collaborative learning activities and follow-up mini-lectures.

Final report

What I Did

Methods of Applied Mathematics A (Math 342A) is a 3 unit course that introduces fundamental mathematical techniques in physics, chemistry, and engineering. After the course, students should be ready to apply these mathematical methods to crucial topics in their careers such as electromagnetism, optics, dynamical systems, and quantum mechanics. The material of the course, however, is very demanding, and acquiring high order cognitive skills during the semester is challenging. The course has been generally taught using a standard lecture format. Since the material to be covered in the course is vast, this limits the amount of in-class time to work on upper cognitive categories in Bloom’s Taxonomy, such as application, analysis, and evaluation. To tackle this problem and increase the in-class time dedicated to high impact learning activities, I inverted the course, combining online lectures recorded with Learning Glass (LG) and in-class Team Based Learning (TBL).

For the course, I recorded the content of Math 342A using LG, and shared the lectures online on Blackboard. Students used the online lectures to prepare in-class activities, revise basic concepts, and study for exams. In an LG lecture, each student is able to control the pace of the lecture and have an ideal perspective—facing the instructor and the material simultaneously. Compared to a regular in-class lecture, LG allows students to personalize the lecture flow, optimizing their learning process. Foremost, the LG lectures release class time, allowing us to invert the course and implement Team-Based Learning activities in class.

Each course unit started with the Readiness Assurance Process (RAP), whereby students studied preparatory material and, once in class, took an individual quiz followed up by team feedback and evaluation. In this process, students learn the basic definitions and concepts that are crucial for the development of the unit. Additionally, a class session usually included two application exercises that were assessed individually and by each team. These exercises are designed to promote high interaction among students and ensure cooperative learning. After each exercise, and based on student performance, I reinforced specific points of the course material using a mini lecture and collaborative learning techniques, like think-pair-share. The last 10 minutes of the class were devoted to wrapping up the main points of the unit and motivating the next unit.

To enhance the team based approach, I was able to use the new Learning Research Studio located in Education & Business Administration (EBA 410), which has capacity for up to 70 students, is designed for team oriented classes, and provides a broad range of new technologies for teaching, measuring, and documenting.

How It Went

My main goals for this LG-TBL course design were:

  • Increased confidence and skills of students using methods of applied mathematics
  • Higher impact of lecture time on low level cognitive skills (preclass).
  • Engagement during class time and interest for the course material.
  • Assessment of Learning Glass and Team Based Learning design.
  • Model for upper division courses in mathematics.

The data gathered through the surveys and course evaluation indicate that the initial implementation of the LG­TBL pedagogy in Math 342A was successful, although it is still far from ideal. To assess the impact of the Learning Glass and Team­Based Learning strategies, we requested students complete one survey for the LG and one survey for TBL. We also gathered informal feedback during office hours and in class. Additionally, we surveyed students about the Learning Research Studio, EBA­410, used for our course. To assess the impact of our instruction in student performance, we compared the repeatable grades rate with previous courses. We also accumulated statistics on the interaction of students with the Learning Glass, which we will analyze in detail as part of the CSU Promising Practices grant award. Here we briefly report the most relevant outcomes of our instruction. In the Supplementary Material we appended the extended data obtained from the surveys as well as the official course evaluation results.

Learning Glass online videos. Students consider that the Learning Glass videos enhance their learning and increase their ability to engage in coursework with a score of 4 out 5. They also consider it important to see the professor’s face (score of 4 out of 5). The score for the convenience of the videos is a bit lower (3.70 out of 5). Based on student comments in the surveys as well as informal feedback, we identified two aspects to improve in the Learning Glass videos: students prefer segments shorter than 15­20 minutes, and they demanded a clearer correspondence between the learning glass material and homework exercises. Nevertheless, the responses were overall positive. Students appreciated having control over the lectures, deciding when and where to watch them, as well as rewinding, pausing, and moving forward at their personal convenience. The face­to­face and clean format of the Learning Glass videos also helped engage students. Thus, the Learning Glass videos represent a very good personalized alternative to traditional lectures to facilitate effective student learning.

Team­Based Learning. In the Team­Based Learning survey, they were asked five possible answers for the multiple choice questions: strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, and strongly agree. Results show that the TBL approach makes students more likely to attend class (84%). Two aspects to take into account is that TBL makes students feel more involved in class (89%) and makes the class feel smaller (89%). 66% of students would select a section of the course that uses TBL over another section, while 29% remain neutral, and only 5% would prefer a course not using this approach. The student response was overall very positive, despite our implementation of TBL was rather rudimentary (see Discussion section). This suggests that by improving the team activities in class, the method could be even more engaging and effective.

Repeatable grades rate. In Math 342A (Fall 2015) we implemented the same homework and similar midterms and finals as in previous semesters. We, however, reduced a bit the content of some units in favor of more in­class work for the most relevant material in the course. We also used the same weight for the course grade: class (15%), homework (20%), midterms (30%), and final exam (35%). The average repeatable grade rate for the period Fall 2011­Fall 2014 is 41.4%. The introduction of the LG­TBL instruction in Fall 2015 reduced the repeatable grades rate by almost 17 percentage points. The percentage of students with repeatable grades is still high (24.5%), but, only 6% of students that attended class regularly obtained a repeatable grade. This suggests that consolidating the LG­TBL pedagogy and having better advising at the beginning of the course could lead to a repeatable grade rate near 5%.

What I Learned

Overall, the implementation of Math 342A in Fall 2015 was satisfactory and accomplished the basic objectives set in the CTL mini-grant. The Learning Glass videos helped students to actively regulate their time lecturing, and the Team-Based Learning instruction facilitated their active participation in class, favoring engagement and integrating diversity. This indicates that the LG-TBL pedagogical strategy offers an engaging pedagogical model in mathematics, although additional refinements are necessary to guarantee the effectiveness of the method.

Learning Glass revision: course alignment. In Fall 2016, we plan to revise and improve the Learning Glass lectures for Math 342A. The most important change will be to apply backward design to the course material to clarify the alignment of the LG recorded lectures with the in-class activities and the course learning goals.

Additionally, we plan to revise the learning glass segments to be shorter than 15 minutes. The reorganization of the Learning Glass lectures will facilitate students to digest and assimilate better the material of the course, and it will also reduce irrelevant hours of online instruction that were increasing unnecessarily the student workload.

Team-Based Learning revision: effective team activities. In Fall 2016, we plan to improve several issues observed in the initial implementation of TBL in Math 342A. In particular, we will design better group activities to promote student interaction and accountability. In Fall 2015, we struggled designing good exercises to grade the outcome of each team, which made some teams work in fragmented subgroups. In Fall 2016, the learning outcomes for each Learning Glass lecture will be detailed and aligned better with each TBL session. The homework, rather than an independent activity, will be integrated as a tool to prepare students for the TBL session. Before class, each student will try to solve the homework problems, which will be revised and completed in class with the team. At the beginning of the class, we will check randomly a member of each team to assess if he or she tried to solve the homework. This will contribute to the grade of the team. The common document with the proof and mathematical calculations crafted by the team in class will be graded and counted also towards the score of the team. In the second half of the class, teams will work on new problems that built upon the learning glass content and homework discussed in the first part of the class. All teams will work on the same problems to promote class discussion. My role in class as an instructor will be to assess the progress of the students and teams and provide feedback in a dynamic just-in-time teaching approach. At different points of the semester, each member of a team will evaluate his/her teammates. This evaluation will be used to weight the contribution of each member in the team score as well as to adjust team interactions during the course.

Future goals. The LGTBL instruction initiative in mathematics received a CSU Promising Practices award 2016-2017 to refine and consolidate the method in Fall 2016. Our two main goals are to introduce curriculum alignment and keep reducing the repeatable grades rate.