Flipping French 421, Digital Pedagogy Faculty Learning Community 2014-15
Instructor: Mary Ann Lyman-Hager
Summary: In flipping French 421, French Civilization, Professor Lyman-Hager wanted to create an interactive online experience that would enhance students’ reading comprehension and writing skills, as well as facilitate their media savvy and oral skills for in-class presentations. Using tools such as the Articulate Storyline Template, and with the assistance of colleagues François Vanveene and Lise Mercurol, Lyman-Hager converted course content to a series of bi-lingual, media-rich slides, accessible free online to students via Blackboard and archived for shared use in courses at other universities. Students reported increased confidence in their communication and presentation skills as a result of this approach, and Lyman-Hager’s teaching evaluations went way up as well.
What I Did
To create an interactive experience online for students and to enhance reading comprehension, writing, and oral production in French at the advanced level, I converted the content of French 421, French Civilization, into a series of media-rich slides that are read online and explored, supplementing the Flipped Classroom design.
Taught currently only once a year, usually in the fall, we decided to continue developing the online “book” contents using an optimized format. When the French is complete, I will translate the contents into English, creating an online bilingual textbook. In spring 2015 I further explored pedagogical research on the “Flipped Classroom Approach”, and accordingly, I developed materials which related to a subset topic of the French Civ course, taught as “Narratives of World War I”. The archived materials can be refined and reused in both courses. We have potential users in the San José and Los Angeles areas.
After researching articles on the Flipped Classroom and the advantages to promote student learning, we used the Articulate Storyline Template for lessons which allowed us to add content from a variety of media. Power point content created over several semesters was verified, corrected, amplified, and made available via Moodle and Blackboard (there were advantages for using each, particularly for replication and protecting content and format.) Students “signed up” for classroom presentations at least a week in advance, leaving them ample time to prepare several short oral presentations per classroom.
Students had no required textbooks for the course, as all of their materials were available online. They were instructed to follow the syllabus closely and to go to the appropriate part of the website to obtain access to the content, which they were to have read and prepared ahead of time.
How It Went
Students truly appreciated the digital formats, yet many ordered the books through Amazon, just to have a more “portable” version. This year my teaching evaluations were statistically significantly better than in fall 2013. In spring 2015, I reserved perfect 5’s in several key areas. Further, I was named “Most Influential Professor” by the Department of European Studies’ Outstanding 2015 graduate, Lorraine Peralta, who was in my French 530 course in spring 2015 where I re-validated the “flipped classroom” approach which had been successful in the fall. They reported being more confident in communicative, presentational, and interpersonal skills. They reported relating more intimately to content when they had an opportunity to select assignments related to their personal and/or professional interests.
We postponed the pilot testing until the materials could be further completed and made into an alternate textbook format, in addition to the Articulate Storyline slides. We discovered that the learning curve for Articulate Storyline was, indeed, steep.
A wealth of student-generated work from two semesters of work in French 421 (fall) and 530 (spring), including blogs and final projects, reflected that students demonstrated the performance outlined in the SLOs. Further, the student evaluations and qualitative comments indicated that they are more confident in speaking in front of peers and their written work reflected a sophistication that I have not seen in previous cohorts.
Students report speaking with confidence about topics because they have ample opportunities to speak in class, in small groups or in front of the class. They have become media savvy, including understanding how to present film clips, using online proofing tools in foreign languages, and how to use the annotation feature of the Adobe Pro software suite. They learned how to search online texts for certain words or phrases.
What I Learned
I believe that the approach is replicable, particularly in related areas where area studies, language, and culture come together to create media-rich content. We are publishing the textbook, which will be open source and online, with only small charges for printing and replication. We have identified a group of potential users and will ask them to pilot materials and comment on the textbooks and slides.
I also think the approach could be explained throughout the course more thoroughly and even repetitively to students, because they seemed at the end to not fully understand how much work was required by the instructor to “set the stage” for the underlying structure of the course. They tend to define teaching as something that “is done to them” rather than what they do themselves. I think that is due, in a large part, to their being spoon fed throughout their educational career and to their having a great need for clarity and specificity so that no time is wasted. I think that they need to feel a real partnership with the professor in creating the environment. In other words, the pedagogy should be made specifically relevant to their objectives as learners. I realized that the learning objectives need to be formally shared with students and that I need to gather specific feedback on the attainment of these objectives in fall 2015.