Retrieval Practice and the Flipped Classroom

“But how do you ensure that students will do the reading for a flipped classroom?” I have heard this question many, many times.  The success of the flipped classroom often hinges on whether or not the students have prepared outside the classroom in their individual spaces. How else will they be able to do in-class activities or apply information without this preparation? And even if they do complete the readings or outside-class activities, what guarantees that they will remember it?

These are all valid and important questions. I’ve experimented with different techniques to ensure students are prepared and ready to do something during class time.

One technique that I have found most helpful is giving students multiple chances for retrieval practice. (Here is a short description from Cult of Pedagogy.) I sometimes have low stakes quizzes that students take on our LMS or via something like EdPuzzle (if its a video). Students love EdPuzzle, and using the multiple-choice option to create a few questions that students have to answer while watching a video really does seem to help them remember basic ideas or facts. It is low stakes. It also lets me know that they have watched the entire video–without skimming!

I always have a short retrieval practice sessions at the beginning of class. At the moment, I use Poll Everywhere. I always make this practice 5 questions, so it doesn’t take a tremendous amount of time. I also allow students to bring in reading notes that can give them participation points. Sometimes after the basic multiple-choice retrieval practice I will ask students to do something like a “data dump” where I might ask them to write down everything they remember about X–either from the previous class or the day’s specific focus. I tend to choose questions for the MC retrieval practice  and “data dump” that relates to what we will be doing during our class time.

These consistent low-stakes activities really have helped with student preparedness. My students remember the readings much better, and some of them have excellent reading notes to refer to (for discussion and for exams). The poll everywhere retrieval practice being limited to 5 questions also means that it doesn’t take a tremendous amount of class time. I don’t try to ask absurdly specific content questions, but questions that relate to the bigger concepts that I want students to remember.

Often during the day’s class I might also have us play Kahoot. It breaks up the 1 hour and 50 minute class time. It also, once again, asks students to retrieve information that we’ve been discussing or using in some activity.

I have used some other techniques as well (such as team quizzes, students writing exams/quizzes, or other types of games), but for now these are a few that I have found most useful.

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