There are a lot of research articles, opinions, blog posts, and conversations about new teaching methods nowadays, and there are a lot of great ideas floating around, but I’m just going to go right out there and say that the prospect of flipping my organic chemistry class terrified me as much as I thought it was a pretty cool concept. Instead of the professor in class being the first to introduce new topics to the students, they have to go out and read their books (gasp), solve their homework problems, and then come to class and answer questions (double gasp). It’s a nice way to push more of the responsibility of learning material onto the students. It also sounds very intimidating, to be perfectly honest. I’m not ready to drop most of my notes and activities and come up with piles of questions to ask my students for 55 minutes three times a week; I wouldn’t want to give up some of my favorite lectures or change a successful classroom style that I’ve developed over 10 years. When I picked up Karty’s text, I found that flipping didn’t have to be so daunting. I didn’t have to scrap what I knew and loved. I could pick and choose and trim some of the fat. With its modular sections, Karty’s textbook let me experiment the way I wanted with a flipped classroom.
Each chapter of the text stands on its own. You’re free to lecture on one or more chosen sections and flip the rest. To decide what I was going to keep and what would get flipped, I went through my lectures and singled out the ones that didn’t interest me as much. Nomenclature has always been somewhat dull territory in my opinion, but the break-out nomenclature sections in the textbook are awesome. It’s the perfect material to flip in an organic chemistry course. It’s essential and can’t be skipped, but generally requires more practice and memorization than comprehension. I felt that I didn’t have to add much to the subject to help my students learn. It was a nice change in my first semester with the Karty book when I took roughly five minutes to introduce alkane naming from methane to decane and said, “Here is the homework. You guys have to learn this on your own, you can do it.” I was able to save time in class that I could use for other valuable things. I avoided giving a lecture that was dull and my students learned nomenclature just as well as they had in previous years. Everyone wins.
This reminds of me of the hours my family spent watching house flipping shows on TV together. Somewhere along the line my oldest son changed the terms flip or flop to flippity (for a successful flip) and floppity floop (for a flop). I thought it was adorable when he said it and now it’s the first thing I think of whenever someone’s talking about any kind of flipping. It goes without saying, but so far, no floppity floops with Karty’s text.
I have to admit I do feel a little strange writing a post that essentially says I am too lazy to try flipping a classroom, but I imagine everyone understands that there are some workload and practical barriers involved in flipping chemistry classes. All of those barriers are removed by simply making each section modular and breaking down certain topics into dedicated inter-chapters. It was the easiest teaching change I have ever done. I likely will never flip my entire classroom experience, but I do appreciate the added variety that doing so for some of the material gives. Karty makes experimentation easy. Finding what best suits you and your students for a particular topic is only limited by your own creativity. You can try out any method you like, flipping what you want, and the book doesn’t get in the way. It is one of those simple but clever ideas I wish I had thought of.
-Andrew Robak, Keuka College