Centre teacher flips classroom

Staff writer

Kara Luce knew the “flipped-classroom” model was working when one of her challenged students helped her top student solve a science problem.

“It was great to watch,” the Centre High School science teacher said. “In a traditional setting, you get students spitting out answers back on a test. But, with this learning method, students can teach one another. In this case, my special needs student got it before my A-students, so she helped them understand. You don’t always see that.”

Luce is one of the thousands of teachers who are “flipping” their classroom. Instead of spending the majority of the day listening to a lecture, students listen to a brief podcast of the lesson before they come to school — and then do hands-on experiments and worksheets in class.

After a couple years of slowly transitioning to the new method, Luce said her class is still adjusting.

“It’s very difficult for a traditional student to grasp,” she said. “They’re beginning to like it, but it’s a little bit more work for them. Middle of the road and lower-end kids have really flourished with it. They see how it applies, and they can understand it.”

Luce said she still does a brief lecture or two in each unit, but most of her teaching focuses on solving problems. But instead of giving them a formula and asking students to plug data into it, she said she gives them the graphing data and asks them to find the formula.

“The exploratory lab forces students to understand that each formula has a purpose,” she said. “It’s not just something that an old scientist made up. It exists in the real world and it has a purpose.”

She said it is usually effective — and she almost never hears complaints from her students.

“They may not grasp the concept right away, but once they do, they’ll never forget it. It becomes real to them,” she said.

In the future, she hopes to coordinate with the high school math teachers to teach the students more problem-solving skills.

“We use math and science every day, even when we don’t realize it,” she said.

But, for now, Luce said she tries to let students know the importance of solving problems for themselves.

“When they get older, they won’t be able to turn to their parents or teacher for help,” she said. “They’re going to have to solve problems for themselves. So, each day, I try to emphasize that they need to ask questions, and come up with a solution.”

Luce said she issues pre- and post-tests each term. While she said the data is helpful for her own purposes, she said she also sees her students being encouraged by the results.

“They get wide-eyed and they’re like: ‘Wow, I guess I really did learn something.’”

While there has been no official feedback, Luce said she has seen her students’ incredible improvement, especially in their ACT science scores.

Luce said she has big expectations for her current and future classes, knowing that they can excel in whatever they do with the tools that she has taught them.

 

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