Teach as an experimental physicist

May 14, 2014 teaching flip

According to wikipedia and citations therein, the basic concepts of flip teaching include:

  • students go through raw material by themselves at home
    • raw material includes videos, text books and web pages, etc.
    • they do not need to be made by teachers themselves
    • lengths of videos are better to be within 3 to 6 minutes
    • raw material is specified by teachers, but can be extended by students
    • processing raw material alone is easier than solving problems alone
    • speed of processing is controlled by students themselves
    • no need to take notes
    • good for students who do not understand English well
  • students do “homework” in class
    • teachers help students to solve problems in class
    • students can help each other
    • interactions between students and teachers are maximized
  • students must master each lesson before going to the next one
    • an immediate test has to be taken after each lesson
    • students have to continue taking tests until they pass

There is no obvious evidence that this method improves the performance of students. But they are clearly better motivated.

I may do the following when teaching a new class:

  • go through raw material by myself first
    • take notes, make videos
    • provide half baked material to students
    • provide online quiz to ensure students watch videos
    • design problems for “homework” and tests
  • guide students to solve problems with teaching assistant
    • ask students to list questions when processing raw material
    • go through these questions together with students in class
    • ask students to form groups to work on some projects

According to one article in edutopia, one should focus on ways to improve his instruction before choosing to use the “flipped classroom”, because it is the practice in class rather than the video lectures that matters.

Students may not read or watch raw material before classes at all. This post in peer instruction explained how to evaluate the engagement of students.
Basically, students have to answer the following questions before the class:

  • anything difficult to understand?
  • if not, anything interesting?

And the instructor prepares a short lecture accordingly right before a class. Those answers are used to assign credit to students’ reading/watching assignment. An exam will be prepared after each class, which has higher weight to assign credit if the reading assignment is skipped.


Blogs on physics research and educational activities of Jing LIU, an assistant professor in physics at the University of South Dakota. He is an experimental physicist developing novel particle detectors for astroparticle physics and civil use.


Some of the activities mentions in this site are supported by the following grants: