Here’s an excerpt from my newest whitepaper “10 Strategies to Encourage Students in to Actually DO the Pre-Class Work in Flipped and Active Learning Classes.”  

“How do I get my students to actually DO the pre-class work?”

I have been traveling across the U.S. since 2011 leading workshops for educators from every type of higher education institution. From small private liberal arts colleges to large research universities, this is, by far, the most frequently asked question I hear from faculty who are teaching using flipped and active learning models.

It’s not a new question, really. We’ve always struggled with how to encourage our students to do homework, read, and prepare for class. However, recent conversations about the flipped classroom and inverted instruction have launched this question straight to the top of the list of challenges we all face when implementing these learning-centered models.

Let’s take a look one strategy which might explain why some of your students aren’t coming to class prepared. This one focuses on student resistance:

Strategy #2: Dig Deeper.
When students arrive to class unprepared, it can be easy to assume they are lazy, apathetic, or uninterested in the course. While that may be true in some cases, many of the college students I meet are smart, hardworking, and motivated to succeed. Surely something else must be happening if they are continuing to come to class unprepared.

One possible answer can be found in the work of Drs. Richard Felder and Rebecca Brent. In their work on active learning, they found, “Students forced to take major responsibility for their own learning go through some or all of the steps psychologists associate with trauma and grief:  Shock, Denial, Strong emotion, Resistance and withdrawal, Struggle and exploration, Return of confidence, and Integration and success”(Felder & Brent, 1996, p. 43.)

I wrote about this phenomenon in a blog post about how to address student resistance in the flipped classroom. The range of emotions may explain why some students resist active and student-centered learning approaches.  Resistance may show up as anger (“I pay you to teach me!”) or isolation (“I’d rather just do this assignment on my own instead of with a group”).

I recently spoke with groups of faculty from several large research universities across the country who were involved in re-building new classroom spaces to fit with the SCALE-UP model.

In this model, the physical classroom space is designed to accommodate active learning, technology integration, and group work. Instead of desks, there are roundtables. Each table has laptops. Multiple screens are positioned around the room on each wall. As soon as students walk into the room, they know they’re in a different type of classroom.

When I spoke to faculty teaching in these spaces, several of them said some students walk in on the first day and turn around and walk right back out the door. They didn’t even give it a chance.

Reactions like these may be coming from somewhere else besides laziness or lack of interest. Dig a little deeper. Do you see where your students might be on the steps associated with grieving? Did they have a negative experience in previous flipped classroom and they are now bringing those negative feelings into your class? Are their behaviors coming from a place of fear?

Get the other 9 strategies by downloading your FREE copy of the whitepaper


This article was also published on LinkedIn.