PCC math professors develop promising new teaching method

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'Flipped plus' model now being piloted by professors in other fields

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Two Portland area math professors at Portland Community College Rock Creek Campus are the minds behind a new approach in teaching, called “flipped plus.”

It is an enhanced version of the previously established flipped classroom model, in which pre-recorded lecture videos by the professors are viewed by students at home and practice problems are done in class where they can ask for help from the teacher.

Jessica Bernards and Wendy Fresh had learned about flipping classrooms, a reversal of traditional methods, from education conferences. They liked the idea but wanted to go deeper.

Wendy Fresh gives instruction before students complete a “math maze” activity in her precalculus class at Portland Community College. January 29 2020 (KOIN/Danny Peterson).

“We also knew that we wanted it to be more interactive. We have done a lot of research. We try to base everything we do on research. And we knew that classes that were active were the types of classes where students really retained information,” Fresh explained.

To make the learning more active, the “flipped plus” model incorporates an hour of a game-like group activity with math problems that encourage peer support, in class. At home, students’ note-taking on partially filled out worksheets is a requirement for when they watch pre-recorded lecture videos, for which they can watch at their own pace and even enable captions.

“What has flipped is that the harder stuff is done in class, the easier stuff is done at home. So that while they’re struggling, if they struggle, I’m there to support them and really give them the information that they need,” Fresh said.

“We like to say it levels the playing field. So everyone comes in, they’ve been able to watch the lecture at their own pace,” added Bernards.

That self-pacing was a benefit for student Mariia Romanchenko, who for her English is a secondary language.

Jessica Bernards is the co-creator of the “flipped plus” class model which incorporates watching lectures at home and doing activities in class. January 29 2020 (KOIN/Danny Peterson).

“[I]t’s really nice to have video at home and have a chance to pause it, to replay it, as many times as you need,” she said.

Jay Ayala is a student Romanchenko frequently works with in the class that Fresh teaches. Both Ayala and Romanchenko agree the environment makes collaboration easier.

Ayala originally failed a course which was an online version of precalculus. Now that he’s retaking it in the “flipped plus” version, he said he’s had more success.

“We still have the luxury of working at home, at our own pace, doing the homework. But then we come in the classroom and then we can work with our classmates, get help, feedback from the teacher. And so it really blends both aspects of traditional and online,” Ayala said.

Bernards and Fresh made sure to quantify their findings. They compared the three years before implementing the “flipped plus” model to the three years after they started using it. What they found for the college algebra courses is that the number of As increased by 27 percent. In the trigonometry classes, the number of As increased by a whopping 47 percent. The number of withdraws also decreased substantially for each course level.

The below combined result averages of the two classes, trigonometry and college algebra, show a 49 percent decrease in withdraws.

The combined result averages for both college algebra and trigonometry classes that have adopted a “flipped plus” classroom model. January 29 2020 (Jessica Bernards).

The teachers say PCC professors in other fields are now starting to incorporate their techniques. Bernards and Fresh have shared their new teaching method and findings at education conferences and now say different colleges in the U.S. are starting to catch on.

“Other instructors who didn’t create it, they’re getting the same results that we’re getting. So it’s very easy to take this model that we’ve created and replicate it in anyone’s classroom,” Fresh said.

For more information about the “flipped plus” classroom model, visit their website. You can also follow their joint Twitter account, @beamathperson.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include statistics of the combined class result averages.

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