Flipping the laboratory in plant anatomy, biochemistry and global change biology

Loveys BR

School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia.

Practical classes are generally compulsory and all teachers hope their students will arrive in the laboratory prepared for the class; the reality, of course, is that students are often not prepared and are therefore disengaged and confused in class. Many students do not read the relevant material in their laboratory manual to ensure they understood of the principles they are about to learn. This makes it difficult for students to make the link between theory and application. To address this problem interactive, online pre-class activities were developed and deployed in plant anatomy, biochemistry and global climate change practical classes, thus Flipping the Laboratory to encourage students to prepare for practical classes. Using this approach I have developed multiple pre-practical online activities for my students on topics such as plant anatomy, enzyme kinetics, photosynthetic reactions and carbohydrate metabolism. Central to the flipped classroom learning model is that pre-class learning should be used to introduce foundational concepts and focus on lower level Blooms Taxonomy such as remember and understand. The pre-practical activities provide students with examples and activities to encourage them to prepare for practical sessions before class. Information is presented in a multi-media format with videos of demonstrations of commonly used lab techniques. Check-point questions are presented by way of multiple choice answers with unlimited attempts so student can gain confidence. Understanding foundational key concepts is critical for deeper learning. This presentation will show how sustained improvement in average and distribution of practical grades has been achieved. Failure rates have also declined despite increasing student enrolments. Students indicated the pre-practical activities encouraged independent learning, and, 70% of students enjoyed the pre-practical activities. Improved engagement in practical classes extends beyond the laboratory. Once students are engaged in a course it is easier maintain their interest in difficult and challenging content.