I’m wrapping up my fourth semester of flipped classroom pedagogy, and I think I have a verdict: it’s preferable to my previous lecturing-plus-discussion model, and even though it’s a lot of work for both me and the students, the benefits are considerable.

The model works like this: In preparation for each class, the students read the materials on my electronic casebook (on the ChartaCourse platform) and watch a prerecorded lecturette I’ve made, which summarizes the cases, offers additional points and socio-legal insights, and provides flowcharts and guidelines for legal analysis. I’m now on my third version of these lecturettes, and I think I’ve managed to produce something of passable production value. Here, for example, is one of the lecturettes of which I’m most proud – the one about out-of-court codefendant confessions:

Because the students come well prepared, I don’t have to spend/waste time on lengthy lectures in class. I go over some of the basic issues, add examples and stories, and answer questions. The bulk of our time together is spent working on problems and simulations in small groups. Usually, the students receive a few hypothetical scenarios, discuss them in small groups, and formulate a solution which they then post to our discussion forum. Sometimes, I’ll create more elaborate simulations for them: this year, we did a two-week plea bargaining exercise, a big jury selection exercise, and a federal sentencing simulation. After the groupwork concludes, we debrief together. This means the students go over each unit of material five times: through the reading, the lecturettes, my highlights, their own independent work, and our debriefing session.

So far, I haven’t been able to coast on lecturettes from previous years, because I had recorded them on Panopto, which is not fantastic, and have had to re-record them from scratch on Zoom. As you can see above, the quality is pretty neat and I can use animation and other tricks to explain complicated concepts. Hopefully, in future years I’ll only have to record lecturettes that update the existing ones when legal changes occur. I’m also quite impressed with the students’ hard work in class and in the small group. This method works very well in a small class in person, and also scales up quite marvelously online.

If you want to flip your classroom and need some help or advice, please contact me! It really is a wonderful way to teach.

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