Explore – Flip – Apply: Example

Below is an example of one Explore-Flip-Apply cycle. I will be posting different examples frequently throughout this year, and conclude with an action research report on the efficacy of the project in May, with a midterm report in January. As an aside, this re-structuring has also opened the door for me to touch on a wide range of strategies, not solely the inverted classroom. Other strategies addressed in “Explore-Flip-Apply” include:

Day 1: Explore

Step 1: Opener (~ 10 minutes)

The following question is displayed: Why is salt placed on icy roads in the winter? I use a variation of Peer Instruction to facilitate this process:

  1. Students work for 3 minutes to answer the question individually on their opener sheet.
  2. Students then group up (3 or 4) and share their responses and agree on a collective answer.
  3. One student “buzzes” in answer from smart phone or computer device using a Google form embedded in class website designed to collect both multiple choice and free response openers.
  4. I display the google spreadsheet where data is collected and we as a class investigate all answers, discussing trends, commonalities, etc. I never explicitly give them the solution to the opener when collected on Day 1, as the purpose is purely exploration of concepts.

Step 2: Lab Exploration (~ 65 minutes)

Students are given a lab worksheet (Yes, I love the old paper-based lab worksheet action!) where, after a pre-lab discussion, they work in groups to develop and outline a procedure to answer the following question: How does the addition of sodium chloride affect the boiling point of pure water? This is where aspects of Guided Inquiry enter as students are given a research question and asked to design their own procedure. Students were only given the following materials (temp probe/computer w/ Logger Pro, two beakers, glass stirring rod, table salt, hot plate):


In the “data” section of the lab worksheet, students are asked to provide both a data table and a graph. An example of a graph gathered from one group’s procedure is below:


Students then work together to write conclusions and provide an “explanation” of the phenomena in their lab worksheet. Explanations are translated onto class-whiteboards and we spend the last 10-15 minutes of class discussing their explanations group by group. This may bleed into the “application” phase the following day. I guide this process without ever actually revealing the correct answer to the initial question posed in the lab. Various group procedures are highlighted and trends between groups are noted. This process might continue into the next day, however I usually plan lab explorations to take about 45 minutes, allowing time for an opener and group presentations. My classes are 75 minutes long.

Night 1: Flip (Instructional Video)

Students watch a screencast instructional video where I introduce additional concepts, definitions/equations and provide two problem-solving examples that relate to the exploration that current day. The purpose is to build on their exploration by introducing more structured concepts, providing any mechanical knowledge (definitions and equations) and briefly model a few problems. I am still trying to figure out exactly how much information to include and what to leave out during this phase. I find myself falling into my old bad habits of providing too much information and not letting the inquiry, and subsequent application phase, play a larger role. Perhaps I need to reflect on this Clough and Kruse (2010) article more? In order to engage students in the video process, and also promote reflection, a google form is embedded DIRECTLY BELOW the video that asks the students to provide a structured summary of the video according to a guide I provide for them. Additionally, the video ends in the middle of the second example. Students are asked to complete the problem and provide the numerical answer in the box labeled #2. My hope is that by asking students to reflect via a summary, and complete a problem, I am addressing both the conceptual and algorithmic side of the concept, and also obtaining information about what students struggle with via their responses (they are asked to indicate something they did not understand or still have questions about). This is where aspects of Just-in-time teaching (JiTT) enter. The video for the exploration phase described above is below, along with a screenshot of the form and google spreadsheet where data was collected:

form spreadsheet

Day 2: Apply

* Activities on the “application” day vary from more directed lab application tasks, to individual/group problem solving sessions, to challenge problems and class competitions. Students have problem sets we refer to as “Learning Packets” that house the majority of practice problems used during the “application” day often. Click here for an example of a Learning Packet designed around “Free Response #4” on the AP Chemistry examination. Below is an example of an application day that involved a more specific variation of the lab activity from the previous day described above. Guided Inquiry is used again, but informed by the screencast lecture.

Step 1: Opener (~ 10 minutes)

Follows the same Peer Instruction model described above. This time, the question is more specific (usually AP multiple choice question). After individual attempts and group discussion, groups buzz in answer and we collectively go over responses by displaying Google spreadsheet. I highlight groups who obtained the correct answer and keep track of this as a motivational tool for the opener. We critique wrong answers and discuss logic behind test construction of that item (good and bad distractors, etc.). See spreadsheet below:

spreadsheet 2

Step 2: Lab Application (~ 65 minutes)

Students are given a blank sheet of paper to show their work in route to answering the following question: What mass of sodium chloride do you have in your tray? Prior to the lab, I measured the same mass of sodium chloride for all groups (50 grams). Students are instructed NOT to use a balance, but instead, the concepts they learned in the night’s lecture to obtain the mass of sodium chloride provided. Although students’ lab procedures ended up being fairly similar to the prior exploration, the specific task of determining the actual mass of sodium chloride, forced merger of skills constructed in the exploration phase and applications learned in the instructional video. Students were only given the following materials (temp probe/computer w/ Logger Pro, two beakers, glass stirring rod, to plate and 50 grams of sodium chloride):

materials 2

Night 2: Prepare for Quiz

Students prepare for a quiz the next day by finishing problems in their Learning Packets. Quizzes usually have a total of four questions and ask students to apply and synthesize concepts from the application day. Quizzes are standards based, and I allow students to reassess as they strive towards mastery of the standards (many different versions of the quizzes are made to facilitate the re-assessment process). Students must wait at least one day after meeting with me for additional instruction before reassessment. Click here for an excellent post that describes the logic behind separating the re-teaching and reassessment process. Although I provide opportunities for students to reassess, for me, I have a hard time merging the “Explore-Flip-Apply” with an asynchronous mastery learning system. Because emphasis is placed on student construction of knowledge during the “explore” phase prior to video instruction, I find it easier to keep all students on the same cycle, rather than monitoring which videos each student has progressed through, and making certain that they were exposed to the laboratory BEFORE each video. To keep this cycle in-tact, I publish each video sequentially, as the associated exploration phase ends. To keep advanced students motivated, I scaffold the “application“ day to provide additional resources and challenge problems.

Day 3: Quiz and new cycle begins

2 thoughts on “Explore – Flip – Apply: Example

  • Lou Anne Gasperine

    This is exactly what I was looking for! Have you investigated the modeling instruction out of Arizona State University? I believe it also would “fit” into this process since it calls for paradigm labs to be conducted to encourage the students to develop their own conceptual understanding of various topics without the “interfering teacher” explaining the ideas first.
    I went through the physics modeling workshops and absolutely think the students are definitely engaged more in the definitions of the concepts. This style falls under David Hestenes work at ASU.

  • Monique

    I was wondering whether you were still going to post additional examples of your E-F-A lessons as stated in the first paragraph of this blog post. I am quite interested in your work as I try to implement the flipped model in my science classroom next year. Thanks in advance for any support that you can provide.


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