The “flipped-classroom” model of pedagogy, replacing in-class lectures with active learning, is rapidly growing in popularity within higher education.  At the University of Chicago, Academic Technology Solutions has been working with Prof. Dorian Abbot of Geophysical Sciences to redesign his popular course Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast by “flipping” it.  Prof. Abbot’s chief goal in adopting the flipped-classroom model was to increase student attendance and engagement.  Now, three weeks into the first full-scale offering of the flipped course, the redesign is bearing fruit, in the form of sharply increased class attendance and heightened student engagement.

Flipping Global Warming has been a collaborative endeavor among several different groups. In addition to ATS, the Chicago Center for Teaching (CCT) and Geophysical Sciences Teaching Support have worked with Prof. Abbot throughout the roughly year-long process of planning and implementation for the flipped course, helping him with planning lessons, selecting videos, inserting quizzes into those videos, and designing active learning exercises for the course sections led by graduate student lecturers. All sections share the same content, both to ensure uniform quality across sections and to give graduate student lecturers the freedom to focus on conveying content to the students, without having to worry about developing course content on their own.

A key goal of the flipped-classroom model is that students learn deeper and better and attain higher-order cognitive skills through collaborative active learning exercises during class time. While watching learning videos outside of class, students answer in-video quizzes to ensure they fully understand the content.  The active learning exercises that graduate student lecturers lead within their individual course sections are of paramount importance for students to develop higher-order cognitive skills via analysis, evaluation, and even creation of new knowledge. As such, one might argue that the most important learning happens in the classroom, when students work with each other under the guidance of the lecturers.

In a special session led by CCT, Geophysical Sciences Teaching Support, and ATS,  lecturers who were to lead sections were given training in the active learning techniques needed to make the flipped-classroom model work.  Prof. Abbot is continuing the lecturers’ training throughout the course, providing them with notes from the test version of the flipped course held last fall and meeting with them for an hour each week to review course material and teaching strategies. They will receive further training on improvisation and grading later in the quarter. Prof. Abbot, CCT, Geophysical Sciences Teaching Support, and ATS are also actively working together to plan mid-course and end-of-course evaluations to solicit student feedback, with the goal of continuously improving the course’s environment, structure, and activities to better support student learning.

Learning More

If faculty, instructors, and graduate students would like to learn more about using educational technology in or out of the classroom, or about pedagogical techniques such as active learning, support is available through Academic Technology Solutions ( and the Chicago Center for Teaching ( Those who are teaching in Astronomy, Astrophysics, and Geophysics can seek additional help from Brent Barker, Teaching Support Manager for Undergraduate Labs, Departments of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Geophysics; and the College.

In addition, Prof. Abbot, together with personnel from ATS, CCT, and Geophysical Sciences Teaching Support, will discuss his implementation of the flipped-classroom model at the upcoming inaugural Symposium for Teaching with Technology, to be held Tuesday, April 23, at the Regenstein Library.  To learn more and register, please visit the Symposium website: