Flipping the classroom


The following was part of the college’s presentation to the University System of Georgia Board of Regents at its April 2015 meeting.

By Dr. Richard Pennington
Associate Professor of Chemistry

Dr. Richard Pennington in chemistry lab with students
The “flipped classroom” concept allows Dr. Pennington, center, to spend more time interacting with his students and providing the individualized instruction necessary to help them succeed in his chemistry courses.

When I joined the GGC faculty in 2007, our dean of the School of Science and Technology, Dr. Tom Mundie, told us, “Try something different, try something new; don’t be afraid of failing.”

I decided to take him up on that, and, after seeing how one of my chemistry faculty peers led his classroom, I decided to try my particular variant of what would become known as “flipping the classroom.”

So, what exactly is this flipped classroom concept? Simply put, I give the students all the tools to prepare for class, and then ask them to do so, for each and every class. These tools are a daily lesson plan where I have assigned pre-class and in-class problems, and provided self-made preparatory videos and my cell phone number should they have questions before class.

GGC courses
Business Statistics
Organic Chemistry
Physical Chemistry

After I address any questions at the start of class, the students spend the rest of the class working the assigned problems in groups. That way they are interacting with each other while doing their work. In this way the students stay engaged and focused, and our contact time is spent much more efficiently. In my classroom, the students become active participants, rather than passive observers. I have no plans to go back to traditional lecturing.

“Plain old lecturing was not working for me; but, like many Ph.D.s with no actual training as a teacher. I did not know how to fix what I knew was a problem. Only when I came to GGC did I discover how to fix it. To me, that is one of the reasons why GGC is so different. We don’t do things the way they’ve always been done. We find new and better ways to do them.”

– Dr. Richard Pennington

Dr. Richard Pennington holding cell phone during BOR presentation
Listen to Dr. Richard Pennington’s USG Board of Regents presentation below.
(Text transcription.)

I was never a particularly strong student; my high school teacher told my parents one year that I was not smart enough to pass her chemistry class. To remember that and then to see how far I have been able to come, from getting my bachelor’s degree, getting my Ph.D. and then receiving the 2013 Board of Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award, it’s an amazing thing – and that award would not have happened without the opportunities that you all have made available to me at GGC.

Provided they show a desire for success, GGC has a commitment to help every student who comes through their doors; I am able to share this opportunity with all of my students. I am better for it, and my students are better for it.

True success comes from the knowledge that you are making a difference, and I feel I do this every day at GGC.

Thank you for enabling us to create this unique environment in which this is possible.

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