Nonlinear narratives in the inverted classroom

I have temporarily taken over an introductory E&M course from one of my colleagues. I’m teaching the course using his format (and notes) which means that I am (A) lecturing and (B) not using pre-class assignments for the first time since 2006. In addition to his format, I am using the odd clicker question here and there.

The thing that has been the most interesting about lecturing in a non-inverted class has been the difference in narrative. In my regular courses, I assume that the students have had contact with all the major ideas from a given chapter or section before I even ask them the first clicker question. Because of this we are able to bring all the relevant ideas from a chapter to bear on each question if needed. This is what i am used to.

My colleague’s notes develop the ideas in a nice linear fashion and very easy to lecture from, but I just can’t stop myself from bringing in ideas that are multiple sections down the road. I am having a ton of trouble, even with a set of notes in front of me, letting the story develop according to a well laid-out narrative. It has simply been too long since I have presented material in this sort of a structured way. Note that when I give a talk at a conference it takes me a ton of practice to massage the talk I have prepared into something which I am able to deliver using a nice linear narrative. Even when it is nicely laid out, I will jump ahead to other ideas if I don’t spend some serious time practicing not doing that.

It has been really interesting being the one completely responsible for the narrative instead of sharing that responsibility with the resources that I provide for my pre-class assignments.

It has also been weird not having the inmates run the asylum.

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2 Comments on “Nonlinear narratives in the inverted classroom”

  1. Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

    This is really interesting, Joss, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this problem articulated this way before. I was just thinking how much I think of all the material for a day as a single whole that I can talk to my students about during class. Have you talked to colleagues who favor the lecture format about this? I know one of my colleagues loves to be the guy who unveils some cool result and says he really wouldn’t like an inverted approach because he can’t be there when that happens.

    • Joss Ives says:

      My colleague, whose course I am teaching, feels the exact same way as your colleague. He loves spending multiple lectures working toward some cool or unexpected result. And I completely understand this. What an interesting contrast.


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