- Bay Path University Associate Professor of Biology Thomas Mennella writes for Campus Technology that current approaches to active learning must be rethought to avoid instructor burnout.
- Mennella began using a flipped classroom approach around four years ago, shortly after his institution began providing all incoming freshmen with an iPad — and while he praises the amount of professional development instructors received, he says adopting a flipped approach has greatly increased the amount of assignments he must grade, as well as the number of hours he spends interacting with students.
- Though Mennella notes that no one is forcing him to use a flipped approach, a dynamic and active learning experience is something that students have come to expect, and he feels the days of the "sage on the stage" are over.
That Bay Path University recognized the need for sufficient instructor professional development in its digital transition is commendable. A lack of adequate training amid such pushes has been particularly noted at the K-12 level, but colleges and universities can't take for granted that instructors already know how to teach with tech, either.
That said, institutions must also consider how new teaching methods impact instructor workloads. If, as Mennella notes, a transition to flipped learning results in an instructor with 86 students on a four-assignment-per-week workload then grading 344 weekly assignments at a total of 3,784 per semester, it is likely time for the institution to reconsider class size or graduate assistant assignments. Barring that, however, instructors embracing active learning may need to further rethink syllabi.
As all areas of higher ed, from the lecture hall to the administrative offices, continue to adapt and transition to rapid changes across the industry, institutions should also make sure stakeholders at every level have a seat at the table to ensure their needs and concerns receive appropriate consideration.