help me explain my flipped classroom

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I use a sort of flipped classroom model in my courses. There is a lot of reading primary literature and group activities working with the articles and concepts in class. The intro class I teach (grad program) is challenging for a lot of students because it's a subject not really taught at the undergrad level, and there are no classes that really prepare you for it- everybody's starting from scratch. I assign homework where students have to work with the articles and concepts before coming to class, to ensure that everyone has done the reading and thought about the concepts.
I am getting complaints from students that they have to do graded homework on stuff they haven't been taught yet. I do this because if I do not grade work seriously, students will 1) not do the reading and 2) turn in assignments and quizzes with generic answers or answers that are a conceptual mess. One student told me he "finds the class very frustrating" because they do graded work on concepts before they're covered in class. Of course this student's complaining was coupled with the typical speech I get from my students (which really, REALLY frustrates me) that boils down to "I only care about getting really good grades and I think the way you teach won't make that happen so it should change." I  am hoping that doing a better job communicating why the class is structured the way it is will help me some. How do you communicate to students WHY you're using this model? Do you keep repeating it? Any tips on how best to explain it? One of my biggest issues is that my grad students are SO grade focused. All they see is that they just got an 80% on a (small) assignment. How do I bring them back to the big picture?

That's not a flipped class.  That's a class.

As a grad class, I would use a "Welcome to the Big Leagues" type speech. Emphasize that grad classes require more independent work, more work with primary sources, and frequently dealing with new methods and techniques in those sources. Why? Because that's what professionals at their level do all the time. I would "sell" the class as a workshop where you can all work through the issues together and pool each persons expertise. I would acknowledge that this can be frustrating at first- but that's the point of the class! To have a safe dedicated space to practice this type of analysis and higher level thought.
   Depending on how your grad program is structured, I also might have an honest discussion with them about how unimportant the grad school GPA really is. Unless of course, it's one of those programs where GPA still matters.

I used the techniques described in this article:

It was suggested by Mountainguy here, and on a number of flipped/TBL sites.  It led to a good discussion and so far, no whining. 

Tell them as grad students and future profs there will be many things that they need to do for which they may not have taken a course in as an undergrad.  As such it is critical for them to be able to learn it on their own and this is their chance to do so.


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