“Students are not only intellectual but also social and emotional beings…these dimensions interact within the classroom climate to influence learning and performance.” (Ambrose et al, p. 156)
Here’s a flipped strategy that works well for both you and for your students. It’s called “Start, Stop, Continue.” I’ve seen this strategy used in a variety of settings including classrooms, meetings, training sessions, and communication programs. It works well as a flipped strategy because you can assess how different teaching methods need to be adjusted, especially if you’re new to flipped and active learning classrooms.
“Start, Stop, Continue” is an excellent strategy to use in any course because it allows you and your students to make adjustments together to create a positive learning environment that is conducive to learning. It works best when you use it mid-semester or mid-quarter so you have time to make changes to the class before it’s too late.
How does it work?
First, during one of your class sessions, ask your students to take out a sheet of paper (or any device for writing responses) and label it into 3 sections with the headings: Start, Stop, Continue. Ask the students to think about their experience in the course so far.
Then, ask them to write down one thing they would like for you or their classmates to START doing to make the course more successful. For example, maybe they need for you to start using larger font on your slides. Or, maybe they want their classmates to start setting up study groups a few nights before an exam. Or, maybe they’d like for the class to start using a Twitter feed to add to class discussions.
Once you give them these instructions, allow students a few minutes to write their response under the “Start” heading on their paper.
Next, ask students to write down one thing they would like you or their classmates to STOP doing. For example, maybe they’d like for you to stop using red ink when writing comments on their papers. Or maybe they’d like their classmates to stop using their cell phones during the lecture.
Again, give them a few minutes to write their response.
Then, ask students to write down one thing they’d like for you or their classmates to CONTINUE doing. For example, maybe the online discussion boards you’ve created for the class have been very helpful, so they’d like you to continue posting to those a few times a week. Or, maybe their classmates have enjoyed working on projects in small groups, so they’d like to continue doing more collaborative assignments during class time.
Again give them a few minutes to write their response.
Finally, after everyone has had time to write, you can either use the remaining class time to discuss the feedback or take the responses back to your office for review. And, it’s also important for YOU complete this exercise too and share it with your students. Maybe there are things you’d like them to “Start, Stop, or Continue” as well!
Once you have time to review the feedback, the next step is to make a plan together for how the course will proceed to ensure everyone is successful. The key is to make adjustments with students, not to come in and change everything all at once or turn the class time into a complaint session. The goal here is to look for patterns of distraction or disruption that impede the learning environment and prevent student engagement and involvement. Every reasonable comment is considered, but not every comment is implemented. Look for the ones with the most influence in shaping the remainder of the course.
Why does it work?
“Start, Stop, Continue” works by flipping the organization and management of the course to the students for a moment. By asking them what needs improvement, you show you care, you value their ideas, and you are willing to do what it takes to make appropriate changes to ensure their success. But, “Start, Stop, Continue” is a two-way street. You, as the instructor, get to share your ideas too. This opens up a conversation about what works and what doesn’t work from your perspective too. It’s the perfect opportunity to make positive changes to enhance the learning environment. “Start, Stop, Continue” also works because it gives students a voice in a space where they often feel like they don’t have one. Done appropriately, this can empower your students and encourage them to take control of their learning experiences.
Here are a few tips to make sure this strategy works well for you and your students. First, don’t allow the discussion to turn into a whining or complaining session. Keep the discussion under control, allow for the exploration of ideas, but realize that you are the ultimate decision maker in the class, so you don’t have to accept every single idea. Listen to your students and respect their ideas, but don’t let them take over.
And finally, keep an open mind. No, you’re not going to change everything about the course. But, you should listen for ideas or common themes. If many students are repeating something you should “start” doing, then that probably means it’s time to take a closer look and at least consider alternatives.
Ambrose, S., Bridges, M., DiPietro, M. Lovett, M., & Norman, M. (2010). How Learning Works. Jossey-Bass: San-Francisco.
Strobino, J. , “Building a Better Mousetrap.” The Teaching Professor. January, 1997, p.6.