By: Becky Grace

The inverted classroom model has become one of the most commonly discussed teaching methods in higher education. The inverted, or flipped, classroom can be defined as a pedagogical model that reverses the internal and the external structure of the classroom (Bart, 2014). More specifically, the flipped classroom reverses the traditional teaching method of lecture and homework. A “lecture” is completed prior to the allotted class time, and class time consists of knowledge application and clarification (Kachka, 2012). Ultimately, a flipped learning environment shifts the classroom focus from the instructor to the students (Spangler, 2015). In order to expand the teaching ideology of the flipped classroom model, researchers have suggested incorporating inverted assessment processes into their teaching models (e.g., Honeycutt & Garrett, 2014b; Talbert, 2015). Flipped assessment follows the structure of the flipped classroom, with the assessment process being student- rather than instructor-centered (Honeycutt & Garrett, 2014a). Although teaching assistants (TAs) are often not involved in the lectures undergraduate students attend, many TAs are responsible for holding tutorials.

It is important to note that the following strategies would only apply to those TAs responsible for tutorials who have also been granted permission to implement new assessment strategies by the instructor. Flipped learning and assessment models require direct student interaction, where the TA has the ability to control the grading for any assignments or homework utilised in their tutorial. A typical tutorial requires the students to come to class prepared for group discussions and activities, having completed textbook readings and attended the previous lecture. Based on this structure, tutorials already fit within the flipped classroom approach. While these tutorials are useful, TAs should consider incorporating flipped assessments in order to further foster student learning.

The main focus of the flipped assessment model is to turn the instructor-focused process into a student-centered learning strategy (Spangler, 2015). Although TAs do not have the ability to change how the professor has planned to assess the students in the class, they often do have the ability to plan and structure their own tutorials. For those TAs expected to assign homework or small assignments in their tutorials, choosing to flip the more formal assignment marking process would make it possible to integrate the flipped assessment model. Spangler (2015) has discussed two processes to fit this flipped grading approach: (1) creating interactive assignment / homework rubrics, and (2) grading conferences. The first would involve TAs developing the grading criteria with the students in the tutorial. Integrating the students into this process will provide them a better understanding of what the expectations are for the assignment or homework. This approach has also been considered a way to motivate students to engage with the learning process rather than simply completing the bare minimum (Spangler, 2015). Allowing students to reflect on their own work within the rubric can also foster a deeper learning experience (Spangler, 2015). In doing so, the students are able to reflect on what was expected of them from their involvement in the rubric-making process, and to then assess their own work against these criteria.

A second option is for TAs to utilise grading conferences, where the students and the TA grade the assignment or homework together. Similar to an interactive rubric, this method allows students to engage with the material in a reflective manner as they are able to ask questions in order to clarify and understand the marking process (Spangler, 2015). Typically, it would be a significant time commitment for an instructor to utilise flipped grading, particularly with a large class size, as individual meetings with their students would be expected. However, for a TA holding tutorials, the class size is greatly reduced. The TA could feasibly schedule small individual meetings during a tutorial session, or the group could collaborate and grade the assignment or homework together. In either instance, implementing grading conferences will help the students to feel engaged and in control of their learning. For the TA involved in this process, they can also learn where their students may have misunderstood content or the assignment expectations. Taken together, these outcomes make grading conferences a learning experience for both the students and the TA.

As outlined by Spangler (2015), students have had a positive response to the various flipped assessment methods discussed. Despite flipped assessment being a relatively new teaching method, it seemingly has utility for TA-led tutorials. Integrating these methods as a TA will offer our students access to the assessment process, something that can often seem, from the student perspective, mystifying. This transparency will not only foster positive relationships between the TA and his/her students, but will also engage the students more fully in the learning process. By allowing the students access to the assessment process, TAs would be able to take advantage of the effectiveness of flipped learning, despite not being an instructor. Students would feel empowered and motivated, and perhaps view the learning process with more positivity. As TAs, we would be offering a positive learning experience for our students to take away with them and apply to future education or work experiences.


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