It describes an undergraduate course in biochemistry at Columbia University. Apparently, this course used to be taught in a way that's similar to many biochemistry courses. The lecture consisted of PowerPoint slides and a description of basic facts such as metabolic pathways. Stockwell and Cennamo want to redesign the course to allow more time in the classroom for debate and discussion. This is an admirable goal.
They decided to "flip the classroom."
What does it mean to flip the classroom?What they did was to create a video with their PowerPoint slides and a recording of the lecturer explaining what's on the slides. The students were supposed to watch the video before class and, to ensure that they did, there was a quiz at the end of the video presentation. For example, at the end of the lecture on amino acid metabolism, the students were asked to identify the product of the deamination of alanine.1
When we say we flipped the classroom, we mean that we had students watch recorded videos before class, freeing classroom time for discussion, group work and solving problems. But this is not something you can do overnight.
We took time to define our goals: Obviously, we wanted the students to be better prepared for each class, allowing them to engage more fully in class discussion. But we also wanted to have students put lecture material into action by tackling practical biochemistry problems.
Last summer, we had a number of meetings to design a new course that not only would get students thinking and problem solving in a new way but would provide instant feedback on how well they understood the material.
Here's the part I don't understand. What's the value of having students watch a video presentation when they have a textbook? (The recommended textbook is Lehninger, Principles of Biochemistry by David Nelson and Michael Cox (6th edition, 2013)).
Why not just assign readings from the textbook? I assume that most lecturers are not very knowledgeable about the content of most lectures in an introductory biochemistry course so they probably rely on a textbook anyway.
And what are the students supposed to do when they watch the video? In the new version of the course, students are divided into groups and they deal with problems that "required students to synthesize and apply the information from the textbook, videos and class discussion" (i.e. "problem-based learning," according to the authors). One of the question is ....
If glucose labeled with 14C at C-1 were the starting material for amino acid biosynthesis, the product(s) that would be readily formed is/are:I assume that the students would have to take notes while watching the video and/or download the PowerPoint slides in order to answer this question during class. Or, they could bring their textbook to class.
A. Serine labelled at alpha carbon
B. None of these
C. All of these
D. Serine labelled at the carboxyl carbon
E. Serine labelled at the R-group carbon2
Do PowerPoint video presentations add anything to the course that can't be found in the textbook?
1. Pyruvate and glutamate?
2. I assume the instructors are thinking about organisms that regularly utilize glucose as a carbon source so that amino acids like serine are mostly derived from intermediates in glycolysis (e.g. humans). In that case, the students have to understand the distribution of carbon atoms in the aldolase reaction. I had to look this up to determine that the correct answer is "E." I hope I'm right. For species that use the pentose-phosphate pathway, I think the correct answer is "B." (This doesn't seem to me like a fundamental principle or concept based on an evolutionary approach to biochemistry.)