… increasingly a difficult question to answer.

I’ve flipped both of my classes to varying degrees this semester. As one of my seniors in Applied Rocket Design put it, “Many professors say they’ve flipped a class, but most of what we students actually do remains the same. You’ve forced things to be very different and that in itself has been valuable.”

I replaced faculty structured lectures with student team originated design reviews… let’s be clear, the students decide what aspect of their rocket designs to present about for ~40 minutes, examples are posted under the teaching link. Feedback/scores come from their peers via an online form completed in real time and questions at the end. The process works because I shifted my role from instructor in chief to that of a coach. The final will be competing in the 2015 Experimental Sounding Rocket Association Collegiate competition in Utah this June. Real external review from National rocket experts, not to mention coaching from industry experts in the Coug nation! Did I mention the class is touring Blue Origin next week?

An unexpected result is the many graduate and other general students that voluntarily show up in the audience everyday and watch the presentations. I too am kicking back every class and enjoying the show. We’ve got a good course text and I’ve never experienced more thorough use of one. I’ve watched students overcome real fears of public speaking and master talks. I’ve watched engineers move beyond mimicry to original content and technology design and development. What’s more, they have the confidence that it was all them from the beginning.

So the real question from my senior was,”How are we going to answer that question in the end of class reviews, The performance of the instructor in teaching this class is…? Is that question towards us students or you?”

It’s a good question and important too as it is the primary metric used in my tenure evaluation. Taking a cue from athletics, if it ends well it’s because of exceptional students, losses though are on the coach. What I can say for certain: we’re only at the beginning of something neat.