How Philip Williams has Flipped Sociology

Guest post by Philip Williams, Sociology Faculty

Philip Williams at whiteboard
Philip Williams using the interactive whiteboard during class discussion to highlight main points in an article as students share.

Flipping SOCI 1020 – Social Problems

This fall the Vol State Sociology Department is offering SOCI1020, Social Problems, as a “flipped classroom.” The flipped social problems class is a unique classroom experience. Course instruction is being delivered through a variety of measures and is using various assessments for students. Textbook material is assigned as home readings, then students use iPads during class meetings to research and access articles, videos, and images available to support their learning.

The primary objective for the flipped classroom is to provide an alternative to traditional classroom instruction. The flipped environment allows students to connect with peers, topics, and concepts in new ways. It also provides a way to improve critical thinking, problem solving, and research skills. Additionally, each student’s knowledge and use of technology increases.

The flipped classroom also serves the college’s larger goal of student retention. Engaging students with exciting, active, and relative assignments meets this goal. By providing a classroom that challenges students in ways so that their individual talents can shine is a personal goal of mine.

Student 3 on iPad Student 2 on iPad Student1 on iPad



Students in Philip’s class are using iPads to search for research articles related to the topic.

Methods and Assessment Strategy

Diverse learning style preferences in this course can be challenged through various projects, activities, and assignments. By letting students work as individuals, pairs, and trios, this type of engagement in class activities allows for students to have a variety of learning experiences. Students are able to write reports or give presentations. They are able to watch videos about a topic, read about a topic, listen to recordings, or combine all of these methods.

The methods and tools for my flipped instruction include a combination of face-to-face instruction, class discussion, video notes, and handouts/emails.  To encourage responses, I give assignments that have students write papers, share and present ideas, ask questions, and discuss topics weekly. The assessments include online multiple-choice quizzes, student led discussions, and short answer questions. There are two research papers over media links on specific topics. Students will have the opportunity to work with peers and the library staff on these mini-papers.

The success of the flipped classroom experience all seems to be determined by the student’s ability to read, work, and plan ahead. Showing up for class without a clue as to what was in the text is not the way of the successful student. This is the essential point that must be made early in the semester for the flipped experience to be successful.

panoramic image of the TLC