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Lectures are typically sit-and-listen sessions. But in Professor Rick Glofcheski’s tort law classes,

students do all the talking.

FLIPPING THE CLASSROOM

Professor Rick Glofcheski shared his exciting insights on flipped learning with over 120 participants in a seminar on November 26, 2015.

What does anyone really remember from the lectures in their

undergraduate years? What they probably do recall is what they

learned from an assignment or project that they did.

Professor Rick Glofcheski

Professor Rick Glofcheski of the Department of

Law is recognised as a very good lecturer. He

has been honoured with teaching awards by

HKU and the University Grants Council and

consistently scores highly in student

evaluations. But for all that, he has still found

himself wondering – just how much do

students learn in his lectures?

“Students say they love my lectures, but that

doesn’t mean they are learning anything.

Research shows that after listening to

something like a lecture, you only retain three

or four per cent of what you heard. What does

anyone really remember from the lectures in

their undergraduate years? What they

probably do recall is what they learned from

an assignment or project that they did,”

he said.

He decided to inject that understanding into

his teaching and at the beginning of this

academic year, redesigned the way he teaches

his second-year tort law class.

Rather than sitting in a lecture theatre taking

notes, students are expected to do a lot of

that work beforehand. They watch online

lectures recorded by Professor Glofcheski that

are about half an hour long and cover the legal

points that will be the focus of the class; they

do readings (as they would do with regular

lectures); and they do preparatory work such

as finding and analysing a real-life example

that illustrates the point of law under

discussion. So even before they come to class,

they will already be thinking deeply about the

topic.

For example, a recent session covered

occupier’s liability. The pre-class assignment

was to take a photo of a sign related to that

area of law and analyse it. “This was not just

for fun – these cases go to court all the time.

People fall and get hurt and the occupier,

who could be a bank, a shopping mall, a

university, will say they had a sign warning of

the danger. Well, where was the sign? Was

the warning understood? Was it posted in

Chinese and English? There are a whole

bunch of legal requirements to be counted

before you can say the occupier satisfied their

obligations.”

Real-world problems

On the day of the class, students are assigned

to groups of five or six and told where to sit at

Loke Yew Hall (chosen because it can

accommodate the class of more than

260 students sitting around tables in groups).

They share and discuss their photographs in

their group, then the entire class is presented

with a case drawn from a short newspaper

report that reflects the legal area being

studied – in the occupier’s liability case, a story

about an elevator repairman who died on the

job. The students have to brainstorm and write

up their legal analysis of the case, while

Professor Glofcheski and tutors walk

answering questions and providing guidance.

“This is called flipped learning. It’s not really

new, it’s just new in higher education,”

he said. “When you were in primary school,

you didn’t take notes, you did activities. Here,

students are coming to class and applying

what they learned in problem-solving.”

Student feedback has been very positive.

Professor Golfeheski surveyed his students

several times – at the end of last year and

beginning of this year to gauge interest, and

after the first flipped class in October – and in

each case got overwhelming support for this

approach.

Two videos about the session have been

uploaded to HKU’s teaching and learning

pages and include student comments that

reinforce the survey response. One student

said: “You learn to juggle different opinions –

very stimulating and unsought opinions – on

the spot. And you also have to express your

opinions in the best way possible.” Another

noted: “It was a very good way to apply what

we have learned to real cases.”

The use of real-life cases is central to Professor

Glofcheski’s pedagogy and he also adopts

them in other courses and in assessments. The

newspaper is a primary source. “I want

students to see real-world problems as they

would encounter them in their careers,” he

said, pointing to some headlines. “‘Couple

held after young son put in boot of car’,

‘Helper has leg amputated after being

crushed’ – it’s all tort law. It’s there all the time

but would anybody recognise it? Of course

not. Even students and lawyers are waiting for

somebody to tell them this is a tort law

problem.

“If students can see issues on their own

without being prompted, then they learn.”

The opportunity to do that – and to take those

observations to the next stage of legal

analysis – is happening in his tort law classes.

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The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | May 2016

Teaching and Learning