Kent State Geauga Educator Awarded for ‘Flipping the Courtroom’

Top educators are dedicated to enhancing their students’ success, especially in the face of overwhelming obstacles. While the pandemic forced in-person classes to online instruction, Kent State University at Geauga’s Assistant Professor of Sociology, Criminology and Justice Studies Dr. Kasey Ray leveraged the challenge into an opportunity to “Flip the Courtroom” on behalf of her students, planning and implementing innovative best practices that have propelled student engagement and success.

Kent State University’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) recently honored Dr. Ray’s efforts with a Bronze Teaching Recognition Award for Flipping the Court Room (Learn & Plan) and a Silver Teaching Recognition Award for Flipping the Court Room (Implementation).

“I am so honored to win these awards,” responds Dr. Ray. “As an educator, my emphasis is always on my students. Making sure that course material is accessible and engaging is my top priority. I don’t really think about myself and I especially don’t think about the possibility of winning awards, so to be recognized for these efforts feels extremely rewarding!“
Kasey Ray

The Bronze Teaching Recognition Award was for the planning and design of Ray’s Flipping the Courtroom project. She initially devised and tested this activity with a group of faculty peers during the Innovation Intercession in summer 2020.

“I am so proud to have been a part of this group of educators as we learned best practices in the Flipping the Classroom approach,” Dr. Ray says. “Together, we built and participated in each other’s proposed flipped modules as well as providing each other with thoughtful and constructive feedback.” 

Flipping the courtroom was an opportunity for Ray to redefine her favorite moot court activity in her Issues in Law and Society courses. Typically, students participate in an interactive moot/mock court proceeding where students are assigned as either prosecutors, defense attorneys, or judges then argue a previously decided Supreme Court case in the classroom.

“This has always been celebrated in my student evaluations as their favorite part of the semester,” Dr. Ray explains. “However, it can be an extremely time-consuming activity. My goal was to streamline the preparation for this assignment so that, each semester, there could be more in-class time allotted toward doing these discussion-based, debate activities and less time in the classroom devoted to preparation.”

Dr. Ray implemented her flipped courtroom activity during the Spring 2021 semester. Its effectiveness rewarded her with the Silver Teaching Recognition Award, despite the fact that Ray had to adapt the exercise from a face-to-face classroom activity to a virtual one.

“With the necessary move to online courses this past academic year, I knew it was essential to pivot and create space for this to be successful in my synchronous virtual classroom,” Dr. Ray explains.

“The flipped courtroom activity ended up working extremely well with the online class modality. I discovered that students were energized by the activity, they enjoyed getting into small groups with actors of the same role to discuss their game plans, and that a group cohesion began to form. Students came to the (flipped) virtual courtroom prepared, ready to debate, and wanting to come out of the assignment victorious.”

Dr. Ray admits that she was pleasantly surprised by the students’ enthusiasm and their desire to immerse themselves in the activity.

“Their feedback was overwhelmingly positive and emphasized wanting the opportunity to have this activity more than once. I believe, after the success of implementing this new flipped approach, I will be able to create more space for these activities into future courses. This will benefit my students by enabling them to engage in even more problem-solving and discussion-based activities.”

Undoubtedly, it takes an exceptional educator to see the silver linings in the teaching challenges imposed by a pandemic. But to Dr. Ray, it’s just a matter of course and a positive springboard for future innovations and further student success.

“This past academic year created a unique environment when learning went almost entirely online. For instructors, this provided some challenges but also created newfound opportunities for innovative teaching,” she says.

“I am excited for future semesters where I am able to increasingly implement the flipped classroom approach and devote more in-class time to discussion-based and hands-on activities. Students continually emphasize the positive impact these types of assignments have on their overall comprehension and retention of material. I am certain that the skills I gained over the past year will benefit my future students.”

POSTED: Monday, October 18, 2021 - 8:56am
UPDATED: Monday, October 18, 2021 - 8:56am
Estelle R. Brown