As a part of the solicitation NSF strongly suggested that proposers read a list of papers that presented the results of recent research on what the most effective practices were for teaching. As I recall (I don't have a copy of the solicitation available), the impression they gave was that, based on recent (past 10 years) work, this was virtually a solved problem.
I credit these papers with transforming my teaching from mediocre (at best!) to where my reviews now include statements along the lines of "One of the best classes I have taken here at UCSC…". And the techniques that result in this change are really quite simple. My quick summary:
The result is dramatic. Classes go from fairly boring affairs where students are working on their computers, drifting off to sleep, or just don't come, to lively, fully attended, and generally very engaged events.
Looking back through the papers, here are the two (of about six) that seem to get to the point most directly:
7/30/2013 - Charlie McDowell sent shared a pointer to an interesting blog posting titled "Taking a test is better than studying, even if you just guess: We need to flip the flipped classroom." The blog posting reports on a a couple of new studies on the benefits of testing for learning. The basic message is testing is important, and it appears that it is better to do the in-class exercise before the studying. [By the way, the blog itself looks very interesting….] As Mr. Spock would say, fascinating…
The order I used in my class this past quarter was (covering one topic, over the course of a week):