What is it?

The traditional and most common approach to curriculum delivery is to use contact time for basic knowledge transmission (lecturing) and then to provide independent learning activities to enable students to apply, discuss, critically analyse or extend; for instance through projects, coursework or exam revision. In an interesting flip to this teaching method, teachers assign videos and interactive online exercises prior to the lecture, and do what was previously the "homework" in the classroom. Thus, the time spent face-to-face is reserved for tackling the more difficult concepts, problem-solving, discussion and as well as other application of material. This method acts as a possible approach to deal with large classes, where students may be at different stages of understanding and skill.

In a typical lecture, students often try to capture what is being said at the instant the speaker says it. They cannot stop to reflect upon what is being said, and they may miss significant points because they are trying to transcribe the instructor’s words. By contrast, the use of video and other prerecorded media gives students control of the lectures; they can watch, rewind, and fast-forward recordings as needed. This ability may be of particular value to students with accessibility concerns, especially where captions are provided for those with hearing impairments. Lectures that can be viewed more than once may also help those for whom English is not their first language. This technique emphasises a clear and distinctive shift in priorities— that is, from merely covering material to working toward mastery of it.

How does it work?

Content might be delivered using short videos or texts, with quizzes and other online activities to ensure independent learning takes place in preparation for scheduled contact time. The key feature of a flipped lecture or classroom is that this material is provided and studied before face-to-face contact time (lecture)- enabling students to cover the content at their own pace. Thus, rather than using time with the academic for simply receiving information, the students are given the opportunity to really benefit from the lecturer’s experience and expertise through focusing on the more difficult concepts.

How do staff and students use it effectively?

Staff

The flipped classroom constitutes a role change for instructors; they are required give up their front-of-the-class position in favour of a more collaborative and cooperative approach. Lecturers would be required to ensure pre-work is set in a timely manner, and more interactive activities are planned for the classroom.

In-class activities might include:

  • Individual problem-solving
  • Group discussion
  • Role playing (e.g. a discussion is staged as two or more sides of a debate)
  • Quizzes posed by the lecturer (using an electronic voting system)
  • Quizzes designed by the students
  • Question and answer sessions (e.g. using an electronic forum to gather questions from students)

Students

There is a concomitant change in the role of students, many of whom are used to being cast as passive participants in the education process where instruction is served to them. The flipped model puts more of the responsibility for learning on the shoulders of students while giving them greater impetus to experiment. Therefore, for this teaching style to work students must commit to doing the pre-work before turning up to the lecture. If not, students will not be able to experience any benefit in the flipped classroom approach to teaching. Activities can be student-led, and communication among students can become the determining dynamic of a session devoted to learning through hands-on work.

Pros and cons

Pros Cons
  • Students no longer struggle with challenging concepts alone outside of class time.
  • Students can skip parts of the lesson they already understand and re-watch new or challenging ideas.
  • Applied learning can be done collaboratively in the classroom.
  • Students are given ownership and responsibility for their own learning.
  • Students come to class prepped and ready to learn; having a background understanding of ideas could boost confidence in lectures.
  • Wider scope for deeper thinking and further learning.
  • Teacher is able to spend class-time working one-on-one or in small groups of students.
  • Devoting class time to application of concepts might give instructors a better opportunity to detect errors in thinking, particularly those that are widespread in a class.
  • Collaborative projects can encourage social interaction among students, making it easier for them to learn from one another and for those of varying skill levels to support their peers.
  • Making sure every student has a computer and internet access could be challenging.
  • Students can not ask questions for clarification during a recorded lesson.
  • Technology issues can arise.
  • Designing and grading frequent quizzes could be time consuming for lecturers.
  • Students who do not complete the homework video will clearly fall behind.
  • Creating or finding quality videos for each lesson can be difficult and time consuming.
  • There is an increased commitment and workload from both students and lecturers.

Case study

Flipping Computer Programming Project

Project Leaders: Dr Paul Shepherd, Dr Nick McCullen, Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering

This is a case study of one of the University's funded pilot Flipping Projects- looking at the motivation for flipping, the methods used, lessons learnt and impact.

Motivation

Computer programming is best learned first-hand through guided trial-and-error, since this helps students develop the invaluable skills of how to identify and correct errors (debugging) as well as learning the language and programming environment itself. The very large cohort size (110) and limited teaching resources (computer lab with only 40 PCs) meant the students had to be split into three groups. Therefore hands-on teaching time was very limited (even reducing the allocated 2hrs per student per week down to one hour meant the lecturer was teaching for 3hrs instead of 2). Flipping allowed some of this time to be made up by the students outside the classroom. The previous teaching methods of very short lecture demonstrations interspersed with hands-on practice had further limited the most essential component of learning programming, i.e. the actual practice.

The flipped classroom

Flipping Project Funding was secured to help create the pre-reading material for the students. Dr Jan Van Lent (now at UWE but formerly at Bath) was employed to develop the course structure, draft materials and examples with model answers, which were posted weekly onto Moodle. His experience of delivering two courses at UWE in a flipped format, and his expertise in the Python computer language to be taught on this flipped unit made him the ideal person to prepare this material.

Students were told to use one of the unallocated but timetabled slots on the unit (when one of the other groups were being “taught”) to go through each week’s online material each week and practice the examples at home before attending their timetabled slot to ask questions and work on the mini-assessments.
To help further motivate the students, each week involved a 3% credited mini assessment task to test one of that week’s basic intended learning outcome. This was automatically checked using an innovative computer script to ease the workload for the unit convener (beyond writing and debugging the marking script in the first place), and also gave instant individual feedback to each of the 110 students each week, with tips on how to improve in a re submission.

Lessons learnt

Many students did the full learning as directed and achieved a great deal (evidenced by their performance in the main assignment over Easter). Others just turned up for the tutorials and jumped in straight with the weekly task, ignoring the “flipped” prior leaning. However, with an average mark of 25 out of the full 30 marks available for continual assessment, there was clearly good engagement with the course and the ILOs were generally achieved.

The student evaluation comments (and in-person anecdotal comments) were positive and indicated that the students liked the continual assessment tasks and felt that they learned something valuable each week. They felt that the materials were too detailed in places, and the material took longer than an hour to go through. This will be addressed in future by reminding the students about the number of hours they are expected to study beyond the timetable. There was also a feeling in a few cases that there should have been some element of lecturing to complement the materials. To accommodate this without returning to an inefficient teaching style, short video lectures will be prepared for next year, for students to watch before attempting each week’s materials.

Impact

The unit assessment results were an improvement on last year. In the combined continual assessments and main coursework assignment, the student average is 64%. Unit Evaluation Scores (everything in the range 4-4.5) and Comments have been positive.

The main reason behind the success of this course, perhaps in contrast to the experience of others, is that there is a good match between the style of delivery and the learning expected, and between the choice of example material and the learning students undergo in other parallel units.

Further reading

Flipping the right thing - Dr Christopher Pudney, from the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Bath, considers the benefits and challenges of flipping in his teaching.
Flipping for conceptual connections - Dr Christine Edmead, from the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology at the University of Bath, discusses why and how flipping was used in a core immunology course.
Jigsaws and hats for engaging large classes - It is often challenging to engage students in large lecture theatre classes due to constraints of space and the room layout. A recent post on the Faculty Focus blog outlines two easy to implement strategies for engaging students as part.
Technology and the pedagogy of recognition - 'Can technology deliver on the promise of radical pedagogies?' Christina Costa draws on Honneth's (1995, 2007) ideas of the importance of recognition in public domains for building self-esteem.
Transforming video into a learning experience - The use of video in teaching and learning is gaining popularity, whether the recording of lectures or the creation of video for 'flipped classroom' teaching.

References

Themes

  • Assessment and Feedback
  • Review and Reflect

Guidance

Jisc - Flipped learning

Bath Baseline

UK Professional Skills Framework

Institute of coding

Contacts

For advice on flipping the classroom to enhance learning, teaching and assessment contact the TEL team: tel@bath.ac.uk