Friday, 25 January 2013

A review of a paper offering evidence for a benefit to the flipped classroom.

"The inverted classroom in a large enrolment introductory physics course: a case study" by Simon Bates and Ross Galloway

(I found a prezi given at the HEA STEM Conference in 2012 here)

This is the 3rd post in my blog series reviewing a bunch of education literature. The other posts can be found here:
  1. "When good teaching leads to bad results: The disasters of well taught Mathematics courses" by Alan Schoenfeld
  2. "A quick-start guide to the moore method" by Mahavier et al.
I've got a big interest in looking at using a flipped classroom methodology. I've used it before on a programming course, I've used it a bit in a general OR course and plan to use it in a hybrid IBL way in an upcoming programming course.

If you don't know about the flipped classroom here's a good Ted talk by Salman Khan (the guy behind khan academy):



Also here's a small diagram I made to help me explain it to my students:



This is a neat paper that presents evidence for the flipped classroom approach on a cohort of 200 odd students in a first year physics course at Edinburgh university.
The paper starts by briefly describing the flipped classroom approach as well as the particular class:
"The emphasis was very much on participatory discussion with the class, rather than instructor presentation to the class."
The paper nicely addresses a concern that I often hear when talking about open education with other academics: 'if I give out notes why would the students turn up?'.
"An often-heard comment relating to provision of material to students (usually lecture notes) in advance of class sessions is 'If you give them the lecture notes, they might not or won't turn up'. We gave students not just lecture notes, but in effect the entire course content in advance of class sessions: it might reasonably be asked did we not have empty lecture theatres by week 5? In fact, we did not see any evidence of a significant decline in lecture attendance 1, which we were able to 'measure' by observing a relatively constant number of total clicker votes per question (across 140 individual clicker question episodes) as function of a time period spanning 11 weeks of the course. There was a slight decline towards the final week of teaching in the semester, perhaps partly explained by the effects of a long teaching semester taking its toll and the looming shadow of degree examinations 2 weeks after the course concludes. This teaching methodology, therefore, provides evidence against the 'no notes in advance' argument as a technique to maintain student attendance and engagement."
The paper continues to offer some quantitive data with regards to the effectiveness of this approach.
  1. "Student Feedback": Feedback was collected showing that students preferred this teaching approach (see table in paper).
  2. "Evidence for learning": Data is shown that demonstrates that students did better on a standard physics test ("Force Concep Inventory") after instruction with a flipped classroom.
The paper finishes with a discussion and tackles certain things like the supposed additional workload related to a flipped classroom approach:
"Perhaps more significant than the additional workload is the mental shift that is required to accept and embrace an unstructured, contingent lecture experience in which the lecturer is no longer in complete control of."
Having personally used a flipped classroom approach I can certainly say that the initial workload is pretty big but I also agree that the actual lecture time needs a significant shift in mentality.
I also think that there's a huge gain to be made by flipping the classroom. Whereas in classic lectures a teacher might be able to gloss over something and not know whether or not your students are still with you. With a flipped class, when preparing your lectures there is some sense of finality and so I feel that it also allows me to better prepare my material.

Conclusion

I think this paper is great and will serve as a great reference 'justifying' the use of flipped classrooms.

Here's my "PCUTL Mark" out of 10 which I'm using to say how useful this piece of literature is to me in the scheme of my pcutl portfolio (so it's not meant as a reflection of the quality of the paper which is subjective):

PCUTL Mark: 8