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School of Engineering Focuses on Flipped Class Model

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Active engagement is known to contribute to learning, and it is particularly important to engage students in large classes (e.g., greater than 75 students), where interaction between faculty and students is often lost.  To address this challenge and improve learning, the Swanson School of Engineering is introducing a flipped, or inverted, classroom model in which direct learning (lecture) takes place outside of class, while class time is used for active learning.

“We expect the flipped model to increase engagement and help students to not only better retain but also better transfer what they learn to subsequent classes, rather than just regurgitating information for a test,”according to Mary Besterfield-Sacre, director, Engineering Education Research Center.

In flipped classes, which the school plans to introduce in the fall, students will view recorded lectures and other material outside of class in preparation for class activities. With faculty’s lecture time reduced, a class of 100 students could be broken into two 50-student sections, making it possible to work on interactive hands-on, and more in-depth problem-solving activities during class time.

“We know that attention declines after the first 10 minutes of a lecture, so we expect that students will get more out of class than they did when the format was strictly lecture-based,” Besterfield-Sacre said. Material to be viewed outside of class will be recorded in shorter segments; students can pause and review as needed. Quizzes, pre-homework, or reflection assignments will provide accountability, ensuring that students are prepared for class and revealing areas of confusion to the instructor prior to class. In that way, a typical flipped class would begin with a review of concepts that students are struggling with, and the instructor will have the option of probing and taking knowledge a step further.

Instructors of three Swanson School of Engineering core courses are preparing for initial implementation of the inverted model starting in the fall. In recognition of the time and planning that are required, faculty have been provided with a stipend and expert resources to assist with the technical and pedagogical components, including recording lectures and planning effective classroom activities. This academic year alone the SSoE awarded three “Flipping Instruction Grants” to our engineering faculty to convert their course to use this pedagogical approach. The SSoE is in the process of flipping a senior level Chemical engineering course in Systems Engineering Dynamics and Modeling (Robert Parker); a junior level Industrial engineering course in Facility Layout and Material Handling (Bryan Norman); and an engineering science course in Statics and Mechanics of Materials II (Will Slaughter). Further, the school plans to flip Probability and Statistics for Engineers I and a Freshman Engineering course during the next year.

Assessment is another key component of the process. “We will need to demonstrate whether flipping the class made a difference,” comments Besterfield-Sacre. Baseline measurements of student engagement and conceptual learning in traditional classes are being collected to compare with flipped classes. In addition, students’ perspectives will be collected using classroom environment surveys in both the traditional and flipped classes. Finally, classes are being observed to compare current active learning techniques with those that will be used in fall flipped classes, and interviews are ongoing with participating faculty.


APRIL 2013

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School of Engineering Focuses on Flipped Class Model

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