This case study will provide the rarely explored, student perspective on “flipped” classrooms. It is good teaching practice for educators to seek to better the student learning experience by taking student input. This case study will examine the strengths of a flipped class as well as setbacks and what could have gone differently from the perspective of a student.
Professionals, educators, and administrators strive to better the learning experience of their students. We see this all the time at conferences, roundtable discussions, and professional development training. However, the one voice that should be included in these conversations are students. Educators may try to gauge student perspective based on classroom engagement but until students are asked to give their honest opinions on decisions that actively affect their learning, we can’t possibly know what works for them.
As a current student, I have been fortunate enough to have taken two flipped courses myself in high school and during my undergraduate program. but Additionally, I was also a research assistant for a flipped chemistry class at Radford University. The purpose of this case study is to provide a student’s perspective on what I observed during my experiences with flipped classrooms. I will provide survey and grading data, as well as qualitative data on the successes and setbacks of a flipped class.
This case study sets itself apart from others because it provides an exclusive student perspective on what works (or doesn’t work) in a flipped classroom. This case study is not defending a flipped classroom but rather examining the strengths and weaknesses of a flipped classroom to better enhance the student learning process. This case study will examine three years of IRB approved research in a chemistry classroom that incorporates student surveys, as well as track and grade data. This case study will also explore personal experiences in several different classes. These personal experiences will explore strengths, barriers, and what could have gone differently to further engage students with diverse learning profiles.
After reading this case study, readers should be able to:
- Understand what students find important to incorporate in a flipped classroom
- Identify potential barriers in their own classroom
- Recognize the importance of student perspectives regarding classroom modification
Multiple Means of Engagement
This case study seeks to identify how incorporating student perspective will help other flipped classrooms adhere to UDL Principles as well as identify what allows flipped classes to thrive within those guidelines. Under multiple means of engagement, flipped classrooms embody student autonomy when it comes to learning. For example, videos can be watched on the student’s own time, as many times as the student wishes. The goal of flipped classrooms is also to increase student collaboration as classroom videos will cut lecture time into thirds. It is also up to the teacher and student to promote self-regulation through accountability.
Multiple Means of Representation
Flipped classrooms should also strive to provide multiple means of representation and there are many options to do that for students that include customized audio and visual information. Flipped classrooms truly set the stage for multi-media representations within language and comprehension as this form of learning allows teachers to explore how to incorporate, highlight, and clarify their lessons for different types of learners.
This case study sets itself apart from others because it provides an exclusive student perspective on what works (or doesn’t work) in a flipped classroom. This case study is not defending a flipped classroom but rather examining the strengths and weaknesses of a flipped classroom to better enhance the student learning process. In particular, this case study will examine three years of IRB approved research in a chemistry classroom that incorporates student surveys, as well as track and grade data. This case study will also explore personal experiences in several different classes. These personal experiences will explore strengths, barriers, and what could have gone differently to further engage students with diverse learning profiles.
There are countless ways to incorporate survey data into your classroom. The best way to do this is to have little surveys throughout the semester instead of a massive cumulative survey at the end of the semester. I personally find quarterly surveys the most indicative of how the students honestly and accurately feel. For example, in the exit survey for my research, only 19% indicated having taken a previous Flipped class but 47% said they are now more likely to take another flipped course. This is a prime example of how little exposure students have to a flipped class but if done properly, students can find a teaching style that works for them.
Another useful tool for flipping classrooms is software provided video analytics. These analytics enable professors to see who is watching their videos, how long they’re being watched, and if they are being paused at particular moments. These analytics are what enable me to understand how my mentor’s video views are doubling or declining depending on a given year. Before you flip your classroom, explore the different software options so that you understand what’s available to you. Once you are comfortable with your options ask the students which software they feel will be the most engaging or user-friendly. Remember that if it is not easy for your students to use, they will not use it.
My very first experience with a flipped classroom was in my second year of Calculus. It was honestly, very terrible. I knew that BC Calculus was going to be a struggle for me but I was even more resistant to a flipped classroom. To make it a flipped classroom, my teacher uploaded slides from a text book that we already owned with practice problems at the end. The only real purpose this served me was not dragging my textbook home every night. However, we always went over the slides in class and I perceived that there was no benefit to going through the slides on my own. There were no voice overs nor animations that explained how a problem could be solved. Since there was no value placed on going through the slides on my own, I eventually didn’t so that I could spend my time with other homework that I knew was going to affect my grade. Let’s stop right there because I know some teachers are tired of that excuse. However, that is a decision that I stand by and that many of your students are making right now. Some teachers tend to forget what it’s like to be a student and think that since we have enough time for social media, we have enough time to go through some slide shows. While I whole heartedly agree with you, that is not the whole story. Say for example you had a report to hand in to your supervisor at your next meeting, but you also had a 20-minute video to watch for the faculty meeting that you knew for a fact was going to be played at the meeting anyways. Would you allocate those 20 minutes into your report? I believe that you would. Times have changed and the pressures of being a student is truly a burden. Students are extrinsically motivated nowadays because we have been groomed to believe that school is just temporary. That we are in school to achieve the highest grades and honors so that we may get a job. If we notice that something in our schedules is not contributing to that high grade it loses its value. Is that a good thing? No. Is that a barrier that teachers must fight to overcome and try to instill an intrinsic love for learning? Yes. Is it all the teacher’s responsibility? No. But, that is the first barrier you will encounter in a flipped class.
My second experience with a flipped classroom was in an introductory math course for teaching. I absolutely loved this class. Our teacher really believed in the positive impact of a flipped class and his passion for motivating his students really shone through. His videos were also a lot more engaging than a slideshow. He used software that allowed a video of him talking through the slide show to be played at the same time as well as a soft-ware that allowed him to write on the slide show and talk through a problem in real time. Because it was uploaded to YouTube, I could pause and re-watch the video however many times I liked. Our teacher also included a quiz at the end of each video which had to be turned in before class started the next day. This was my professors best trick because it held me accountable for watching the videos. The hope is that students will watch the video regardless if they get a grade for it or not but, realistically students won’t. My teacher understood this and took the necessary steps to prevent this. He also went over the most missed questions from the homework so that we still felt like we were being taught. That last part is very important for students because one of the biggest complaints that students will have in a flipped class is that it feels like they’re teaching themselves. While this is not true, some students are just uncomfortable with this form of learning. Flipped classrooms are still new to students and there will always be some push back on “new”. Another great thing that this teacher implemented was group time. He always had practice problems for us to do with our classmates so that we could collaborate and understand each other and our own mistakes.
My next flipped experience would be three years’ worth of observation for my research mentor in an introductory chemistry course. Each year was different from the last and while the classroom is not perfect, our results have led to some of our University’s highest chemistry grades. The first year that my mentor tried a flipped classroom was, in his own words, a train wreck. It was very similar to my BC Calculus class and the students did not respond to it well. After abandoning the flipped idea for a few years, he decided to try again with many modifications. Instead of slide shows, he filmed himself at a white board and gave his lecture just like he would do in a traditional classroom. Now, this may seem counterproductive to some but it is actually very beneficial. When he lectures at home, there are no students to interrupt or to ask questions. Seeing his face and seeing his work on the board also eliminates the feeling that students are teaching themselves. Students also feel a bit more connected than if he just used a slide show. Since the videos were also on YouTube the students could watch them countless times, pausing and rewinding as they saw fit. The goal of a flipped classroom is to cut down lecture time by thirds. Many professors see flipped classrooms as a way to double their lecture time but please, do not do that to your students. I understand that you want your students to learn the things that you are never able to cover in class but it will be too much. And I do not mean for the students. I mean for you as the teacher. Flipping a classroom is a lot of work. It will take many takes to figure out what you’re comfortable with and how you want your lecture to sound. There will distractions and draw backs so keep in mind what you want to do with your time. I would recommend creating videos during the semester before the one you’re teaching in. Now, while my mentor may have figured out how he would like his lecture to be on video our biggest barrier was yet to come…the students were not watching the videos. I am sure you know how aggravating that is that not only had this hard work been totally ignored, my mentor then had to spend class time re-lecturing his students. The next year though, we had a solution. The students were going to be given daily quizzes before class started to see if they watched the videos and we included small “cameo” questions from the video. The students viewing habits more than doubled and we were ecstatic. We had solved the problem of flipped classrooms! And then…we hit the mid-semester burn out. It was a trend that we had seen every year and that we could not surpass. After the mid-terms, the students stopped watching the videos as often as they were and would just guess on the daily quizzes. Keep in mind these are freshman college students, so the burn out was not a surprise. But how could we overcome this barrier and hold the students to a higher standard of learning? The next year we kept everything in the class the same except the students had to come in with hand-written notes to receive a daily quiz. So instead of guessing and getting lucky on a quiz, the would just receive a zero for the day. In my experience as well as my mentor, the notes that the students provided were the best notes that we had ever seen.
So, what do the anecdotes of my flipped experience mean? I think my experience mirrors the needs and wants of students. Students need to feel engaged in their learning process. They want to feel that their teacher is paying attention to what is working for them and what is not. It is important for a student to feel that they are being taught by their teacher because they are paying so much money to be in your class. It is important for students to see your face on the screen and to see your work should you have practice problems for them. This applies to all subjects, not just chemistry and math. Students need to be held accountable for their participation in a flipped classroom. I understand that this can be frustrating for teachers but something as simple as a daily homework assignment can and will make all the difference in their success. Students need to learn self-regulation and the teachers must think of a way to hold their students accountable to their expectations. The flipped classroom can work as long as educators work to break down the barriers of learning.
References & Resources
Burton, L. (1998). Elaine Seymour and Nancy M. Hewitt. Talking about Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences. Higher Education, 36(1), 115-116.
Hart Research Associates. (2015). Falling Short? College Learning and Career Success. Online Surveys of Employers and College Students.
Lipson, A., Epstein, A. W., Bras, R., & Hodges, K. (2007). Students’ perceptions of Terrascope, a project-based freshman learning community.Journal of Science Education and Technology, 16(4), 349-364.
Terenzini, P. T., Cabrera, A. F., Colbeck, C. L., Parente, J. M., & Bjorklund, S. A. (2001). Collaborative learning vs. lecture/discussion: Students' reported learning gains. Journal of Engineering Education, 90(1), 123.