Active engagement is known to contribute to learning, but it is especially challenging to engage students in large lecture classes, where a sense of anonymity is frequently pervasive. To 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. This is particularly important when class sizes become large (e.g., greater than 75) where interaction between faculty and students is often lost. "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, and lead of the initiative.
In flipped classes, which the school introduced in the fall 2013, students view recorded lectures and other material outside of class in preparation for class activities. With faculty's lecture time reduced, the in class time is now devoted to engaged learning, 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.” Material to be viewed outside of class is recorded in shorter segments; and thus students can pause and review as needed. Quizzes, pre-homework, or reflection assignments are 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 begins with a review of concepts that students are struggling with, and the instructor has the option of probing and taking knowledge a step further.
To date seven core undergraduate engineering courses have been flipped and more is planned for the next year. In recognition of the time and planning that is 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.
Assessment is key component of the process. We need to demonstrate whether flipping the class has made a positive difference in students' engagement and learning of engineering. Baseline measurements of student engagement and conceptual learning in traditional classes were collected, where possible, to compare with flipped classes. In addition, students' perspectives have been 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.