ISSUES IN EDUCATION

Flipped and micro-flipped classroom

By Susan Hotle and Laurie A. Garrow

shotle3@gatech.edu, laurie.garrow@ce.gatech.edu

The "flipped classroom" frees up class time for practice problem sessions and more interaction with the professor, but is it more effective than the traditional classroom?

The "flipped classroom" frees up class time for practice problem sessions and more interaction with the professor, but is it more effective than the traditional classroom? Image © Wavebreak Media Ltd

“Flipped classroom” is the new buzzword in education. Instructors have increasingly turned to this new teaching method as it can offer a fresh and exciting perspective in the classroom. However, is the flipped classroom really better than the traditional classroom? Does the flipped classroom (where students watch a pre-recorded lecture online before coming to class to free up in-class time for practice problem sessions) promote student success more than the traditional classroom (where in-class time is devoted to the instructor lecturing and the students later solving problems on their own time outside of class)? Which classroom do students prefer?

To answer these questions, in spring 2014 we compared the classrooms using two sections of the same class where one was traditional and the other flipped. Two sections of a 3000-level required civil engineering course were taught at the Georgia Institute of Technology using the same instructor, teaching assistant, assignments and exams. The impacts of each classroom method were measured through three student opinion surveys (designed using information from [1], [2], [3] and [4]), transcript information, course quiz grades, office hour attendance and clickstream data from the course’s website. Thirty-six out of 45 civil engineering majors voluntarily participated in the study from the traditional classroom, and 23 out of 24 civil engineering majors voluntarily participated from the flipped.

Although this study found no significant difference in quiz grades between the two sections, it was interesting to see how student behavior differed. Students in the flipped classroom had increasing rates of office hour attendance. This meant that flipped students had to commit additional out-of-class time to the course on top of the time spent watching the online video lectures in order to be successful. We hypothesize that the inability for flipped students to ask questions during the initial learning of the material may impact their understanding of core concepts in the course leading to increased office hour attendance. Specifically the flipped classroom might promote “plug-and-chug” learning, enabling the students to get the right answer without a deep understanding of the concepts.

In both classes, student transcript GPA was directly correlated with their quiz grades in the course. This means that regardless of classroom type, prior success and a strong work ethic were good indicators of future success. However, being a proactive student was less important in the flipped section. Specifically, the course website’s clickstream data tracked when a student opened up a homework assignment or a practice quiz, which are indicators of when a student started the homework assignment or studying for a quiz. Starting assignments and studying for quizzes early were both directly related to success in the traditional section. However, these effects were not as strong in the flipped section. We hypothesize that this is due to the fact that valuable course materials (e.g., online lecture videos) are always available, and that this last-minute accessibility to course resources decreases the negative impact of procrastination on success.

The student surveys gave us additional insights into student perceptions of the traditional and flipped sections. The majority of students indicated they were pleased with the method being used in their section. Students were asked about their time commitment to the class midway through and at the end of the semester. Although there was not much difference in the responses of the traditional class over time, there was a change in flipped responses. Specifically, we observed a larger variation in flipped students’ responses to the time commitment question during the middle vs. the end of the semester. This suggests that there may be a learning curve associated with the flipped method, and some students initially struggled to adapt to the new method, increasing the time commitment.

Given the study found positive and negative aspects of each classroom type, we wanted to look at another classroom that might incorporate the best of each classroom. For example, the flipped students might like having access to online lecture videos, but some lack motivation if required to watch them before class. Therefore, providing access to the videos without expecting students to view them before class may be beneficial. Using this process, we came up with a version of the micro-flipped classroom, where the in-class time includes the instructor’s lecture and a short practice problems session. Students are given access to the online lecture video afterwards.

We conducted a similar study in summer 2014 to look at the micro-flipped classroom using the same civil engineering course. This time, one section of students experienced the traditional, micro-flipped and flipped classroom methods (each module was taught using a different method). The study had 27 participants of the 38 students enrolled. Overall, 11.1 percent of these students stated they preferred the traditional classroom, 50 percent the micro-flipped and 38.9 percent the flipped. We believe that the micro-flipped was most preferred as it incorporates the positive aspects of the flipped classroom (e.g., access to online lecture videos) without the negative aspects (e.g., increased time commitment associated with adapting to a new environment, e.g., watching videos ahead of time and possibly attending office hours to clarify material).

It would be interesting to expand upon this study by measuring learning outcomes. It is recommended for future research to not only look at overall test scores, but also specific problems that require students to think “outside of the box” and that could not be completed solely by memorizing the steps. This research would provide more definitive evidence of whether or not the flipped classroom is promoting the learning outcomes of the class.

For more information on this study, refer to [5].

Susan Hotle (shotle3@gatech.edu) is a doctoral student in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Laurie Garrow (laurie.garrow@ce.gatech.edu) is an associate professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and serves as president of AGIFORS.

References

1.     Camel, C., BSU EdTech Portfolio, http://camelportfolio.wordpress.com/
2.     Kirch, C., 2014, “Flipping with Kirch,” retrieved from http://flippingwithkirch.blogspot.com/
3.     Roshan, S., 2012 (a),  “Reflecting on the Flipped Classroom Through Student Feedback, The Daily Riff, http://www.thedailyriff.com/articles/
reflecting-on-the-flipped-class-932.php
4.     Roshan, S., 2012 (b). “The Flipped Class: Students Talk,” The Daily Riff, http://www.thedailyriff.com/articles/students-talk-about-the-flipped-class-survey-results-933.php
5.     Hotle, S. and Garrow, L.A., 2014, “The effects of the traditional, micro-flipped, and flipped classrooms on classroom attitudes and student success,” working paper, Georgia Institute of Technology.