Chaya Gopalan, PhD, FAPS
Associate Professor, Departments of Applied Health, Primary Care and Health Systems
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
The flipped classroom (FC) is a student-centered teaching method that is embraced by educators in recent years for several reasons. According to Bergmann and Sams (2012), FC accommodates students’ busy schedules, helps struggling students, and allows self-pacing. In this teaching method, students are exposed to content prior to class in the form of assignments and the class time is structured to include mini-lectures so that students have opportunities to ask questions and engage with teachers. Additionally, the instructors can also administer learning activities, such as quizzes and group work so that students can gain a much deeper understanding of the content when compared to lectures alone. Khan Academy is an example of a FC that can be utilized by students ranging from elementary to high school.
A similar situation is true in the higher education arena where FC is introduced in courses ranging from community college all the way up to the graduate level courses in a wide variety of programs and professions. However, it is unclear as to which level, in particular, would benefit from the FC model the most. Ideally, college freshmen are open-minded and are able to adapt quickly to the FC approach thus being better prepared for the rest of their college years. Nevertheless, in a study conducted in China, for example, Li (2018) found that many freshmen do not utilize pre-class assignments and therefore are not prepared for in-class activities. For some freshmen, FC is not a new teaching method because they experienced it in their high schools. Introducing FC in the third and fourth years of undergraduate education, once again, could be argued as either “too late” because they have not been exposed to FC thus far, or “most ideal” because these students are more mature and do their pre-class work more reliably.
Students’ experiences of the FC model can vary greatly. As part of an NSF-funded project, data collected from freshmen and sophomore STEM classrooms at a community college suggested that students’ perceptions, such as “learned more in the FC classroom” and “more engaged” were far less common when compared to the same level of students in a four-year institution. At the same time, when doctoral students entering a Nurse Anesthesia program were given a similar experience with FC, the response was overwhelmingly positive. On the other hand, for senior students in the Exercise Science program, their perception of FC was stronger than the freshmen-sophomore group but not as strong as that of the graduate students. Since the age of the freshmen-sophomore students at the community college varies considerably, assessing the most critical determinant can be challenging.
In summary, the students that achieve higher levels of educational experience seem to be able to utilize the FC method to the fullest extent. It must be noted that the majority of our students are experiencing FC for the very first time. Since this instructional approach demands regular study habits and time commitment while minimizing procrastination, students may take time to develop new learning strategies to be able to value their experience. Whether students respond similarly, provided they are exposed to FC classes more frequently across the curriculum, is yet to be seen.
Acknowledgements: Part of the data shared in this blog is funded by NSF-IUSE grant DUE – 1821664 “Examining Faculty Attitudes and Strategies that Support Successful Flipped Teaching”.
Bergmann, J., & Sams, A. (2012). Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. Eugene, Or: International Society for Technology in Education.
Li, Yi. (2018). Current problems with the prerequisites for flipped classroom teaching—a case study in a university in Northwest China. Smart Learning Environments, 5:2
Dr. Chaya Gopalan received her PhD in Physiology from the University of Glasgow, Scotland. Upon completing two years of postdoctoral training at Michigan State University, she began her teaching career at St. Louis Community College. After a short tenure at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, Dr. Gopalan joined the departments of Applied Health, Primary Care and Health Systems at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Her teaching is in the areas of anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Dr. Gopalan has been practicing evidence-based teaching where she has tested team-based learning methodology, case-based learning methodology and most recently, the flipped classroom. She has received several research grants in pursuing her research interests.