Re-engineering an engineering course: How flipped classrooms afford transformative teaching, learning, and workplace competency

Research Team: Mira Peter and Elaine Khoo

Project Dates: 2015 - 2017

Partnerships: Faculty of Science and Engineering, The University of Waikato

This project builds on, and extends the team's research on, threshold concepts. It explores how an extended flipped classroom model can enhance student learning of threshold concepts in a mandatory first year electronic engineering class. The team will follow students into the workplace to explore how their mastery of threshold concepts and their learning about what it means to think and act as electronic engineers translates into their workplace competency. The project will address major gaps in New Zealand tertiary education research to demonstrate how an ICT-supported flipped classroom model affords in-class and workplace learning of transferable learner-practitioner 21st century competencies.

Project Update Flipped

In a flipped classroom, lecture materials are used as take-home tasks so that the lecture–student class contact time can be devoted to addressing students' questions and problem solving. In this project the flipped class model aims to provide more flexibility for lectures and students to partake in discussions and collaborative and guided problem solving activities to address student misconceptions and support the mastery of threshold concepts (TCs)—i.e., concepts that students need to master in order to think and act like a subject specialist.

What has changed?

An opportunity exists for the lecturers to teach the same course in an intensive 6-week period during November–December (T-semester). The lecturers are keen to refine and implement some of the recommendations from the findings thus far. Additional data that will be collected from the T-semester student cohort will contribute to further refinement of the flipped class in semester A 2016.

What is new?

Thus far, the emerging findings of significance point to the need to: motivate and reinforce students' video watching before coming to class; provide additional support for students to ask questions arising from the video watching; and make more coherent the connection between the various course elements (i.e., videos, labs, lectures, e-tutorials) to better support student learning.

Project HighlightsFlipped Team

The team was invited to be involved in a workshop for a group of 15 academic staff members from Zhejiang University City College (ZUCC) and 10 Hebel University of Science and Technology (HEBUST) staff members. The focus of the programme was for the academic visiting staff members to improve their capacity to teach in English and to gain appreciation of the pedagogy used at Waikato University and across New Zealand with special emphasis on interactive pedagogies. We will be sharing our experience and practice with threshold concept-based flipped classroom model of teaching with this group.

What was unexpected?flipped2

  1. The course lecturer had to repeatedly remind students to use the online tutorials to practice solving problems. At the time of quiz 1 only 40 out of 145 students have completed all four (4) sections covered in the quiz.
  2. In addition not all students were watching videos required for the given class/lab and of those students who did watch them, not all watched all recommended weekly videos. This kind of behavior can be equated to that of students not attending lectures.

What is next?

Refinement of the ideas for our flipped class intervention in T semester and the following year's A semester will continue. The first lecturer who has flipped part of his lectures this year will be creating additional videos in August to be ready for T semester.

Publications and Project Outputs

The team were invited to present in April their work at the Teaching Network—a part of The Professional and Organisational Development Unit at The University of Waikato which focuses on building organisational capacity and individual staff capability to enable the University to achieve its strategic goals. The topic of the workshop was: Threshold Concepts: How can they help us in our teaching? Their work on threshold concepts (Mira Peter) and learning in the flipped class (Jonathan Scott) environment, elicited a lively discussion during the workshop.

The team were also invited to present their work on flipped classrooms and threshold concepts at TEMS 2015 Autumn Seminar Series sponsored by the Technology, Environmental, Mathematics & Science Education Research Centre. TEMS seminars usually feature the research work of TEMS and affiliated staff, but the organizing committee expressed their interest to hear about flipped teaching.

The team also took part in the Digital Learning Symposium hosted by TLRI and WMIER, the University of Waikato on the 18 June 2015. This showcased the work of TLRI projects and gave an opportunity for researchers to share their work in the digital teaching and learning area, and to consider future directions for research.

This two year project has been funded by the Teaching & Learning Research Initiative (TLRI).