Flip your classroom!

30 mei 2013 door ICTO TEAM
Angelo Simone (CiTG)

Het MSc-vak 'Introduction to slender structures' (CIE4190) als ‘flipped classroom’: door studenten voorafgaand aan de colleges zelf te laten werken aan het materiaal, kan de volledige lestijd worden gebruikt om hun inzicht te toetsen, hen te helpen bij het verwerven van probleemoplossende vaardigheden en waar nodig stof te verduidelijken.

Project description
The sage on a stage approach to teaching (lecturing) has been the predominant form of teaching for centuries. Lecturing, however, is not the most effective way to teach, even when techniques such as classroom exercises are deployed. Most students just passively check blackboard or slides and often drift away, not paying any attention to what is lectured. As a consequence, many students postpone their learning activities, mostly reproduction of previous exam solutions, to the end of the course. Our students might master the art of passing an exam thanks to their short-term memory, but their long-term knowledge retention is, in many cases, very poor. Such an approach might hinder the development of their high-level thinking skills due to the poor quality time spent on a subject.
Flipping the classroom, although not a panacea for these problems, might help. In a flipped classroom, students are exposed to new material outside of class, through video lectures or more traditional textbooks. The teacher can use the classroom time to focus on active problem-solving activities, clarify unclear concepts, and help the students in relating concepts. The lecture transforms into a sort of collective office hour during which students can interact with their teachers and classmates. In this way, students are encouraged to study the learning materials more actively.

The main purpose of this project was separating learning activities that do not necessarily need teacher support (remembering, understanding, applying) from those that might require teacher support (analysing, evaluating, creating). To achieve these objectives, two complementary goals were defined:

  1. Compelling students to start studying early, ideally lecture-by-lecture.
  2. Using classroom time to stimulate students in learning or improving problem-solving skills. 

There are several ways to flip a classroom. My current strategy for the course “Analysis of Slender Structures” (CIE4190) comprises video lectures, collaborative PDF annotations, lecture notes, homework, classroom exercises, and class meetings. A typical workflow is as follows:

  • Students are invited to work on the lecture material by themselves, at home and prior to the lecture. This implies watching a video, reading the lecture notes and doing some homework. 
  • Collaborative annotations on lecture notes and homework assignments are used to communicate doubts about the lecture notes or the homework. 
  • During the class meetings (what used to be the traditional lectures) all annotations are discussed using a tablet connected to a projector. 
  • When all doubts have been cleared and all extra questions have been answered, the students are invited to work on some extra exercises – a tad more complex than the homework assignments – and to discuss their approaches with their peers. 
  • A final discussion, which usually implies a plenary discussion of solution strategies, ends the class meeting. 

Figure 1. Annotations in NB (click to enlarge).

Figure 2. Sample video lecture.

At the end of the CIE4190 course in October 2013, I handed out an evaluation form. The answers to yes/no questions, based on 48 course evaluation forms, are summarised below.

Flipped classroom

  • Is this a valid approach?
    yes = 79%, no = 19%, I do not have an opinion = 2% 
  • Would you have preferred to have the entire course organised in this way?
    yes = 44%, no = 52%, I do not have an opinion = 4% 


  • Did other students post questions that you also could have asked?
    yes = 88%, no = 2%, I do not have an opinion = 10% 
  • Did you find the questions interesting and appropriate?
    yes = 81%, no = 8%, I do not have an opinion = 11% 
  • Did you find the comments helpful?
    yes = 75%, no = 9%, I do not have an opinion = 17% 

Video lectures

  • Did you find the videos posted on Blackboard effective?
    yes = 67%, no = 21%, I do not have an opinion = 12%

Tips for colleges

  • Creating the first video lectures took me quite some time. A good script can make a difference.
  • Be prepared to adapt the class meeting discussion to the content of the annotations. Although I do no longer prepare my lectures, I have to be ready to answer all sorts of questions and steer the discussion towards what I believe is relevant. 
  • Pay attention to the reward/recognition scheme. Although students should be mature enough to recognise the value of class discussion and annotations, a smart reward/recognition system might improve their activity during class and the the quality of their annotations. 

More information

Teacher: Angelo Simone (CEG); email: a.simone@remove-this.tudelft.nl
Year: 2013-2014

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