A core second-year chemistry module was taught in a traditional manner using lectures and tutorials.
The traditional teaching approach was focused very much on my qualities as a teacher, as a sage on the stage. I gave very little opportunity for the students show me how the approach problem solving. Learning is not a spectator sport. Students need to be an active participant in their learning and make what they learn part of themselves. There was also no mechanism to determine what the students did and did not know in a manner that reflected the entire class rather than the more pro-active students who would regular question me. This meant that my teaching was potentially disconnected from what the students needed to know in order to understand the concepts I was introducing and so succeed in my module.
Flipped classroom has become quite the buzz in higher education. It is an approach that falls under the umbrella of blended learning: blending online instruction with offline learning. In 2012, I implemented a flipped classroom approach and studied the effect of this implementation over the past 4 years. At the centre of this implementation was the use of technology to deliver content online and so repurpose contact time to put that content into context. Technology pervaded all aspects of implementation from the online foundational material, including interactive simulations and animations, to the online pre-class testing to the in-class learner response system. A highlight of the flipped classroom experience was the active learning approach taken in small class settings, during which students were required to put into practice the concepts learnt previously.
This implementation identified many significant insights, including a significant improvement in the student perception of online content transmission over traditional lectures, a large majority of students recognising the benefit of the active learning approach in improving problem solving skills and the importance of a peer learning environment, and the importance of online pre-class testing in helping to scaffold the assimilation of key concepts. Beyond the student perception of the learning environment and perhaps most importantly, this implementation also evaluated a statistically significant change in learning gain of the flipped classroom over the traditional approach (Cohen’s d = 0.59).