Probing the Inverted Classroom

A Controlled Study of Teaching and Learning Outcomes in Undergraduate Chemistry, Engineering, and Mathematics

Nancy Lape (Engineering), PI
Rachel Levy (Mathematics), co-PI
Darryl Yong (Mathematics), co-PI

An inverted, or "flipped," classroom reverses the paradigm of traditional lecture courses by delivering lectures outside of class -- by means such as videos or screencasts -- and using class meeting time for instructor-mediated active learning. This format has the potential to transform science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education by increasing student time spent with the most effective teaching techniques (i.e., varieties of active learning) without sacrificing material coverage or educational scaffolding. Many educators are beginning to flip their classrooms, but limited data on learning gains are currently available. With the rising popularity of teaching via online videos, there is an urgent need to assess the effectiveness of approaches that incorporate this technology.

The investigators are rigorously examining the impact of three instructors inverting two STEM courses, in engineering, and mathematics, by measuring student learning gains. The hypothesis is that increased student learning will arise primarily because of the additional time that students will have with instructors actively working on meaningful tasks in class. If this hypothesis proves true, it will have implications for institutions that are seeking to push more instruction online, including Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), where instructor-student interaction is limited. In addition, because this study involves three different disciplines, the results should be applicable across STEM fields and institutions.

The strength of the study design is threefold: (1) the use of direct assessment measures specific to each course/discipline, in addition to indirect assessment measures; (2) comparison of control and experimental sections offered simultaneously (to reduce student demographic variability) using the same instructor (to limit instructor bias); and (3) direct assessment of learning gains and application both within the course and in downstream courses to determine whether learning gains persist.

By elucidating the role of classroom inversion in STEM education, this study is aiding other STEM instructors in course design. By rigorously examining the effectiveness of the flipped classroom across two STEM fields and three instructors, the study is providing evidence-based recommendations to STEM educators via publications in peer-reviewed literature, online communities, and presentations at relevant conferences.

Please see slides, videos and resources from our January 2016 conference at the links to the left.