Student-centered teaching employs active learning strategies that engage students in ways that meet their individual learning needs. When adapting from a teaching-centered pedagogy to a student-centered pedagogy, faculty must also make changes to the assessment strategies they use; student-centered teaching requires student-centered assessment. In addition to summative assessment that measures student learning and knowledge through traditional products such as exams, quizzes and papers, formative assessment evaluates the process of learning, and the experience of the individual student. Understanding this student experience can be extremely valuable to both the student and the faculty member, particularly when using a teaching strategy that is new to both.
This paper describes a qualitative action research project to learn about the student course experience and help the faculty improve the course. This project methodology uses a simple and efficient formative approach that incorporates strategic and continuous open-ended survey questions in optional feedback assignments to gauge the student experience across the course. Data were collected in the course learning management system (LMS) for multiple sections in a freshman Introduction to Electrical and Computer Engineering (first circuits) course using a flipped pedagogy across four years and with three different instructors. These assessments focused on identifying challenges to learning, or “Muddiest Points” and student perceptions about classroom strategies and general learning/academic concerns. Simply asking ”What can I do to help you learn better? What can you do to learn better?” helped students reflect on their learning behaviors, and in many cases, improved their experience throughout the course. This strategy provided an opportunity for students to take more responsibility for their learning and voice their feedback about the course. The assessments also helped the faculty member improve the course in real time. With this approach, the instructor also identified a number of learning bottlenecks, where a significant number of students were having problems. This very simple formative assessment strategy proved to be a powerful tool for creating a student-centered course. Findings from this study included providing the instructors: (1) a transparent map of the student learning processes; (2) evidence of changing perceptions about the flipped classroom across the course; (3) confirmation of the value of faculty student centered approaches; and (4) the revelation of lessons learned by reflecting students. Recommendations from students will also be discussed. It should be noted that this paper focuses on the student experience in what was generally their first flipped class, and (because they were freshmen) also one of their first college classes.
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