This Work in Progress paper describes the active learning techniques adapted in a first-year interdisciplinary engineering course at a research university in the southeast region. This study evaluates the effectiveness of a combined learner-centered pedagogical model: the flipped classroom model and the Jigsaw strategy (flipped Jigsaw), called “Flip-J”. Implementation of an active learning strategy such as this Flip-J technique allows for both acquisition of knowledge and applied learning pursuit that is focused on application, evaluation, analysis and synthesis of pertinent information. Freshmen-engineering students participate in a team-based design project curriculum in sections of up to 90 students with additional coursework for professional development. Students primarily learn about the engineering design process, including a variety of technical and professional skills on topics like computer aided design (CAD), 3D printing to memo writing and oral presentation.
Adapting the Flip-J technique encompasses both cooperative and collaborative learning strategies that are executable in four stages. The first stage is allocation of instructional materials, where a lesson module is divided into subsections identified by letters, and each student is assigned a letter and a reading assignment (to be completed outside of the classroom) that corresponds to the letter in the subsections. The second stage is formation of collaborative “expert” groups, where students with the same letter assignments sit together to discuss individual main points and to formulate more points pertaining to the reading assignments in stage 1. In the third stage cooperative Jigsaw groups are formed by randomly assigning a number to students while in their expert groups. The students are then directed to sit in a newly formed group consisting of peers with different reading assignments. The fourth stage focuses on reflection on instructional materials, where the instructor poses higher-order thinking questions to students to assess comprehension and clarify any misconceptions. The expert groups discuss lessons learned from the reading assignments, clarify any misconceptions, reinforce important concepts and lastly prepare a presentation to the Jigsaw group. The objective of the Jigsaw groups is to learn instructional materials from each expert member in the number group by actively listening, intentionally taking notes and asking questions for clarity.
An assessment of the Flip-J learning strategy may have shown an effective method for knowledge retention, promotion of student engagement and development of professional skills in freshman engineering course. The ability to synthesize thoughts and form collaborative solutions deemed practical with the implementation of this learner-centered model. Based on the midterm course evaluations, students reported that the Flip-J activities provided an opportunity to learn engineering concepts, foster team building, conduct interactive lectures, encourage creative thinking and helped strengthen their communication skills. Feedback from students also highlighted minor areas for improvement, such as time spent on letter groups versus number groups, and the opportunity to switch number groups in subsequent classes to allow more peer interactions. Corrective actions would be applied in forthcoming classes to reflect students’ feedback.
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