Instructors often cite anecdotal case evidence that an active learning or flipped classroom approach increases the level of student engagement and gives students guided practice applying concepts. However, research into the effectiveness of achieving learning goals is lacking, and student perceptions of their own learning effectiveness has not been studied.
In this study, a flipped classroom approach was implemented in a third-year required biotransport course with enrollment of 94 students. Content was delivered electronically to students outside of class so that they could introduce themselves to key concepts and practice simple applications. In class, students solved quantitative and conceptual problems with an emphasis on synthesis and integration of ideas. Qualitative assessment tools were administered several times during the semester to probe student perceptions of the class activities and how each activity affected their learning. Assessments included anonymous surveys, reflection questions, recording of in-class student activities by an impartial third-party observer, and focus groups of students conducted by impartial third-party researchers.
Mid-semester student surveys (Likert scale or common response groupings) indicated that students who objected to the pedagogical design of the course were more adamant in their opinions that those who found the flipped classroom model helpful to their own learning. In focus groups held after mid-semester with 20% of students participating, students demonstrated awareness of both internal and external factors that contributed to their criticism of the flipped classroom model. Based on these results, detailed coding is in progress of student resistance to the flipped classroom model using the three categories of Seidel and Tanner (CBE-Life Sci. Educ. 12: 586-595, 2013).
Implementing a flipped classroom model in a large biotransport class presented challenges associated with complexity and novelty of content, design of activities for group work in class, and student resistance to a non-traditional classroom style. Despite demonstrating success on traditional summative assessments, analysis of student perceptions revealed that both social and extrinsic factors created unexpected barriers to learning that led to some aspects of student resistance. Thus, this study suggests that flipped classroom course design must consider extrinsic factors that create barriers to learning.
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