OOD IDEAS OFTEN EVOLVE INTO GREAT
projects when the right people come together. In the case of engineering Professor Nancy Lape, chemistry Professor Karl Haushalter and mathematics Professors Darryl Yong ’96 and Rachel Levy, what started as a conversation about a new teaching method soon morphed into one of the first controlled studies of the “flipped classroom” across disciplines. Unlike massive open online courses (MOOCs. See Page 25.), which push all learning online, the flipped—or inverted—classroom shifts only the lecture online and creates more time for student-instructor interaction and active learning in the classroom. Despite its popularity, educators have only begun to study whether the flipped approach improves learning outcomes. “As trendy as flipped classrooms are, there is surprisingly little evidence that it actually is effective in helping students learn or retain their knowledge better,” says Yong. Yong, Lape, Levy and Haushalter were recently awarded a three-year, $199,544 National Science Foundation grant to answer the question: Does flipped classroom instruction increase learning and retention?
The four professors test-drove the flipped model as a pilot program during the 2012-2013 academic year. Now, they plan to extend the program for three more years to scientifically study and quantify their results. Their project involves three courses—Chemistry of Living Systems (CHEM 182), Differential Equations (Math 45) and Chemical and Thermal Processes (E82)—taught in both the traditional and “flipped” format. Students have the same content, tasks and assessments and the same instructor for both the traditional and flipped versions of each course. Working together, the four professors determined how they would run their classes and how they would measure and evaluate results. They also developed hypotheses about potential learning outcomes. Yong and Levy even collaborated on filming their lecture videos since both teach Math 45. “This collaboration helped us all to think through the study design more deeply,” Lape says. “We are interested in seeing if this plays out the same way in chemistry as it does in math and engineering, or whether there is anything different about those disciplines.”