Asee peer logo

Evaluation of a Flipped Classroom in Structural Steel Design

Download Paper |


2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Tales from the Flip Side

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Brian J. Smith University of Notre Dame

visit author page

Dr. Brian J. Smith, Ph.D., P.E., is an associate teaching professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences (CEEES) at the University of Notre Dame. He is also a concurrent associate teaching professor in the School of Architecture (SoA) at Notre Dame. Dr. Smith teaches structural design courses within CEEES and SoA, as well as introductory engineering courses through the common First-Year Engineering (FYE) program. He was a recipient of the 2018 Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching which recognizes faculty members who have a profound influence on undergraduate students through sustained exemplary teaching.

visit author page

Download Paper |


During the Fall 2017 semester at the University of Notre Dame, CE40280 Structural Steel Design (a senior-level, structural engineering design course) was reformatted to follow a “flipped” classroom model. Flipped classrooms place greater emphasis on self-study for basic concepts to allow for more interactive, example-based learning within the classroom. By spending more time preparing for a class, students often find themselves spending less time working to complete required assignments; thereby, students “flip” the way they allocate their time. Further, time spent within the classroom becomes the second meaningful exposure point for a concept or topic (with pre-class preparation activities being the first exposure point). Therefore, students are one-step ahead when entering the classroom and attempting assignments, resulting in faster time to complete assignments and overall higher grades. The expectation was students would spend a similar amount of time studying for the course when compared to prior years, but allocate their time differently.

In the course, students were required to watch videos (averaging 15 minutes in length) prior to each lecture, with the videos focused on introducing concepts or theories in structural steel design and demonstrating how the American Institute of Steel Construction Manual codifies these concepts and theories for the purpose of design (i.e., lower level Bloom’s taxonomy objectives such as remember and understand). Time within the classroom was focused on the practical application of these concepts and theories through examples (i.e., higher level Bloom’s taxonomy objectives such as apply and analyze). Classroom time typically consisted of two components: “Discussion” and “Demonstration.” During “Discussion,” students were randomly selected to answer questions regarding major concepts within the videos, receiving class participation points for their answers in order to incentivize them to watch the videos. During “Demonstration,” analysis and design examples employing concepts shown in the videos were presented and solved. While the majority of the examples were instructor lead, most lectures required students to assist in finding solutions using the think-pair-share collaborative learning strategy, in which students think individually and share their ideas with classmates. These examples are a powerful learning tool and help students identify areas of weakness if they struggle while attempting to solve a problem.

When compared to the Fall 2016 semester (when the course followed a traditional or non-flipped classroom model), the “flipped” classroom model was far more successful. The amount of new course content (e.g., three 75-minute lectures on new topics), increased quantity of examples (e.g., 68 examples compared to 31 examples), and increased complexities of examples were substantial. Noticeable improvements were observed in student performance, in the form of higher grades (e.g., overall course GPA increased 0.24-pts), quality of questions and discussions during lecture, and ability to translate skills and knowledge from lecture to the design project. As a result, more challenging topics and concepts were introduced throughout the semester, resulting in students who were better prepared for the professional world. Finally, these course improvements were met with overwhelmingly positive feedback from the students, as indicated by the improved course instructor evaluations.

Smith, B. J. (2019, June), Evaluation of a Flipped Classroom in Structural Steel Design Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32762

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2019 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015