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The Impact of a Flipped Math Course on Peer Learners

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Mathematics Division Technical Session 1

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Paper Authors


Gianluca Guadagni University of Virginia

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PhD in Mathematics University of Virginia

Lecturer, Applied Mathematics, Department of Engineering and Society, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, University of Virginia.

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Bernard Fulgham University of Virginia

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Bernard Fulgham received his PhD in Mathematics in 2002, writing his thesis in the field of non-associative algebras with advisor Kevin McCrimmon. He began teaching Applied Mathematics at the University of Virginia in August 2004 and became a full-time Lecturer in 2006.

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We report some foreseen and unforeseen consequences that occurred since we started to “hybrid flip” our differential equations class for the School of Engineering. The “hybrid flipping” approach has the following structure: Class begins with a mini-lecture (10-20 minutes), then students tackle a worksheet in groups of 3 or 4 while the instructor and 2 or 3 peer learners [undergraduate teaching assistants, UTAs] roam the classroom, answering student questions. Our approach is inspired by a vast research on student-centered activities [3]. After six semesters, we have collected preliminary data that support the efficacy of the pedagogical method with respect to the standard all-lecturing approach used before 2013. In terms of students’ evaluations, we received comments ranging from the ecstatic joy to the deepest dis- approval. Indeed, there is a range of students who have clear expectations about a course in mathematics and are disappointed at our changes. In our paper we discuss improvements on the method and relationship with current research literature. The second part of the our project is an analysis of the impact of student-centered in-class activities on the peer learners [UTAs]. Our main idea was to employ undergraduate students to help us dealing with the many groups who need assistance during class time. While that was exactly what they did, they also become the bridge connecting instructor to student. 1) We knew that the helpers would provide more hands on deck, but we also discovered a fortuitous consequence: many students were more comfortable asking the undergraduates (rather than instructors) for help. Observing class activity, we noticed that students, who are often afraid of math teachers, were more likely to talk at first to one of their peers. Indeed, UTAs’ explanations were often more helpful than ours because, having taken the class so recently, they had perspectives on the material very similar to students. 2) This new form of engagement with students in the “hybrid-flipped” class had a significant impact on many of our undergraduate assistants, contributing to a) their engagement with mathematics even after they had completed their math courses; b) improving comfort and confidence in public speaking in general; c) collecting their thoughts and expressing them in a concise and clear manner; d) improving their ability to explain mathematical concepts; e) realizing different kind of understanding required to teach a subject than to be a student in a class. In the paper we will discuss and report in what measure the in-class experience has effected our UTAs’ personal growth, and how this experience has contributed to their approach towards careers in STEM. In particular, we will address the issue of how UTA experience can impact minorities and female students in our Engineering School. We will compare our results with the growing literature on peer learners, e.g. [1],[2],[4].

Guadagni, G., & Fulgham, B. (2017, June), The Impact of a Flipped Math Course on Peer Learners Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28973

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