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Why This Flip Wasn’t a Flop: What the Numbers Don’t Tell You About Flipped Classes

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

PBL and Flipped Classrooms in Civil Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Heather Noel Fedesco Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Ph.D. Purdue University, Brian Lamb School of Communication; Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Purdue University, Center for Instructional Excellence

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Cary Troy Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Cary Troy is an associate professor in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering. His research focuses on environmental fluid mechanics, physical oceanography, and Lake Michigan hydrodynamics, as well as innovative and effective pedagogical techniques in large engineering courses.

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This paper details the conversion of a large, required Civil Engineering fluid mechanics course into a more student-centered, active learning-oriented course through the flipping of one lecture per week. In the flipped class, students collaboratively solve homework problems in groups while receiving “expert” feedback from instructors and TAs. To offset the lost lectures, some course material that has been delivered in traditional lectures has been placed online in the form of short videos and textbook readings, with low-stakes quizzes for assessment.

Student learning gains were quantitatively assessed by comparing quiz and final exam scores for three semesters (1 pre-flip and 2 post-flip). To maintain some element of consistency across the course transformation, a comprehensive, multiple-choice final exam has served to provide quantitative metrics on which the course improvement can be gaged. In addition, quiz questions remained relatively similar across semesters. One-way ANOVAs revealed a statically significant difference on quiz performance, with post-flip students performing better than those in pre-flip semesters. In addition, students in the final iteration of the course transformation significantly outperformed previous students on final exams by about 7%.

Taken together, the numbers suggest that the process of flipping a large fluid mechanics course is associated with small but positive improvements to quiz and final exam performance. However, it is best to rely on other indicators beyond course performance in order to more accurately depict the impact of a course transformation. To supplement the results of the quantitative analyses, student comments about the course and instructor observations of the transformation implementation were assessed. Students found the work sessions to be very effective, enjoyed collaborating with peers and the instructor, and thought the online videos were helpful. The instructor indicated that the benefits of the flipped class include the following: heightened student engagement during class periods; greatly increased instructor awareness of student perceptions, challenges, personal issues, and conceptual bottlenecks; eventual reduction in instructor preparation time; improved instructor-student relationships; and a better focus on more important course objectives.

Fedesco, H. N., & Troy, C. (2016, June), Why This Flip Wasn’t a Flop: What the Numbers Don’t Tell You About Flipped Classes Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27203

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