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Flipped Classroom: A new way to solve old problems?

Dr. Anthony Dove prepares to teach in a novel flipped class

Radford University Assistant Professor of Mathematics Anthony Dove is exploring the teaching/learning relationship using technology and "flipping" the flow of traditional student-faculty interaction.

For many at Radford University and elsewhere, the educational experience can be boiled down to teacher attention and interaction on behalf of the learner.

Radford University Assistant Professor of Mathematics Anthony Dove is exploring that relationship using technology and experimenting with a different blend of student-faculty interaction. Through research and experimentation into a flipped classroom model for his students, Dove is hoping to develop a setting to calm nerves and improve engaged learning.

"In math over the last 20 years there has been a big push for reformed teaching," says Dove. "When one looks at the numbers of students with math anxiety, it is obvious that we cannot continue with the old model and need to find a way to help engage our students."

Using brief videos of the core material derived from his traditional class lectures, Dove posts them online where his students access them at their convenience. "They can pause to gather their thoughts, rewind and review the material," said Dove. "Then, in class we can spend time working on solving math problems using the concepts explained in the videos."

Dr. Anthony Dove teaches in the flipped classroom

Dove's preliminary research indicates that the""flipped" model could have a positive influence on math proficiency.

By "flipping" or reversing the traditional class lecture/homework model, Dove has found that students absorb the material presented better on their own time. In addition, both students and teacher can utilize class time working through problems rather than trying to solve them at home alone. "Students actually spend a lot of time helping each other, increasing their own aptitude," he added.

Dove likes being freed up to spend his time in class working with students to assist their progress rather than being "on stage" presenting a lecture. Dove records his lectures using a webcam and simple program on his laptop computer. “It really only takes a few minutes to create and post the videos, freeing my class time for direct interaction," he said.

Early results appear positive  . . .

His preliminary research indicates that the "flipped" model could have a positive influence on math proficiency. "In a comparison between my traditional Math 111 students with in-class lectures vs. the flipped class, scores were about eight points higher for those who took advantage of the videos at home and in-class hands-on work," he said.

The classroom experience is further enhanced through the arrangement of seating into group "pods" that encourage participation and interaction among students rather than a traditional auditorium style layout. Dove said that students appear to feel comfortable seeking assistance from each other due to the open nature of the class.

Ultimately, Dove thinks the program works because teachers receive feedback almost instantly as to the students’ understanding of the material presented and they can then provide additional assistance or review concepts. Students are also typically less frustrated because they have more assistance from faculty and their fellow students as they try to complete the assigned homework problems as opposed to struggling through them alone.

Since most of Dove’s students are elementary education majors who may teach math, the flipped class method has potential benefits for perpetuating the way generations teach and learn. The teachers learning in flipped classrooms could implement the techniques they experienced on behalf of their students. Access to online lecture videos could also help parents who want to be engaged with their children but don’t always feel comfortable with their current knowledge of math

 . . . and popular

The flipped class idea appeared to be popular among students who were surveyed by Dove following the semester. Less than five percent of the participants stated that they would have preferred a traditional class lecture model.

“The possibilities are endless as this material is out there not just for my students but the world,” said Dove, whose research in about flipped classrooms resulted in an award for “Best Paper” at  the recent Society for Information and Technology Education (SITE) 2013 conference.

Radford University is a comprehensive public university of more than 9,900 students. RU serves the Commonwealth of Virginia and the nation through a wide range of academic, cultural, human service, and research programs. Well known for its strong faculty/student bonds, innovative use of technology in the learning environment and vibrant student life on a beautiful 191-acre American classical campus, Radford University offers students many opportunities to get involved and succeed in and out of the classroom. The university offers 69 degree programs at the undergraduate level, and 21 master's programs and three doctoral programs at the graduate level. A Division I member of the NCAA and Big South Athletic Conference, Radford participates in 19 varsity sports—11 for women and eight for men. Since 2005, the university has secured approval and funding for nearly $300 million in capital projects, including both new construction and renovation.

Learn more about Radford University at www.radford.edu.

Oct 8, 2013
Don Bowman
(540) 831-7523
dbowman@radford.edu