Students present research at international higher ed conference
Radford University students Jessica Mundy and Matti Hamed, along with Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research & Scholarship (OURS) Joseph Wirgau, recently presented at the ninth annual Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy.
At the international conference, held this year on Feb. 15-17 at the Inn and Virginia Tech & Skelton Conference Center, professors and students demonstrated effective instructional practice and disseminated the latest research aimed at improving the quality of higher education.
The Radford trio said they interacted and exchanged ideas with institutional representatives from across the United States, including Duke University, N.C. State and the University of Georgia, as well as participants from Turkey and Afghanistan.
Mundy, a sophomore English major, and Hamed, a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in secondary education for teaching biology, have been researching with Wirgau the concept of flipped classrooms. Over the course of the three-day conference, they presented, shared posters and participated in a roundtable discussion on the out-of-classroom learning experience.
Flipped classroom concept
As stated in their research abstract, "The flipped model class provides lecture content outside of class time, typically through video, and leaves class time for active learning, concept application, and team activities. This type of active learning not only maximizes student-to- faculty interactions but also peer-to-peer interactions. While there are many potential benefits to flipping a class, there are also many obstacles, including technology and time barriers to making videos and motivating students to not only watch the videos but stay attentive throughout entire videos."
There are a few flipped classroom examples at Radford, including a course taught by Wirgau, who is also an associate chemistry professor. Wirgau records himself delivering short lessons on YouTube. His students are assigned to watch the videos before class time, and during class, they apply what they have learned, he said.
"In a traditional classroom setting, the professor usually spends the entire time lecturing," Wirgau said. "A flipped classroom lecture allows for more interaction between the students and more time for application of what they're actually learning."
To better understand the concept, Hamed and Mundy, who have both been active in Radford's Accelerated Research Opportunities (ARO), have been conducting research for about a year-and-half.
"It's been a lot of literature review and classroom observation," Mundy said. "We are looking at survey data, success in the classroom and how students did on tests."
Mundy said her favorite data to study was the YouTube video analytics.
"You're looking for trends, so how many hits the videos get," Mundy said. "For example, the number of hits would spike close to test time. They dropped drastically over Thanksgiving break."
The undergraduate research experience
Mundy has aspired to be an educator since elementary school and was excited to participate in educational research as an undergraduate student.
"I think that's what sets Radford University apart. We have mentors, like Dr. Wirgau, who set aside time specifically for you," Mundy said. "I don't think I would have gotten this opportunity anywhere else."
She may have never had the chance to present at the Higher Education Conference, either, she said.
The experience was overwhelming but exhilarating for Mundy, who attended the conference last year, but just as an observer.
"This one [conference] was much more me wanting to see how I fit in with educators," Mundy said.
She got that opportunity as she spoke to a standing-room-only audience about their flipped classroom research.
"It was incredible," she said. "People kept coming up to me and telling me I did really well on stage or 'I really liked your work.' They even brought up our research at other presentations. I felt like I had really made it."