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Flipped Classroom: Taking the Radford Experience to the Next Level
For many Radford University students and alumni, the Radford Experience can be boiled down to faculty and staff attention and interaction to the benefit of all involved. This has traditionally been experienced in the academic setting where students find success with the support and direct participation of their faculty. Radford University Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Dr. Anthony Dove is taking the Radford Experience to the next level through his research and experimentation with a flipped classroom model for his students, which helps calm nerves and improves engaged learning resulting in rising test scores.
“In math over the last 20 years there has been a big push for reformed teaching” says Dr. Dove, who is in his second year at RU. “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.”
Dr. Dove creates brief videos of the core material from his traditional class lectures and posts them online where his students can access them at their convenience outside of the class. “They can pause to gather their thoughts, rewind and review the material” says Dr. Dove “then in class we can spend time working on solving math problems using the concepts explained in the videos.”
By “flipping” or reversing the traditional class lecture/homework model, Dr. Dove finds that students better absorb the material presented on their own time and then 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.” Dr. Dove is able to spend his time in class working side by side with his students to assist their progress rather than being “on stage” presenting a lecture. His research is showing that this model may have a rather dramatic influence on math proficiency. “In a comparison between my traditional Math 111 students with in-class lectures vs. the flipped class, scores were about 8 points higher for those who took advantage of the videos at home and in-class hands-on work,” states Dr. Dove.
The results are still somewhat in their infancy and Dr. Dove plans more extensive research during the coming academic year, but already it appears to be an effective and efficient model for success. He adds “It really only takes a few minutes to create and post the videos, freeing my class time for direct interaction.”
Dr. Dove further enhances the classroom experience through the arrangement of seating into group “pods” encouraging participation and interaction among students rather than a traditional auditorium style layout. Students appear to feel comfortable seeking assistance from each other due to the open nature of the class.
Ultimately, the program works because teachers receive feedback almost instantly as to the students’ understanding of the material presented and can provide additional assistance or review some of the concepts introduced in the video. Students are also typically less frustrated because they have more assistance from faculty and their fellow students as they try to complete the assigned problems as opposed to trying to struggle through them alone during homework.
Since most of Dr. Dove’s students are elementary education majors who may teach math to their students following graduation, the flipped class method has potential benefits for generations to come as these future teachers will have less anxiety about their personal proficiency with math and could employ some of the same techniques they experienced. Having online videos of these lectures also helps parents who want to be engaged with their children but don’t always feel comfortable with their current knowledge base as their last math class was likely more than a decade ago.
The flipped class idea has proven popular among students who were surveyed following the semester with less than 5% of the participants stating that they would have preferred a traditional class lecture model. Dr. Dove’s research has resulted in an award for “Best Paper” at SITE 2013. He currently has multiple papers under review for publication in national journals and is pursing grants to continue finding ways to improve teaching and learning in the flipped classroom. “The possibilities are endless as this material is out there not just for my students but the world” says Dr. Dove.