18 March 2019 • Gideon Wille
A flipped class makes Abboy happy
Abboy Verkuilen, Mechanical Engineering lecturer, stands as little as possible in front of the class. He stands in the class, among the students, while they work on projects. Because of this educational concept, the flipped classroom, the success rate has increased. “I notice that students really understand the material now.”
The idea of a flipped classroom is that lecturers no longer stand in front of a class and explain the material. The students study the material at home at their own pace and work on the material in the class, while the lecturer coaches them as a process supervisor. This working method is possible through technical progress, for example because the lectures are on video and students watch them at home. This is an example of blended learning.
Doing a quiz
Abboy doesn’t use video, “It takes a lot of time to make a good video”. The curriculum is on Blackboard and the students then have to do a quiz to test whether they understand the material correctly. There are thousands of questions in the quiz databank and the students can do the quiz as often as they wish. “To encourage the students to do the quiz, it counts in part towards the final grade”, says Abboy. “Before the lesson, I look at the quiz results so I can see which students have problems with what.”
Based on that knowledge, Abboy starts each lesson with a short lecture lasting no longer than 15 minutes, in which he repeats the quiz questions that didn’t go well. Students can also write the things they had trouble with on the whiteboard and he goes through them. Then the most important part of the lesson starts: the workshop where the students work in groups on a problem. Abboy: “I walk around, answer questions and give tips. I show them how I would do it, as a professional.”
Abboy enjoys this different role in class. “I am no longer standing there as a lecturer theatrically relaying information. I stand there as an engineer coaching students to do engineering things. It is more challenging for me, because we work on all kinds of open-end problems. Students come up with solutions I have never thought of. That opens up new perspectives for me, too.”
The students do have to get used to it. They can no longer sit back in their chairs. “They say: You are the lecturer, so you should tell us how the world works. They are more used to the traditional situation, where someone gives ‘frontal instruction. Now they have to actually do something. It’s only subsequently that they enjoy having the space to take responsibility.”
Abboy had to conquer other obstacles too. “It doesn’t work right away but that’s the case with all subjects that you design for the first time. You mustn’t expect too much at once, for example, it takes time to create good quiz questions; we only started with the workshops the year after that. I now also apply blended learning to other subjects and have a better view of what is and is not possible. One difficulty was gaining confidence in what would and would not work. I was worried the students wouldn’t do the preparatory work, or would only half do it. Because if they didn’t do it, what would I do during the workshop?
That concern was unfounded, the students are enthusiastic. “I have kept track of it, and participation is up by 30 per cent compared to the previous year. The final grade is also up by a full point.” And if that’s not enough: the success rate increased from 60 to 80 per cent. Abboy: “I notice that students really understand the material now and that they haven’t forgotten it 6 months later.”
If you would like to know more about the flipped classroom or other forms of blended learning, then you are welcome to attend the blended learning weeks from 25 March to 18 April. The programme is listed as a course on Blackboard. More information on the intranet.
How do you do it?
How do you do it? This is the major question that gets addressed in this series known as ‘best practices’. Each time, a lecturer or member of staff at THUAS provides a real-life example. How can you embed global citizenship in your teaching? Or how can you encourage long-term students to graduate? It’s a good way to learn from each other and make our education that little bit better.