Students working in a classroom Photo courtesy of University of the Fraser Valley

A growing number of post-secondary classrooms are adopting the “flipped” learning model. This pedagogical style reverses the traditional model of lecture followed by assessment, by having students learn the fundamentals on their own time—through pre-recorded lectures or readings—and dedicating class time to applied exercises and discussions. Proponents of the model say it improves comprehension and retention by having students put theory into practice.

Unfortunately, many instructors find students are skimming pre-class content as a means to prepare for in-class exercises, rather than taking the time to comprehend the subject matter. As a result, many students come to class without understanding the fundamentals, leading to ineffective class discussions and exercises.

Fortunately, there are a number of strategies to mitigate this issue and improve the flipped classroom experience for everyone.

  1. Test initial knowledge
    At the beginning of the course have students complete a minimal or no-risk assessment to benchmark individual and overall levels of understanding. Not only does this provide instructors with valuable insights into at-risk students and key subject areas to focus on, it also helps students identify their strengths and weaknesses with the content at the beginning of the course.

  2. Outline clear learning objectives
    Identify the tangible knowledge students should exit the course with, and how each assessment outlined in the syllabus will help them attain it.

  3. Consistently assess
    Use a variety assessments to track student progress and understanding. For example, In addition to major assignments and examinations, schedule smaller assessments like weekly 10-minute quizzes or weekly discussion posts. Note that not every assessment has to be tied to grades; for example, you may have students break into small groups and assess their understanding by listening to their discussions.

  4. Use the data
    Flipped learning provides a steady stream of student information; make use of it by identifying macro and micro-level patterns and risks in the classroom. Share the data with students so they can see where they need to improve and adjust classroom exercises accordingly by focusing on topics most students struggle with.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also board member of the Canadian Public Relations Society and contributes as a communications researcher with McMaster University.