Student satisfaction in flipped classroom? Guidance, pedagogy, and a safe atmosphere

This new study discusses not the benefits of the flipped classroom for learning but what influences the satisfaction during flipped classroom approaches.

In short:

  • when they have systematic guidance on the teaching approach in use,
  • comprehensive understanding of both the content being taught and the discipline more generally, a
  • nd a safe learning atmosphere conducive to conversation.

From the press release:

Students are satisfied with flipped classroom when they have systematic guidance on the teaching approach in use, comprehensive understanding of both the content being taught and the discipline more generally, and a safe learning atmosphere conducive to conversation. Teachers also need to pay attention to the students’ technological skills and their own contact teaching skills, according to a new study from the University of Eastern Finland.

In traditional higher education teaching, the student attends a lecture where the teacher gives an oral presentation to teach about a particular subject. After the lecture, the student goes home to complete the assignments given by the teacher and reads the study materials to get ready for an exam. In flipping, i.e., the flipped classroom approach, it is the other way round. The principle in implementing the flipped classroom model is to give the student pre-class materials, which the student independently goes through in the requested manner, and deeper learning on the content is then achieved collaboratively in class with the teacher and fellow students.

Flipping has become increasingly popular internationally in recent years and the learning outcomes, while partly contradictory, have been good. Growing popularity has also led to more research on flipping, however, this is the first time that the success of the flipped classroom approach has been studied from the perspective of student satisfaction. The study involved more than 400 Finnish higher education students.

“Our study showed that it is highly important to explain the approach in use to the students at the beginning of the course. In other words, they need information on the teaching method, the study method and the intended learning outcomes. Another important factor is to guide the students in managing their time and to promote self-regulation,” says Erkko Sointu, Professor of Special Education at the University of Eastern Finland and the lead author of the study published by an international team of researchers.

The students also need concrete evidence of the theories drawn from their discipline.

“The teacher should also take into account the technological skills of their students. One of the key factors in contact teaching is to create a safe atmosphere for the students to ask things, question the contents discussed and find explanations during the class collaboratively with their teacher and fellow students,” Sointu says.

Tips for successful teaching in the post-COVID-19 era

Though the research data was compiled during the academic year 2016-2017, the findings are highly relevant in our current situation. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised discussion on the challenges of distance learning and studying remotely, including the teachers and students getting tired of working alone. There is a lot of debate on the pros and cons of returning to “normal education.”

“We have seen the first real step towards blended teaching and learning during the time of the coronavirus pandemic. A better understanding of flipping and its key factors gained through our study provides teachers with the tools they need to successfully implement contact, distance and hybrid teaching.”

By taking account of the key factors, teachers are able to support the learning and well-being of students and apply the best practices of distance and contact teaching.

“My colleagues and I have started referring to flipping as cherry-picking as, rather than sitting in lectures listening to the teacher’s monologues, the flipped classroom approach gives students the opportunity to time- and place-independent study, to prepare for contact teaching using pre-class materials and technology, and then to deepen their knowledge in class.”

Abstract of the study:

Flipped classrooms have become widely adopted in educational settings (e.g., in higher education) worldwide. However, there is a need for more precise understanding of the ingredients for student satisfaction in a flipped setting. The aim of this paper was to investigate university students’ experiences of the factors that create a successful flipped course. Ten measures were used to investigate the hypothesized factors affecting satisfaction, which were chosen based on the results from previous flipped classroom studies and higher educational research. These measures were grouped into three dimensions: (1) pedagogical (five measures), (2) social (three measures), and (3) technological (two measures). Exploratory factor analysis was run to analyze the adequacy of the instruments. Results revealed that the factor structure was as expected and that the instruments measuring all ten factors of teaching and learning in a flipped classroom were adequate. Furthermore, confirmatory factor analysis was used to formally operationalize the hypothesized latent constructs, and to build a structural equation model for predicting the student satisfaction of a flipped classroom. In the end, seven factors were found to predict student satisfaction with flipped courses. The highest predictor was guidance from the dimension of pedagogy, and the second-best predictor was experienced teaching for understanding. The results, limitations, and conclusion are discussed in terms of key issues and the development of a flipped classroom pedagogical design for higher education.

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