When the student assumes the role of the teacher: the flipped classroom experience

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The fundamental premise of flipped learning is that theoretical knowledge is acquired at home, while in the classroom the activities give the student a more active role.

Since John Bergmann and Aaron Sams implanted in 2007 the foundations of what today is known as flipped learning, the number of teachers who have applied this pedagogical proposal has increased. The fundamental premise of flipped learning lies in the fact that theoretical knowledge is acquired at home, while in the classroom, the activities carried out are those in which the simultaneous presence of the student and the teacher is needed. The advantages of this methodology have been widely documented: better use of classroom time, the student acquires a more active role and favors personalized learning.

Although in less crowded environments its use is widespread, in the context of higher education there is still a long way to go. Among the leading causes are the lack of time, lack of resources and teacher training, and, the lack of awareness (or habit) on the part of the students of the hours of study that must be done at home. Although these factors suppose a significant barrier when trying to flipped learning, a good strategy is making students see the advantages of this methodology, combined with the use of the new technologies, to obtain its vote of trust and be able to propose activities of this nature.

Flipped learning allows teachers to take better advantage of classroom time, to give students a more active role and to favor personalized learning.

The case described below reports the experience of flipping the subject ‘Service Management,’ taught at the Faculty of Computational Sciences at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. This subject, which is part of the curriculum of the Master in Innovation and Research in Informatics, is organized into nine modules. The sessions are weekly and 3 hours long. From the experience of the last four years, specific issues were detected in the first part of the class: the theoretical explanations became dense, there was little participation of the students and the learning results (note of the theoretical exam) were low. From the analysis of the evidence, it was concluded that the problem relied on how the theory was presented. Therefore, an intervention was designed to improve not only the previous weak points but also to involve the student more in his learning process. In other words, avoid memorization and instead, enhance the understanding and the applying of knowledge.

In groups of 3 or 4 students, the teacher assigned a module of the syllabus. For this module the students had to:

  1. Review the reference material (texts, videos, news, scientific articles...)

  2. Prepare a 15-minute presentation, in which the most relevant points of the study material are collected.

  3. Prepare an exercise (30 minutes long) in which you have to apply the theoretical concept (s) of the module.

Both the presentation and the exercise had to be delivered to the teacher within the previously agreed period. Once the documentation was received, the teacher supervised the material and gave feedback to the students. During class, the students themselves explained the theory to their classmates and then directed an exercise they had proposed. Once finished, the exercise was solved on the board. This face-to-face session ended with a recapitulation by the teacher. During the second half of the class, other practical cases were resolved, in this case, designed by the teacher.

By involving students in their learning process, we avoid memorization and instead, enhance the understanding and the application of knowledge.

Apart from deepening the technical knowledge, this new approach pursued the competence development of the students. Specifically, their capacity for synthesis, critical thinking, information research, teamwork and communication skills.

To determine if the new proposal was effective, two indicators were used: the theoretical exam notes and the results of the satisfaction surveys. From the analysis of these pieces of evidence, it is clear that the exam grades have been improved. But there is a fact even more revealing: it has been observed that the students obtained better notes in the exam questions that referred to the assigned module (the module worked at home). This result corroborates that the more significant the learning, the more it is internalized (deep learning). The results of the satisfaction surveys have also shown encouraging data, in particular, that students positively value the new methodological proposal, which they believe helps them improve their learning and contributes to increasing interest in the subject. Likewise, they appreciated the effort made by the teacher, especially in the organization and structuring of the course, the quality of the reference material and the feedback provided during the preparation of the presentation and the exercise.

In conclusion, it could be said that the new proposal has proven to be effective and has fulfilled its purpose. Although flipping the traditional way of teaching requires time, the satisfaction that comes from seeing students committed to their learning is something that is priceless. In other words, the initial entry barriers are significant, but subsequent satisfaction is even greater.

About the author

Jasmina Berbegal-Mirabent (jberbegal@uic.es) is an associate professor at the International University of Catalonia. Her research focuses on the field of the economics of education, university-business collaborations and the application of methodologies.

Recommended bibliography

Bergmann, J., Sams, A. (2012). Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. International Society for Technology in Education.

Fulton, K. (2012). Upside down and inside out: Flip your classroom to improve student learning. Learning & Leading with Technology, 39(8), 12–17.

Prieto Martín, A. (2017). Flipped learning. Aplicar el modelo de aprendizaje inverso. Madrid: Narcea S.A. Ediciones.

Roehl, A., Reddy, S. L., & Shannon, G.J. (2013). The flipped classroom: An opportunity to engage millennial students through active learning. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, 105(2), 44–49.