This paper investigates the impact of a flipped classroom pedagogy in a mechanical engineering fluid mechanics course at [university name omitted for anonymity] during Winter 2017 and Spring 2017. In both quarters, two sections of the fluid mechanics course were taught back-to-back by the same instructor; one section was flipped and the other was taught in a traditional lecture style. Both sections met twice a week for 75 minutes each. In the flipped section, the course material was divided into weekly modules with each module focusing on a different topic. Flipped classroom students completed a series of activities for each module, including watching videos prior to class, taking graded quizzes and ungraded self-assessment quizzes, and participating in an active learning competitive timed team exercise called a "Team Battle.” Students in the traditional lecture section also had access to the videos, but were not required to watch them; class time focused on learning new concepts through lecture and example problems. Both sections were assigned readings and homework problems through McGraw-Hill Connect platform as a prior study ([citation omitted for anonymity]) demonstrated its potential benefit in boosting student performance in the course.
The impact of the flipped classroom pedagogy on students’ academic performance and attitudes was assessed by comparing the flipped and traditional lecture sections’ performance on similar quizzes and exams, Connect assignments, concept inventories, psychosocial scales, and focus groups. In Winter 2017, the flipped section experienced much lower failure rates (17%) compared to the traditional lecture section (48%). Focus groups revealed that students enjoyed the flipped classroom experience, especially the Team Battles and abundance of example problems. In Spring 2017, the flipped section continued to experience much lower failure rates (6%) compared to the traditional lecture section (23%), and also rated the course much higher on surveys. Although individual assignments and exams tended to not reflect statistically significant differences, overall course scores were significant even when controlling for GPA in major, and major of student. The experimental groups experienced a greater growth in positive psychosocial variables during the quarters compared to the control groups – such as feeling more confident, supported, and successful, and rating the course more positively – which may provide a possible explanation for differences in overall course performance.
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