The Flipped Classroom and Peer Instruction

This is a guest post by Steve Bentley, who is the project lead for the ‘Flipped Classroom’ project. This is one of the 2013  Teaching and Learning Innovation Projects funded by TALI. This is the second of 11 guest posts by TALI funded project leaders. 

Our project was inspired by a conference presentation by Prof Simon Bates and Dr Ross Galloway of the University of Edinburgh at the 2012 HEA STEM conference in which they shared the remarkable success that they had experienced using the Flipped or Inverted Classroom technique and Peer Instruction.  This project aims to discover whether these successes can be replicated here at Huddersfield.

The “flipped classroom” is a form of blended learning which addresses some of the shortcomings of the didactic lecture.  Criticism of lectures is not a new phenomenon, Graham Gibbs wrote a well known paper entitled “Twenty Terrible reasons for lecturing” in 1981 before many of our students and some of our lecturers were born.  Yet lectures persist as the primary form of knowledge transfer, and continue to facilitate retention and recall of the knowledge rather than the higher orders of Bloom’s Taxonomy such as analysing and evaluating.

In the flipped classroom, the lecture is replaced as the primary means of knowledge acquisition by directed private study.  Students are provided with a selection of material such as notes, screencasts and pencasts that have been produced by the module tutors, and videos, journal articles and book chapters from third parties.  Students complete a five question multiple choice test on the material, which could form a small component of the summative assessment as an incentive for students to engage with the material and evidence that they have done so.  Bates and Galloway used a free-response question inviting the student to reflect upon the areas where they feel there are gaps in their understanding.  This was not assessed but used to inform the content of classroom sessions.

A study by Wingate implies that students with lower entry qualifications are less well equipped to deal with the self-paced study that this approach will require.  Bates and Galloway are working with students with three A grades at A Level, whereas the Extended Science Degree at Huddersfield is designed for students with few formal qualifications.  We will be delivering topics on the Extended Degree and our Nutrition and Health courses using these techniques to evaluate the effect on student achievement and draw comparison with the University of Edinburgh study.

The timetabled lecture slot is still used for contact time, but in a more interactive way, with a presentation from a lecturer that is based around the outcomes of the reading quiz (both the response to the multiple choice questions and the reflection), stimulating discussion rather than knowledge transfer.

The discussion is facilitated using Peer Instruction , a technique pioneered by Eric Mazur at Harvard.  Students answer a multiple choice question using voting pads.  Without seeing the outcome of the vote, students are asked to find somebody else nearby who chose a different answer and to explain to each other why they chose their particular answer.  In a second vote – which is revealed to students –significantly more students have reached the correct answer in the majority of cases.

This short peer-to-peer conversation requires students to become active participants in the session rather than passively consuming a didactic lecture.  Defending their answer to a peer and considering the other student’s reasoning promotes a much more detailed understanding than simply hearing it explained in a lecture.

Mazur is a physicist and Peer Instruction’s history is rooted firmly in the scientific disciplines.  We shall be collaborating with the Business School to see whether these techniques are successful with a Hospitality Management module. So far we have been undertaking preparatory work, redesigning lecture materials and obtaining a voting pad system (we selecting the TurningPoint system because it was recommended by several prominent facilitators of Peer Instruction as being well suited to this system).

Some early experimentation with the flipped classroom aspect (not Peer Instruction) with a group of final year students has had encouraging results, with high levels of participation in the online test and meaningful feedback from students.  Chemistry lecturer Dr Daniel Belton commented “It has been a very interesting and rewarding experience from my point of view.  The students seemed to really engage with the material when their responses where shown in the presentation (all sat up and on the edge of their seats!)   I learnt from the process since I had to look up certain information.  This then fed into the lecture and enriched the module content because we covered things not normally included in the lecture course.”

The project team has just taken delivery of a set of 160 voting pads and we’re excited to start experimenting.

The project team is: Steve Bentley, Dr Rob Allan, Dr Jane Bradbury, Dr Deborah Pufal, Fiona Moffat, Dr Daniel Belton.


CAPTION: A Wordle representation of Hospitality Management students’ responses to a reading quiz question “What do you consider to be British Food”.  This formed the basis of an engaging classroom discussion.


About talintuoh

Supporting and connecting colleagues to develop inspiring and innovative teaching and learning
This entry was posted in Applied Sciences, Funding, Innovation projects, Learning experience, Research, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Flipped Classroom and Peer Instruction

  1. Pingback: #ocTEL Introduction | A Learning Journey - Steve Bentley

  2. Pingback: Flipping the classroom – for Staff Development | A Learning Journey - Steve Bentley

  3. Pingback: Developing The Real Skill | el granadero

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