‘Flipped classroom’ makes STEM fun

On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Flinders University lecturers are rolling out innovative programs to engage all students.

For example, team-based learning is one of several teaching techniques used at Flinders to promote physics learning among students of all levels, including first-year physics students with mixed capabilities.

Associate Professor Maria Parappilly, Dr Sharmil Randhawa and Professor Richard Woodman describe the ‘flipped classroom’ model in the cited article ‘Feasibility and Effectiveness of Different Models of Team-Based Learning Approaches in STEMM-Based Disciplines‘ published in the leading Springer higher education journal Research in Science Education.

“We found that grouping students of mixed abilities together increases learning and  creates a significant and sustained positive impact on student learning,” says  Associate Professor Maria Parappilly, who recently acknowledged with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the Australia Day Honours for service to science education, and to women.

“This helps to reduce any barriers first year students face, such as if they haven’t done Year 11 and 12 physics.

“There is also a pathway to Physics Major through this intro-level topic which gives students opportunities to work independently, or as part of a group.”

The method fuses team-based learning (TBL) with just-in-time teaching, incorporating readiness assurance process, student groups and application activities.

The flipped team-based learning workshop offers more in-class time for problem-solving, also giving students the chance to check their knowledge gaps and progress through before and after quizzes.

Dr Randhawa, who used the method to teach the challenging topic of electronics with first-year engineering students says the TBL system helped improve higher test scores, more positive student attitudes, and higher levels of student persistence.

“The students reported that the group application phase of TBL was central to their learning,” she says.

“Sample student comments received for the best aspect of TBL include: ‘The group-based learning and tutorials was when I found myself gaining the most. The group‐based learning was definitely the most beneficial to me as it forced us to actually do questions unlike the lectures and tutorials’.”

Putting students in charge of their own physics learning is one technique developed by Associate Professor Parappilly, who developed a LEGO Physics course and also supports the STEM Enrichment Academy at Flinders, regular high school engagements, research oriented self-designed labs and STEM Women Branching Out initiatives – all helping more girls and women in science in South Australia.

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College of Science and Engineering