Post-lecture classes: why teachers at the University of Groningen should ‘flip’

Some teachers at the University of Groningen are skeptical about a way of teaching that is becoming popular in their institution.

This method, known as ‘flipped classrooms’, started taking place at the University of Groningen in 2013 in about 20 different courses. It requires students to study at home, watching video lectures previously recorded by teachers, in order to be prepared for the discussion of the theoretical part during the lecture itself. In flipped classrooms course objectives, methods and assessment are aligned.

However, this innovative active-teaching style method doesn’t fully convince all the teachers.

“Teachers need to be challenged during live lectures” argued Chris Coolsma, former professor of Public Administration and Law at the University of Groningen.

Students’ response is a crucial element in designing lectures. For example, students of “European Law” course had to answer multiple choice questions to test their understanding of a video clip. Teachers planned the classes activities, including peer discussions based on a certain question, taking into account these answers

By referring to the debate outcomes the teacher decides which topics are more difficult for students and, thus, need a further explanation.

“I think [this method] has a great potential but I would complain that students don’t grasp the opportunity” said Geramé Wouters, teacher of Dutch as a Second Language, who uses flipped classrooms in her course. She points out that most of her students don’t prepare for classes and they struggle to keep up. This tendency makes “good students become better and bad students become worse”.

“The good students will always be good, no matter what you do in as a lecturer” said Koos Winnips, advisor and researcher in ICT (Information and Communications Technology) and Education at Rug. The focus should shift from the “good” and “bad” students to the “middle group” that teachers can motivate by giving good lectures and interesting assignments.

The recent report “Flipped classroom at the University of Groningen – Sharing experiences” (written by dr. Winnips and Vincent de Boer, professor at the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences) reveals teachers’ opinion. 4 out of 6 teachers interviewed, who have taken part in the pilot project, believe that students who attended flipped classrooms after studying properly, had “a better understanding of the material and a deeper learning experience”.

Previous research gave positive outcomes of flipped classrooms method.

The Vice Dean at the University of North Carolina’s ‘Eshelman School of Pharmacy’ Russel Mumper, conducted a three-years study on a foundational pharmaceutics course on flipped classrooms effectiveness, from 2011 to 2013. During the first year, Mumper conducted traditional lectures, whereas in 2012 and 2013 he used the flipped approach. The results showed that, between 2011 and 2013, students’ performance on the same final exam improved by 5.1 per cent.

“[Students] can reflect on questions but they might want an answer immediately” pointed out another teacher.

“[Teachers] don’t answer immediately because students should become proficient in providing answers themselves” replied Winnips. “A lot of lecturers want to get rid of the idea that they provide the single answer”.

One thought on “Post-lecture classes: why teachers at the University of Groningen should ‘flip’

  1. I guess the outcome of such a different method depends strongly on the level and the motivation of the students. I am realising right now that last year, while following some doctoral courses at the University, we had a short course about classical migration theories. The professor wrote us an email, say 5 days before, asking to read carefully some 3 or 4 articles so that we would have talked about them in class. We were all quite skeptical, some of us really did not get anything out of that course.

    But guess where she was from? Groningen!


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