BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT
Blended, flipped, and semi-flipped instructional approaches were used in various sections of a numerical methods course for undergraduate mechanical engineers. During the spring of 2014, a blended approach was used; in the summer of 2014, a combination of blended and flipped instruction was used to deliver a semi-flipped course; and in the fall of 2014, a fully-flipped approach was taken. Blended instruction aims to integrate technology-driven instruction with face-to-face learning and is often used to enhance the traditional lecture. With “flipped” instruction, students practice skills during class after viewing or/and reading lecture content beforehand. To directly assess these instructional methods, we compared multiple-choice and free response results from identical final exams. We did this for all students as well as demographic segments of interest to our research, including underrepresented minorities and transfer students. We uncovered several differences having medium to large effect sizes, suggesting that some degree of flipped instruction may have been more beneficial than blended learning for both lower and higher-order skills development. The students rated the classroom environment using Fraser’s College and University Classroom Environment Inventory (CUCEI). The three classroom environments were statistically similar with small effect sizes. However, there was a trend in lower ratings for the flipped and semi-flipped classrooms versus the blended classroom across the various environmental dimensions. This may indicate that blended instruction had the most desirable classroom environment. Based on an evaluation survey, only 38% of respondents preferred flipped instruction to usual methods, although 54% preferred active learning to lecture. In an open-ended question, the most frequently-stated benefits of flipped instruction involved enhanced learning or learning processes, and engagement and professional behaviors. These results aligned with our focus group results. This study is believed to be one of the first to compare these three modalities in a STEM course.
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