Flipped Classroom | Project Spotlight
Missouri State U Improves Learning Outcomes With Flipped Course
Missouri State University (MSU)
has implemented a flipped classroom model for its Introductory Psychology
course, resulting in dramatic improvements in student learning outcomes and
course completion rates.
In 2010, four-year public higher education institutions throughout the state
of Missouri embarked on an initiative of academic collaboration and course
transformation to improve student learning outcomes and reduce costs. As part of
this initiative, each institution committed to redesigning one large enrollment
course with academic problems such as poor learning outcomes or high DFW rates
(rates of students earning grades of D or F or withdrawing from the course).
In collaboration with the National Center
for Academic Transformation (NCAT), the universities engaged in a
competitive process to determine which schools would redesign which courses. The
competitive process was intended to ensure that each university redesigned a
different course — creating a pool of redesigned courses that universities could
potentially share with each other.
MSU was selected to redesign its Introductory Psychology course, with the goal of resolving a number of problems:
- Modest student learning outcomes, with approximately 30 percent
improvement between pre-test and post-test scores for the course;
- A DFW rate around 24 percent; and
- Significant "course drift," with up to 18 sections a year taught by many
different faculty members using different textbooks and vastly differing
The faculty members in the MSU psychology department developed the redesign
plan. "We did a lot of reading of the literature and we knew pedagogically we
wanted to break this course down and start over," said Danae Hudson,
associate professor of psychology. That reading led them to select a
flipped classroom model. "We really wanted that kind of model for our class,
where we basically had to force the students to be engaged with the material
because prior to this they weren't," she said.
Hudson thinks the term "scrambled class" better fits the model of MSU's
redesigned Intro Psych class. "We're flipped in that we assign homework and
technology-based activities, so [students] have to do their online work before coming
to class, and then in class we're able to focus more on activities,
demonstrations and some lecture. But it's very much activity-based because
they've actually done the work prior to coming to class and they're familiar
with the content," said Hudson.
A team of five faculty members worked through the summer to select a
publisher for the redesigned course. "We invited every big publisher to come in
and give us a presentation that summer, and we had a list of about 30 different
attributes that we would take into consideration," said Hudson. Some of those
criteria included individualized feedback on student performance, an
individualized learning approach and high-quality interactive PowerPoint
presentations. "We wanted technology that was going to give us the ability to go
in before class and get data on how the students were doing — what concepts they
were understanding or struggling with — so we could use that information to
tailor our class the next day," said Hudson. "In the end, it was unanimous that
Pearson was the way to go for
us," said Hudson.
Part of the transformation to the flipped classroom model involved
MyPsychLab, an online homework, tutorial and assessment tool from Pearson.
MyPsychLab provides individualized student data for instructors and
individualized learning for students, two of the main criteria on the
department's wish list. "I can see how much time students are spending in
MyPsychLab. I can see how many attempts they've made on their post-test and a
lot of other information that's useful for me as an instructor," said Hudson.
The tool also lets instructors assign a study plan for students. "They take a
pre-test, and based on their score it generates an individualized study plan for
them so they don't have to spend time working on concepts they already
understand," said Hudson.
MSU worked closely with Pearson to customize the textbook, MyPsychLab
software and study plan. "We have customized almost everything we can customize
to make it exactly what we want," said Hudson. "We had some very clear ideas on
what we wanted to do, and as a result, it has actually changed many aspects of
MyPsychLab itself because Pearson has pushed some of our changes out to
MyPsychLab is hosted on Pearson's server and integrated with MSU's
Blackboard learning management system.
Students purchase the textbook, which includes an access code for MyPsychLab.
They can access MyPsychLab through Blackboard, and instructors can transfer
grades from MyPsychLab to Blackboard.
MSU ran its first pilot section of the revamped course in the spring of 2012
and then spent the summer fixing the inevitable little glitches before rolling
out the full implementation in the fall of 2012. According to Hudson, they've
been refining it ever since. "We really have standardized the class," said
Hudson. "Now we have a team of Introductory Psychology instructors, and we do
everything as a team. We have a standard syllabus that everybody has contributed
to creating, so no one feels like they're just being told what to do, and we
have weekly team meetings. We feel like there's a lot of consistency in the
course now and I think students appreciate that."
The course transformation has paid off with improved student learning
outcomes and reduced DFW rates. According to Hudson, Introductory Psychology
students used to average about a 30 percent improvement in scores from the
pre-test to the post-test, but over the past four semesters of the redesigned
course, those scores now average 76 percent improvement. "We have more than
doubled our improvement in learning outcomes and significantly reduced our DFW
rate. It used to be around 24 percent and this last semester we were down to
18.2 percent, which is a significant reduction, and this is a much more rigorous
course now" said Hudson. "When you think about it in terms of dollars and
retention, that's pretty significant."
According to Hudson, response to the redesigned course has been
positive. "We've had a lot of great response from colleagues
about what we've done to the class and the kind of outcomes we've achieved," she
said. "Students love the course. They understand that engaging with the material
in this way has really helped them to learn and ultimately perform better on
Hudson thinks the flipped classroom model has helped her as an instructor,
too. "I feel like I'm freed up from the content," said Hudson. "I don't feel
like I'm tied to going through the content in class because I can check
MyPsychLab to see what content the students are understanding and what they've
already mastered and where I need to put my focus and my energy for that class
Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.