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Research: Flipped Learning for ESL Students Shows Potential

The use of the "flipped" model of instruction for English-as-a-second-language (ESL) college students can improve their autonomous learning skills, according to the results of a small research project that took place in Tomsk, Russia. The experiment was conducted by two researchers at National Research Tomsk Polytechnic University and the results were recently published in the International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning.

In the flipped classroom, the instructor asks the student to watch a recorded video lecture or talk, listen to a podcast, read an article or access other online resources prior to coming to class. Then class time is used, as the paper explained, "to focus more intensely on higher cognitive, group-based, project-based learning," including discussions for solving challenges and sharing their ideas.

In this case, flipped was tried out among four groups of 42 students who were taking courses on English for engineering. A control group took the same course using traditional instruction.

The results: The flipped approach allowed students to feel more confident and prepared when they came to class. They also tended to show better results on final exams compared to the students in the control group. The flipped group showed 28 percent higher results in the tests, which included reading, listening, use of English, writing and speaking tasks.

An even more important outcome, as the researchers reported, was that the students in the experimental group appeared to have "acquired a more independent learning culture."

The faculty participants implementing the flipped model faced several challenges, however, including:

  • The investment of effort and technology required to create the recorded lectures and other resources;
  • The transformation they needed to undergo in performing as subject experts to becoming the facilitators in the learning process; and
  • The realization that not every type of content or activity in a course is "flippable."

The three-page paper is available on the iJET Web site for registered users.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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