Cycle 1 Data

What happened during cycle 1?

AR Focus statement

The focus of my action research project is student motivation and engagement in the classroom. Implementation of the flipped classroom model aims to address both of these concerns by freeing class time for more involved and intellectually stimulating activity.

Target audience

My target audience is my class of 18 high school Physics students. They are juniors and seniors attending an all-girls private high school in Los Angeles. One hundred percent of the graduates of this school go on to four-year colleges. All students already participate in a one-to-one laptop program and have Internet access at home.

Summary of cycle 1

Beginning the implementation process with my target audience…

My goal in cycle 1 was to implement the flipped classroom model in the purest sense—I generated videos or directed students to outside videos containing the content that I would normally have delivered in lecture, and the students were assigned to watch the videos online and fill out video notes sheets for homework. In class, students were assigned to complete the concept questions and homework problems that would normally have been assigned for homework.

My lecture videos averaged between 10 and 20 minutes long. When I generated my own lectures, I used Screenflow to record my writing at a SMART Board or on an iPad, and I used an external microphone to record my voice. A sample video lecture on the conservation of momentum can be viewed below.

The wealth of pre-made physics content available for free online meant that I could occasionally assign my students to watch videos generated by other individuals. One of these came from the Khan Academy on YouTube; others I found on dedicated educational physics websites.

I posted my video lectures on YouTube so that the students could access them conveniently from home or on campus, so long as they had Internet access. The students were instructed that they should fill out a corresponding worksheet as they watched each video. The worksheets were designed to be simple tools for determining whether or not the students viewed the videos; they did not contain any extension problems or questions that went beyond the scope of the video. Below is the video notes worksheet that corresponded to the Conservation of Momentum lecture video above.

After students had viewed the relevant lecture video, they would come to class and complete either a lab or textbook questions designed to assess their understanding of the video content. In most cases, the in-class assignment included some textbook reading. The students used a digital textbook rich in multimedia and interactive content published by Kinetic Books, and so reading assignments were typically more demanding and involved than they would be with a traditional printed text. Following the textbook reading, the students completed problems sets. Typically, I offered the students an option in terms of the level of difficulty. They could opt to complete the simpler problem set, or a more challenging set of fewer problems. By incorporating this element of choice and differentiated instruction, I hoped to reach my more advanced students and engage them with material.

During class, no instruction would be directed toward the group. I would circulate among the students, answering questions one-on-one as they arose. Students were allowed to work in small groups or independently, depending upon their preference. Most students collaborated in groups of three or four. Answer keys for the questions were provided online, so that the students could check their work as they moved through the material and self-monitor for any errors or misunderstandings. At the following class meeting, the students would be given a short 15 to 20 minute quiz based on the content from the previous class.

Reaction of the target audience

My students were initially intrigued by the opportunity to watch lectures as videos. I knew from previous (pre-Cycle 1 implementation) experience with the occasional worked-example problem videos that I made available to my students that they valued the chance to pause the videos, work problems on their own, and then take notes at their own pace. The students did, however, express dissatisfaction with the fact that they could not ask questions immediately upon arriving at them, given that they were watching the videos outside of class. The structure of our school schedule is such that I only meet with this Physics class two or three times each week; thus, any questions that arose really did have to wait to be answered.

I observed that most students with a high level of achievement in Physics pre-implementation did select to complete the more challenging problem sets, and that, on average, they asked more questions during class and interacted with each other more than they had pre-implementation.

My own reaction to implementation

Upon beginning implementation, my greatest fear was that the students would not make use of the time in class to complete their problem sets, ask questions, and deeply engage with the material. Indeed, the students who had been the least engaged during my pre-implementation in-class lectures tended to be the least engaged during the new time in class to work independently. This was not the case across the board, however, and I was pleased to note that this effect became less prominent over time, presumably as the students realized that what they did not finish in class would become their homework, and so their motivation to focus in class improved. My initial frustrations with implementation were mollified by this improvement.

Adjustments

During Cycle 1, I made no adjustments to the proposed timeline for my Plan of Action, nor did I modify the Plan of Action for Cycle 1 during implementation.

Data collection

Report the data

Most of my findings are based on data collected in my online pre- and post-implementation surveys of the 18 participating students.

Click here to view to pre-implementation or post-implementation student surveys.

Based on the students’ self reported progress in the flipped classroom, I found the following:

  • There was no significant change in the amount of time that students spent working on Physics outside of class.
  • Following cycle 1, there was a small decline in students who described Physics as their “most challenging” class (six students pre-implementation versus four students post-implementation), along with a small increase who described Physics as “about average” (three students pre-implementation versus six students post-implementation).
  • Following cycle 1, there was a moderate increase in the amount of time that students reported working with classmates on Physics.  On a scale from one to five, with one meaning “never” and five meaning “always,” students averaged 3.61 for time spent working with classmates pre-implementation, but 3.89 after Cycle 1.
  • Students reported a moderate increase in the amount of time they spent using the digital textbook after cycle 1. On a scale from one to five, with one meaning “never” and five meaning “always,” students averaged 3.22 for time spent using the digital textbook, but 3.50 after Cycle 1.
  • Following cycle 1, students reported a small decline in their engagement during Physics class. On a scale from one to five, with one meaning “not at all engaged” and five meaning “very engaged,” students averaged 3.94 pre-implementation, but 2.88 after Cycle 1.
  • Following cycle 1, students reported a small decline in their motivation to complete homework assignments for Physics. On a scale from one to five, with one meaning “not at all motivated” and five meaning “very motivated,” students averaged 4.00 pre-implementation, but 3.22 after Cycle 1.

Insight

Based on the data listed above, I can reach a few preliminary conclusions about implementation of the flipped classroom model. So far, the flipped classroom has not had an appreciable effect on the amount of time that students spend preparing for Physics outside of class; however, it has seemed to reduce the level of difficulty that students attach to the course. Students report that they understand Physics in a flipped classroom better in comparison to their other courses. This suggests that the flipped classroom model enhances student understanding in Physics.

The flipped classroom has increased the amount of time that students spend working collaboratively on Physics, and the amount of time that they spend using the digital textbook. These are not surprising data, since the new in-class assignments require collaboration and use of the text. Prior to implementation, these activities were recommended outside of class, but not monitored in any way by the instructor.

Students working in the flipped classroom apparently feel somewhat less engaged during class time, and less motivated to complete their homework assignments. These rather surprising findings challenge the effectiveness of the flipped classroom model, and they contradict the findings of Baker (2000) and Lage, Platt and Treglia (2000), as cited in this project’s literature review. Although my students have not universally expressed satisfaction with the model, I personally see its benefits to student achievement. It allows my students to have more control over their learning, and it certainly helps them to develop the level of work and independent study habits that they will be expected to do in college. Although these Cycle 1 data might be discouraging, I see them as the students’ natural reaction to a new and unfamiliar classroom scenario, and not as a major obstacle to the success of this project. The Cycle 2 data will be more telling of the students’ true responses to the flipped classroom model.

Surprises

I was most surprised by what I observed in class during implementation of the flipped classroom model. Most students, upon having to answer questions based pointedly on the textbook, expressed confusion over how to access the book’s interactive features on their laptops—this at the beginning of our second semester! All teachers know the challenge of getting students to use their textbooks, and I’ve found this problem to be particularly prevalent in science classes; however, I was stunned to discover how many of the students had clearly never made use of this interactive and innovative digital Physics textbook, especially since the science faculty had adopted it specifically for its appeal to our “digital native” student population. This shock was mollified by the knowledge that, in the structure of a flipped class, I could subsequently require the students to use their textbooks in class, in my presence, thus guaranteeing that they would benefit fully from all of its unique features.

Link to focus statement  

I set out to improve student motivation and engagement in the classroom. Subjectively, I report that I am meeting this goal, especially amongst my more advanced students, who seem to appreciate the opportunity to work independently and to work on more challenging problems in class. My greatest concern following cycle 1 is that I continue in this success, and also that my weaker students should find the same motivation that has stimulated the stronger ones. They do not always take advantage of the opportunity to ask me questions one-on-one in class, in spite of the fact that they are most in need of the attention. I plan to monitor their work in class more closely in the future, and take more initiative in approaching them with leading questions about the material.

Evaluate and reflect/plan for continuation

I have already planned my modification of the flipped classroom model for implementation in cycle 2. While I have attempted to adopt a purely flipped classroom by delivering no new content in class, I’ve found this platform to be rather stifling. Based on feedback from students who enjoy participating in class-wide discussions, I plan to address the class as a whole for at least 15 minutes (out of a 75 minute period) at each meeting. This designated time will allow students the opportunity to ask questions based on the homework video, to discuss any issues that arose in the previous in-class assignment, or for me to ask conceptual questions for the students to discuss amongst themselves. My hope is that this new component of our class meetings will appeal to students, improve their engagement during class, and also provoke their curiosity with open-ended inquiries. In addition, I expect that a brief discussion of the homework videos will restore students’ motivation to complete their homework assignments.

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