Flipping engineering courses: A school wide initiative

Renee M. Clark, Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Daniel Budny, Karen M. Bursic, William W. Clark, Bryan A. Norman, Robert S. Parker, John F. Patzer, William S. Slaughter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


In the 2013-2014 school year, we implemented the "flipped classroom" as part of an initiative to drive active learning, student engagement and enhanced learning in our school. The flipped courses consisted of freshman through senior engineering classes in introductory programming, statics/mechanics, mechanical design, bio-thermodynamics, facilities layout/material handling, and chemical engineering dynamics and modeling. In the flipped classroom, students watch video lectures beforehand to obtain the foundational knowledge and then demonstrate skills during class. Our study set out to address the following research questions: 1) Does the flipped classroom promote student engagement during class, and does it positively impact the classroom environment?, 2) Is the flipped classroom associated with increased student achievement and learning of content?, and 3) What strengths, benefits, and drawbacks do students perceive with the flipped classroom? To address these, we used a mixed methods approach, including environment and evaluation surveys, instructor interviews, exam and homework results, video access data, and structured classroom observation. Based on our use of the College and University Classroom Environment Inventory (CUCEI), we found evidence that flipped instruction can positively impact the classroom environment. We also used a behavioral observation protocol - the Teaching Dimensions Observation Protocol (TDOP) - to assess student engagement and involvement during class. We compared our results to a national TDOP study of 58 lecture-based STEM classrooms, formally demonstrating the advantages of our flipped classrooms. Behaviors such as student discussion and questions and problem solving were significantly higher in our flipped classrooms (p < 0.0001). Our pre-flip versus flip exam and homework results were mixed from a statistical improvement standpoint. However, based on instructor interviews we noted enhanced higher-order skills such as problem solving and deeper engagement and proficiency in some courses and with some students. Unfortunately, we encountered challenges with our freshman and seniors. The great majority of freshmen did not use the videos for first-time instruction. The seniors expressed resistance to and dissatisfaction with this instructional change. Both freshmen and seniors rated their classroom environments statistically lower than the sophomores and juniors did. We uncovered other instances in the literature of these challenges. Nonetheless, we believe that flipped instruction is a valuable approach for promoting engagement and learning. We discuss lessons learned, including the need to educate students about the expectations of the flipped classroom.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAdvances in Engineering Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016


  • Assessment
  • Behavioral observation
  • Engagement
  • Engineering education
  • Flipped classroom
  • Inverted classroom

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