S. Guan

DePaul University (UNITED STATES)
Flipped learning, also known as the flipped classroom model, made the top of the emerging technology list in the 2013 Higher Education Edition of the NMC Horizon Report jointly published by the New Media Consortium (NMC) and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI). While its trendiness is predicted to be a year or less, this new model of teaching is considered to be part of a larger pedagogical movement that aims to make learning more flexible, engaging, and effective for students.

Although flipped learning is made a new trendy concept, the idea has been around for over two decades. In the 1990s, Eric Mazur from Harvard University developed the peer instruction (PI) method that kicks off the flip classroom experimentation. The PI method advocates a student-centered teaching approach by moving the information transfer activities out of the classroom and having it accomplished via pre-class readings by the students and just-in-time teaching in the classroom.

After two decades of drastic development of technology, like a fashion recycles itself, the concept of flipped learning regained its fame. The driving factor for its revival is of course the technology: from personal computer to mobile learning device, from computer-aided tutorials to Massive Open Online Courses, enormous amount of learning resources are being made available on daily basis. Those new inventions bring the old “pre-class readings” to a new level with online lectures, digital resources, web-based games, simulations, virtual learning spaces, and interest groups. Back in the 90s, research had demonstrated that the PI method is more effective than the lecture format. Will the result still holds true today with the experimentation taking beyond Harvard and when the instructors have to compete with all sorts of dazzling widgets and gadgets for their students’ attention in and out of the classroom?

Using a Chinese language class as an experiment field, this paper presents ways to draw students into a flipped learning process. In the past five years from 2008 through 2013, a number of instructional strategies have been implemented into the beginning and intermediate Chinese Language classes offer at DePaul University. By presenting these strategies and by sharing students’ reaction and feedback to these strategies, the paper provides an analysis of the evolvement of curriculum design to make flipped learning more effective and more engaging to the students.

The evolvement covers the following aspects of teaching and learning design:
- Character Learning: from in-class lecture to peer testing to Quizlet
- Lectures: from in-class presentation to online-lecture to interactive sessions on VoiceThread
Impromptu curriculum design: using current affairs to replace text topics
- Assignments: from in-class presentation to ePortfolio to movie making

While the intention is to make students take ownership of their learning, not all the strategies listed above are received positively by students. Some are proved to be working and others aren’t. In summarizing the student’s reaction these design strategies, the author presents the finding and analysis of why some strategies tend to work better than the others in terms of creating a flipped learning experience driven by the students.