Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Education

Committee Chair(s)

Gilberto E. Urroz


Gilberto E. Urroz


Matthew A. Verleger


Oenardi Lawanto


Ning Fang


Christian Geiser


Recent advances in technology and new ways of using it have led to new possibilities for education research. Increasing tuition costs and free, online course offerings are two influences that have led researchers to re-consider the wisdom of conventional teaching methods and to consider alternatives. The flipped classroom is a new teaching method, which uses video lectures and practice problems as homework, while group-based problem-solving activities are used in the classroom. It combines aspects of two learning theories once thought to be incompatible—constructivism and behaviorism. Active, problem-based learning activities are based on the theories of constructivism, and direct instructional (video) lectures a based on behaviorist principles. The main reason for studying the flipped classroom is that it can potentially deliver the best from both worlds. A controlled study of students taking a second-year university course in numerical methods was conducted that used video lectures and model-eliciting activities (MEAs) in one section (treatment) and traditional group lecture-based teaching in the other (comparison). This study compared knowledge in two areas: conceptual understanding and conventional problem-solving ability. Homework and unit exams were used to measure conventional problem-solving ability, while quizzes and a conceptual test were used to measure conceptual understanding. No difference was found between the two sections on conceptual understanding (measured by quiz and concept test scores). No difference in exam scores was found, either. However, homework scores were 15.5 percentage points (out of 100) lower for the comparison section, which is considered to be a large difference. This difference is probably due to the fact that students in the treatment section had a higher workload than students in the comparison section and did not complete some of the homework because it did not count very much toward the final course grade (5% out of 100%). Student responses to an opinion-based survey of the class were also compared. Students in the treatment section gave lower ratings for the course than students in the comparison section on 3 out of 18 items. The responses on the remaining 15 items were indistinguishable. Based on student comments about the course, it was recommended that future studies make sure there is tighter integration between in-class group activities (MEAs) and other assignments. This might involve shortening the length of group problems so that more problems can be solved in the same time. It should also include more guidance for students during early stages of group problem solving, and a better explanation of why solving MEAs will help students in their future careers.