Flipped classroom activates students and enhances learning outcomes – teachers try flipped learning in their courses

Since last autumn, the University of Vaasa has been successfully experimenting with flipped learning. It suits most students better than normal lectures but requires students to be more self-guided and active.

Flipped classroom or flipped learning is the opposite of traditional teaching. In flipped learning, students familiarise themselves with the subject, for example through a pre-assignment or a lecture recording, before contact teaching. Afterwards, the topics are discussed in a lecture together with the teacher and other students in an interactive way.  

The role of the student as an active participant and learner is emphasised, unlike in a conventional lecture course.  

– The teacher has a better starting point for guiding students in contact teaching when they already have a certain basic knowledge of the subject from preliminary assignments or materials studied beforehand, says Markku Saarelainen, Senior Specialist at the University of Vaasa. 

Flipped learning makes teaching more meaningful  

Saarelainen, who has been introducing Finnish teachers to flipped classroom since 2015, has also been familiarising teachers at the University of Vaasa with the method since last autumn. University Lecturer Minna-Maarit Jaskari from the School of Marketing and Communication is one of the teachers who joined the flipped learning project.  

– Using the method in my own teaching has definitely made my work more meaningful. In flipped learning, the teacher acts as a coach who helps the student better understand the topics being taught compared to normal lecture teaching.  

At the University of Vaasa, around 10 % of teachers have tried flipped learning in their courses under Saarelainen's guidance. There is also a mentor network of teachers who can help others to adopt flipped classroom method. 

– All courses can and should be flipped. It takes some time, but it's worth the effort, says Jaskari.  

– The teachers at our university have impressed me with their skills and enthusiasm. The culture of experimentation in teaching is clearly evident here, Saarelainen continues.

Flipped learning enables more effective learning 

Doctoral student Laura Urrila from the School of Management flipped her 5-credit Leading People course in management.  

– The teacher's job is to help the student learn more effectively, and flipped learning is a great way to do this. A small number of contact teaching sessions can lead to better learning outcomes.  

Urrila says that even before the first contact lesson in a course, a lot happens when students familiarise themselves with the course content through pre-assignments.  

– Next autumn, the course will be taught face-to-face after a long period of distance learning. This will be new, as 100 students will meet in an interactive session. 

Good feedback from students 

According to Saarelainen, around 90% of students feel that flipped learning is the learning method that suits them best.  

– Flipped learning is an extremely fast way for students to learn new things, but it requires students to be self-directed and effective self-managers. This is a new situation for students who are more used to cramming for a test instead of actively learning through interaction.  

Urrila also received good feedback from students on the way the course was delivered.  

– I received good feedback from the students, for example on the interactive way of working. On the other hand, some students find flipped learning more difficult.  

– It is known that the student's own activity brings better learning results. When the teacher lectures on a subject without interaction, the learning process remains superficial. One of the best feedback I have heard from students is that they felt they were taken care of during the course, says Jaskari. 

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