International postgraduate students’ perceptions and experience of flipped learning at an Australian university

Year: 2019

Author: Norman, Adrian, Jayawardena, Prabha Ransi

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

A growing body of literature highlights the benefits and challenges of flipped classrooms in higher education. Researchers have found that flipped classrooms can promote self-regulated learning, increase engagement, promote higher-order thinking, and enhance academic performance, but they have also found that motivating students do pre-class ‘homework’ is devilishly difficult. Most flipped studies have focused on students familiar with constructivist pedagogies but little is known of how students from traditional teacher-led academic backgrounds cope with studying back to front.

This mixed-methods study investigated how international students learned in a flipped subject at an Australian University. Participants (n=18), who had just arrived in Australia from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Peru, were enrolled in a first-year master’s subject in the Graduate School of Health. Students were surveyed on entry and their engagement and achievement data were retrieved from the LMS on exit. Interviews were conducted with the students and the teacher about their first experience of learning and teaching in the flipped classroom. Interview data were thematically coded in NVivo and triangulated against other data.

We found that these internationals came to Australia for a ‘superior’ form of education and saw flipped as part of that. At the same time, they still wanted the teacher to teach. The teacher, too, had mixed feelings about her first flipped classroom. Though she thought it was just as good for students to read than listen to her lecture, she was concerned that in-class activities were not sufficiently linked to pre-class homework and there were gaps in her coverage.

These findings are of significance to various stakeholders in higher education. Firstly, our findings suggest that academic directors should not be fanatical about flipped classrooms but consider hybrid approaches to ease students and teachers into a different way of learning and teaching. Secondly, managers, need to be mindful that flipped teachers need to be trained to perform this new role as it requires different skills and knowledge to lecturing; it is not a natural extension of lecturing. Finally, teachers and designers should focus on developing content that meet their students’ study preferences and should take extra cares when designing assessment, as it is they driver of student behaviour. More needs to be understood about how international students cope with active learning approaches that are prevalent in western universities so that we, as educators, can better support them. This would be a valuable area for future research.