Reengineering an engineering course: How flipped classrooms afford transformative teaching, learning, and workplace competency

Funding year: 
2 years
University of Waikato
Post school sector
Project start date: 
January 2015
Project end date: 
March 2017
Principal investigator(s): 
Dr. Mira Peter and Dr Elaine Khoo
Research team members: 
Professor Jonathan Scott, Associate Professor Howell Round, Professor Bronwen Cowie
Research partners: 
Researcher/Practioner partners: Professor Jonathan Scott, Associate Professor Howell Round

Project description

The research team will collaborate with tertiary lecturers in electronics engineering to explore how an extended flipped classroom model can enhance student learning of threshold concepts (TCs) in a mandatory first-year electronic engineering class. We will also document how student mastery of TCs and learning of non-technical skills in a flipped classroom can translate into their workplace competency.


Threshold concepts (TCs) are disciplinary concepts that students need to master in order to think and act like a subject specialist. At the same time, a flipped classroom is a student-centered learning approach that allows lecturer-student contact time to be devoted to students’ questions and problem solving. In a flipped class, learning materials, accessible through online modalities, are assigned as take-home tasks that students are supposed to do before they come to the class. The aim of this project is to investigate how a TC-based flipped class approach to teaching and learning can enhance first year students’ learning of TC technical and non-technical skills necessary to be a successful engineering graduate. The three-fold objectives of our research are: (1) to examine the effects of the flipped classroom on students’ learning of TCs, (2) to explore the ‘affordances’ of the flipped classroom model of teaching in a first-year compulsory electronics engineering course, and, (3) to examine the long term impact (beyond the classroom) of the flipped class on the development of students’ workplace competencies.

Why is this research important?

Engineers have a key role to play in translating knowledge into the innovative competitive products and services central to today’s increasingly technology-driven society. Successful engineering graduates therefore not only need to have a deep understanding of engineering principles and practices but also need to be able to work in teams, to communicate well, to self-assess and improve their abilities and performance, and to work in contexts that can be risky and uncertain. Thus, it is crucial that tertiary educators develop curricula that enable students to develop these capacities and so enhance student employability and their capacity to contribute to New Zealand’s economic competitiveness and societal wellbeing.

What we plan to do

The research team will collaborate with two electronic engineering lecturers through using design- based research (DBR) approach to examine the impact of a TC-based flip pedagogical approach in a first year course.


Multiple data sources will be collected through:
• lecturer interviews,
• student focus group interviews,
• observations (video recordings and field notes) during the flipped classes,
• learning management system (Moodle) usage logs,
• student activity in on online tutorials,
• student activity in video materials viewing,
• student assessment of their laboratory books and work placement reports,
• student surveys, and
• student achievement in quizzes and final exam


Data from various sources will be integrated to track changes in lecturer pedagogy and student in-class and workplace learning and development. Statistical analysis will be conducted on the quantitative data to show differences and trends in student achievement (i.e., quiz scores, laboratory assessment scores, final examinations, evaluation of work place competencies) and opinions, (i.e., students’ surveys). Qualitative data will be analysed using thematic analysis to develop themes through inductive reasoning.

Our partners

Research Mentor: Professor Bronwen Cowie
Practitioner-Researcher (Electronics engineering): Professor Jonathan Scott

Practitioner-Researcher (Electronics engineering): Associate Professor Howell Round