Khasawneh Group

Dynamics & Vibration Lab
Michigan State University, MI

Teaching

Flipped classroom

a schematic demonstrating the differences between traditional and flipped classrooms

Dr. Khasawneh uses the flipped-classroom concept for teaching Statics, and parts of Dynamics. In this model, the instructor creates and shares course material typically in the form of recorded lectures outside of class. The students watch the lectures, take notes, and practice the basic concepts before coming to class. Class time is then used to discuss and apply the learned concepts. This contrasts the traditional classroom model where the instructor prepares class material and delivers it in class where students listen and take notes. The material in the traditional model is mostly applied after and outside of class in the form of assigned homework.

Collaborative learning

a schematic showing the concentric levels of learning. A student within a group has a question related to the
                                   given worksheet. she discusses the question with her teamates first. This resolves 80% of the emerging questions. The group flags down the instructor and poses the question as a group. 
                                   Following the discussion with the group the question is answered and is often shared with the rest of the class.

During class, the students are randomly split into teams of 3 or 4 and they are asked to sit next to their teammates. The class is then given a worksheet which normally includes 3 or 4 problems related the topics that the students watched in the videos and they are asked to work through it in teams.

This scenario creates concentric levels of learning where the individual is the center of the first circle, the group represents the second level, and third level is the other groups and the class as a whole. When students have a question about the worksheet, they are asked to go through these circles from the innermost to the outermost. Specifically, if a student within a group has a question then this question must be discussed within the group first. It is my observation that Group discussions resolve 75%-80% of the emerging questions. If the group cannot agree on an answer, then they flag down the instructor and pose the question as a group. When the question is resolved this way, it is often shared with the rest of the class in one of two ways: either the instructor stops the other groups to discuss and share the question, or the group that came up with the question becomes in charge of answering the same question if another group poses the same question. This way, knowledge propagates inwards and outwards in the concentric learning model.

Working in groups fosters active and collaborative learning, which was recognized as one of the high-impact educational practices and was identified by The National Survey on Student Engagement (NSSE) as an important part of effective educational practices in the 2009 National Survey of Student Engagement. This report explains, “Students learn more when they are intensely involved in their education and have opportunities to think about and apply what they are learning in different settings. And when students collaborate with others to solve problems or master difficult material, they acquire valuable skills that prepare them to deal with the messy, unscripted problems they will encounter daily during and after college.”

Class time management

An instructor racing against the clock while writing on a blackboard

Instructors and students are often in a race against time to successfully cover and study class material. In the traditional class model, the instructor has more control over the pace of the class. In contrast, instructors relinquish some of this control when they switch to the flipped classroom model. This means that instructors and students must be careful when managing time in the flipped classroom model.

In the flipped classes that Dr. Khasawneh teaches, several strategies are followed in order to optimize the usage of the available time:

  • Focus on the parts of the worksheet that emphasize the new concepts. Consistent with this point, preference is given to worksheet problems that use symbolic variables as opposed to numeric values. This means that:
    • The groups must first discuss and come up with a solution strategy. This is a birds‐eye view of the steps necessary to successfully solve the problem. The solution can be fleshed out only after this step is complete.
    • Equation generation phase of the solution process is separated and is prioritized over the equation solution phase.
    • The groups are not expected to solve the worksheet problems from start to end during class time. However, the students are still expected to write the full solution outside of class time.
    • Allocated time for each problem in the worksheet is only sufficient for just arriving at the phase of pure computations in the solution. For example, for an in-class worksheet on static equilibrium, it is sufficient to come up with the system of equations that can be solved for the desired unknowns. Performing the actual computations is considered secondary during class time and is abandoned in favor of exposing the students to more problems that deal with a richer variety of concepts.
  • The instructor keeps track of the time elapsed for each problem in the worksheet and constantly remind the students of how much time is left for completing the problem in hand. For example, the strategy phase can be allocated 3–10 minutes depending on the problem. Generating the actual equations can be allocated another 5–15 minutes. After the time allocated for one problem has elapsed all groups are asked to move on to the next problem. With repeated application of this approach, it was observed that students became better at seeing the big picture, they solved the problems faster, and their solutions became better-organized.
  • Enough time is spared at the end, about 10–15, minutes to go around the class and ask each group to discuss their approach for one of the worksheet problems. At this point all the groups listen and participate in the discussion by providing alternative approaches or asking questions. During this reflection phase, the presenting group is asked to discuss something they found challenging and something they found surprising or interesting.
  • Writing up the full solution of the worksheet problems is often assigned as part of the homework.

Technology used

The flipped classroom model is successfully applied in Dr. Khasawneh's Statics and parts of Dynamics classes. For the flipped classroom model, and the part of Dynamics that has not been flipped, the students are given pdf templates that include a bare-bone of the video or lecture that is being presented. The students then would fill in the missing information and add their own comments onto the template. In the non-flipped parts of Dynamics, the students are asked to print and bring the pdf template with them to class. This alleviates the students from spending precious class time copying a problem statement; instead, time is utilized to discuss concepts and tackle the problem solution, which helps keep the students engaged. The pdf templates contain pictures from the textbook as well as a fair amount or original artwork that Dr. Khasawneh has created using open-source tools. These templates are then used to produce videos for the flipped classroom model or to deliver lecture material. Specifically, the technology used to create and record class material includes:

  • Class material creation:
    • Inkscape, an open-source vector graphics software, for drawing illustrations
    • Latex's package Beamer for typesetting the pdf templates
  • Class material delivery

The videos and the un-annotated pdf templates are made available to the students on Blackboard. During the videos, the students are often challenged to pause the video and try to solve a certain problem or parts of it. The students are instructed to use the videos for hints or to check their solutions. The students are also required to bring their annotated notes to the classroom along with any questions they may have about the presented material.

Courses taught at Michigan State University
Course Name Syllabus Semester⁕
⁕F = Fall Semester
⁕S = Spring Semester
Theory of Vibration ME860 F17
Independent Study ME490 S18
Courses taught at SUNY Polytechnic Institute
Course Name Syllabus Semester⁕
⁕F = Fall Semester
⁕S = Spring Semester
Design and Analysis of Experiments MST570 S14
Design of Engineering Experiments ESC370 S14, F15, F16
Statics ESC210 F13 , F14 , S15, F15, F16
Dynamics ESC240 F14, S15, S16, S17, S18
Independent Study ME491 S17
Courses taught at Duke University
Course Name Syllabus Semester⁕
⁕F = Fall Semester
⁕S = Spring Semester
Finite Element Method CEE254/ME254 F11
Dynamics EGR244 S11, S12, S13
Engineering Mechanics EGR201 F11, F12