Adopting a flipped classroom approach to meet the challenges of large group lectures

Amanda Millmore, School of Law,


Faced with double-teaching a cohort of 480 students (plus an additional 30 in University of Reading Malaysia), I was concerned to ensure that students in each lecture group had a similar teaching experience. My solution was to “flip” some of the learning, by recording short video lectures covering content that I would otherwise have lectured live and to use the time freed up to slow the pace and instigate active learning within the lectures.


  • Record short video lectures to supplement live lectures.
  • Use the time freed up by the removal of content no longer delivered live to introduce active learning techniques within the lectures.
  • Support the students in their problem-solving skills (tested in the end of year examination).


The module “General Introduction to Law” is a “lecture only” first year undergraduate module, which is mandatory for many non-law students, covering unfamiliar legal concepts. Whilst I have previously tried to introduce some active learning into these lectures, I have struggled with time constraints due to the sheer volume of compulsory material to be covered.

Student feedback requested more support in tackling legal problem questions, I wanted to assist students and needed to free up some space within the lectures to do this and “flipping” some of the content by creating videos seemed to offer a solution.

As many academics (Berrett, 2012; Schaffzin, 2016) have noted, there is more to flipping than merely moving lectures online, it is about a change of pedagogical approach.


I sought initial support from the TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) team, who were very happy to give advice about technology options. I selected the free Screencastomatic software, which was simple to use with minimal equipment (a headset with microphone plugged into my computer).

I recorded 8 short videos, which were screencasts of some of my lecture slides with my narration; 6 were traditional lecture content and 2 were problem solving advice and modelling an exemplar problem question and answer (which I’d previously offered as straightforward read-only documents on Blackboard).

The software that I used restricted me to 15 minute videos, which worked well for maintaining student attention. My screencast videos were embedded within the Blackboard module and could also be viewed directly on the internet

I reminded students to watch the videos via email and during the lectures, and I was able to track the number of views of each video, which enabled me to prompt students if levels of viewing were lower than I expected.

By moving some of the content delivery online I was also able to incorporate more problem- solving tasks into the live lectures. I was able to slow the pace and to invite dialogue, often by using technology enhanced learning. For example, I devoted an hour to tackling an exam-style problem, with students actively working to solve the problem using the knowledge gained via the flipped learning videos and previous live lectures. I used the applications Mentimeter, Socrative and Kahoot to interact with the students, asking them multiple-choice questions, encouraging them to vote on questions and to create word clouds of their initial thoughts on tackling problem questions as we progressed.


Student feedback, about the videos and problem solving, was overwhelmingly positive in both formal and informal module evaluations.

Videos can be of assistance if a student is absent, has a disability or wishes to revisit the material. Sankoff (2014) and Billings-Gagliardi and Mazor (2007) dismiss concerns about reduced student attendance due to online material, and this was borne out by my experience, with no noticeable drop-off in numbers attending lectures; I interpret this as a positive sign of student satisfaction. The videos worked to supplement the live lectures rather than replace them.

There is a clear, positive impact on my own workload and that of my colleagues. Whilst I am no longer teaching on this module in the current academic year, my successor has been able to use my videos again in her teaching, thereby reducing her own workload. I have also been able to re-use some of the videos in other modules.


Whilst flipped learning is intensive to plan, create and execute, the ability to re-use the videos in multiple modules is a huge advantage; short videos are simple to re-record if, and when, updating is required.

My initial concern that students would not watch the videos was utterly misplaced. Each video has had in excess of 1000 views (and one video has exceeded 2000), which accounts for less than 2 academic years’ worth of student usage.

I was conscious that there may be some students who would just ignore the videos, thereby missing out on chunks of the syllabus, I tried to mitigate this by running quizzes during lectures on the recorded material, and offering banks of multiple choice questions (MCQs) on Blackboard for students to test their knowledge (aligned to the formative examination which included a multiple choice section). In addition, I clearly signposted the importance of the video recorded material by email, on the Blackboard page and orally and emphasised that it would form part of the final examination and could not be ignored.

My experience echoes that of Schaffzin’s study (2016) monitoring impact, which showed no statistical significance in law results having instituted flipped learning, although she felt that it was a more positive teaching method. Examination results for the module in the end of year formative assessment (100% examination) were broadly consistent with the results in previous academic years, but student satisfaction was higher, with positive feedback about the use of videos and active learning activities.


University of Reading TEL advice about personal capture –

Berrett, D. (2012). How “Flipping” the Classroom Can Improve the Traditional Lecture. Chronicle of Higher Education..

Billings-Gagliardi, S and Mazor, K. (2007) Student decisions about lecture attendance: do electronic course materials matter?. Academic Medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 82(10), S73-S76.

Sankoff, P. (2014) Taking the Instruction of Law outside the Lecture Hall: How the Flipped Classroom Can Make Learning More Productive and Enjoyable (for Professors and Students), 51, Alberta Law Review, pp.891-906.

Schaffzin, K. (2016) Learning Outcomes in a Flipped Classroom: A comparison of Civil Procedure II Test Scores between Students in a Traditional Class and a Flipped Class, University of Memphis Law Review, 46, pp. 661.

Engaging students in the design of assessment criteria

Dr Maria Kambouri-Danos, Institute of Education                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Year of activity 2017/18


I recently led a group of colleagues while working in partnership with students to develop a new module in BA in Children’s Development and Learning (BACDL) delivered at the Institute of Education (IoE). This approach to working in partnership with students is a core part of the project’s aim and the work described here has been part of a Partnerships in Learning & Teaching (PLanT) project.


The team’s aim was to develop and finalise a new module for BACDL in close partnership with the students. The new module will replace two existing modules (starting from 2018-19), aiming to reduce overall assessment (programme level), a need identified during a Curriculum Review Exercise. The objective was to adopt an inclusive approach to student engagement when finalising the new module, aiming to:

  • Go beyond feedback and engage students by listening to the ‘student voice’
  • Co-develop effective and student-friendly assessable outcomes
  • Identify opportunities for ‘assessment for learning’
  • Think about constructive alignment within the module
  • Encourage the development of student-staff partnerships


To accomplish the above, I brought together five academics and six students (BACDL as well as Foundation Degree (FDCDL) students). Most of the students on this programme are mature students (i.e. with dependants) who are working full time while attending University (1 day/week). To encourage students from this ‘hard to reach group’ to engage with the activity, we secured funding through the Partnerships in Learning & Teaching scheme, which enabled the engagement of a more diverse group (Trowler, 2010).


The team participated in four partnership workshops, during which staff and students engaged in activities and discussions that helped to develop and finalise the new module. During the first workshop, we discussed the aims of the collaborative work and went through the module’s summary, aims and assessable outcomes. We looked at the two pre-existing modules and explored merging them into a new module, maintaining key content and elements of quality. During the second workshop, we explored chapter two from the book ‘Developing Effective Assessment in Higher Education: a practical guide’ (Bloxham & Boyd, 2007), which guided the discussions around developing the assessment design for the new module.

During the third workshop, we discussed aspects of summative and formative tasks and finalised the assessment design (Knight, 2012). We then shared the new module description with the whole BACDL cohort and requested feedback, which enabled us to get other students’ views, ensuring a diverse contribution of views and ideas (Kuh, 2007). During the last workshop, with support from the Centre of Quality Support and Development (CQSD) team, we implemented a game format workshop and created a visual ‘storyboard’, outlining the type and sequence of learning activities required to meet the module’s learning outcomes (ABC-workshop This helped to identify and evaluate how the new module links with the rest of the modules, while it also helped to think about practical aspects of delivering the module and ways to better support the students (e.g. through a virtual learning environment).

Photos from staff-student partnership workshops


The close collaboration within the team ensured that the student voice was heard and taken into account while developing the new module. The partnership workshops provided the time to think collaboratively about constructive alignment and ensure that the new module’s assessment enables students to learn. It also ensured that the module’s assessable outcomes are clearly defined using student-friendly language.

A pre- and post-workshop survey was used to evaluate the impact of this work. The survey measured the degree to which students appreciate the importance of providing feedback, participate in activities related to curriculum review/design, feel part of a staff-student community and feel included in developing their programme. The survey results indicate an increase in relation to all of the above, demonstrating the positive impact of activities like this on student experience. All students agreed that it has been beneficial to take part in this collaborative work, mentioning that being engaged in the process, either directly (attending the workshops) or indirectly (providing feedback) helped them to develop a sense of belonging and feel part of the community of staff and students working together (Trowle, 2010; Kuh, 2005;2007).


This project supported the successful development of the new module, from which future students will benefit (Kuh, 2005). The work that the team produced has also informed the work of other groups within the IoE. At the institutional level, this work has supported the development of the CQSD ‘Student Engagement’ projects. All the above were achieved because of close collaboration, and could not have been done by a group of individuals working on their own (Wheatley, 2010). Because of that, our team was awarded the University Collaborative Awards for Outstanding Contributions to Teaching and Learning.


Bloxham, S. & Boyd, P. (2007). Developing effective assessment in higher education: a practical guide. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Knight, P. (Ed.). (2012). Assessment for learning in higher education. Routledge.

Kuh, G.D. (2005). Putting Student Engagement Results to Use: Lessons from the Field, Assessment Update. 17(1), 12–1.

Kuh, G.D. (2007). How to Help Students Achieve, Chronicle of Higher Education. 53(41), 12–13.

Trowler, V. (2010). Student engagement literature review. The Higher Education Academy.

Wheatley, M. (2010). Finding our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler

Outward mobility and real world engagement

Alison Nader and Ali Nicholson, Lecturers, International Study and Language Institute                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Year of activity 2017/18


For the past 2 years UoR students taking IWLP French 20 credit optional modules have had the opportunity to undertake 2 weeks of intensive language study in France at CUEF, Université Grenoble Alpes.

Students arrange their own travel and accommodation with light touch support from IWLP staff.

They now have the possibility to take a credit module based on their experience, in the academic year following their return from France.

 IWLP Students arriving at the CUEF, Université Grenoble Alpes, France


  • To give students the opportunity to study and live independently in France for a short period of time.
  • To improve language skills, in particular speaking and listening in real world situations.
  • To offer the opportunity to use their real world experience on a credit bearing IWLP language module.


  • In SSLC meetings and end of year module evaluations, students had been asking for the opportunity to spend a short period of time in France.
  • The placement needed to fit around the students’ core studies.
  • Recognition by UUki that outward mobility experiences are increasingly important for graduate attributes.
  • University of Reading’s ambitious outward mobility targets.


Initially this experience was conceived of as a trip abroad, responding to student requests for recommendations of where they could go to take a short intensive language course.  Two members of IWLP staff researched short language courses offered by French universities.  Having identified CUEF, a part of l’Université Grenoble Alpes, as having a suitable offering, IWLP staff visited the Centre, met the French staff and observed teaching on the courses.

Before leaving for France, students are supported with briefing sessions given by IWLP French staff but have to organise travel, accommodation and where necessary visas, themselves.

The classes take place outside UoR term time and to date students have either chosen to go for two weeks during the Easter holidays or in early September.

In the first year 2016-17, 10 students took up the opportunity and this year the expectation is that numbers will increase, 10 have just returned and more will be travelling out in September.  Students have to pay the fees, travel and accommodation.  So far each cohort has received a small bursary from UoR but this is not guaranteed.

In 2017-18 students were offered the opportunity to select a credit bearing placement module on their return.  A small number of students opted to take the module and the improvement in their ability to undertake an oral presentation in French was truly remarkable.


From the student perspective, their competence in speaking and listening in French demonstrably improved.  The improvement for those who took the credit bearing module was measurable from comparative assessment results before and after the placement.

Students also acquired transferable skills and increased their independence, confidence and motivation.  In feedback one of the students commented: “going by yourself from a country to another implies responsibility and independence” and another mentioned how the experience increased her general confidence.

These gains also came from practising in a real world situation and, for those who had not visited France before, a greater cultural understanding of the country where the language is spoken.  Increased linguistic confidence and cultural awareness was cited in feedback by a student who commented on his motivation for going on the placement, to improve his French as well as to “really understand what it takes to learn French by understanding the culture”.

The mobility opportunity also contributes to the UoR Global engagement strategy and outward mobility targets.


Quite apart from an increase in students’ linguistic competence, they gain in independence and heighten their intercultural awareness.  The cohesive group that went to France this spring are themselves from eight different countries.  This time, as a “bonus” they experienced at first hand strikes and blockades of university buildings: coping with all of this strengthened their group cohesion.

In general, on their return, students are enthusiastic ambassadors for learning a language.

Short-term mobility opportunities can attract students who would not be able to go abroad for longer periods, though Home students have said that even a small study abroad bursary or help with the travel costs would encourage more of them to take up this opportunity.

Follow up

Scaling up the offering may be challenging from the organisation and staffing point of view, however it is hoped to extend the opportunity to other languages in the near future.

As the IWLP modules are offered to students from Schools across the university, the mobility placements can contribute to the internationalisation of students university-wide.

Ensuring inclusion, finding sustainable ways of financially supporting students and resourcing staffing are top priorities for future development.


Placement Modules


Social justice – Leading attitudinal change in students

Stephanie Sharp, Lecturer, Institute of Education                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Year of activity: 2016/17


After exploring representations of ethnicity within the ‘reading for pleasure books’ in primary classrooms I proposed that a group of second year, undergraduate, trainee teachers would undertake a small scale research project to support their understanding of equality and diversity in the primary school setting.

This study led to an attitudinal change in the trainees’ approach to school resources, such as books, by becoming more critically aware of equality and diversity issues. They went on to be active in enhancing curriculum design for future cohorts.


  • To raise trainee teachers’ understanding of social justice to enable them to develop a more critical approach to resources available in primary school classrooms
  • To refine curriculum design by engaging with university guidelines to promote the trainees’ academic, personal and professional potential


The IoE and the Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC) work collaboratively to support trainees in their understanding of diversity and equality. Modules build on these activities in order to provide them with an opportunity to refine their thinking to open a dialogue on issues of inequality and social justice.

During my time visiting schools I have come to recognise that there is a lack of diversity in the ‘reading for pleasure’ books offered to pupils and in our increasingly diverse society many children do not find themselves reflected on the cover of these books and so I worked with a focus group to challenge this assumption.


A convenience sample of six student volunteers, representing the majority female demographic of the course, made up a focus group. Firstly, students were introduced to Sara Ahmed’s writing on invisible whiteness in a diverse population, from a hegemonic position of privilege and power (2012). Secondly, using a census guide published by the Department for Education (2013), we examined the wide range of ethnicities currently present in UK classrooms. Thirdly, I randomly selected 50 children’s picture books to enable the trainees to identify the main protagonists by their ethnicity and then compared their findings to the census data.

The activity revealed that very few of the ethnicities listed on the census were represented in the children’s books, with a majority representation of white protagonists.  The trainees then repeated this activity (Blackledge, 2000) on their school work placements. The trainees followed the University’s ethical guidance and gained permission from each of the schools to carry out this investigation.


Outcomes confirmed the hypothesis that the majority of children were under-represented in the ‘reading for pleasure’ books in their classrooms.

The trainees presented their findings to their peers, which led to a deep discussion, where students questioned the content of their own personal reading as well as that provided in the classroom.

The trainees also requested that this practical activity should be undertaken by all trainees in their first year to inform their early understanding of social justice. This was an unexpected outcome for both the trainees and myself. They took ownership of their learning and recognised that, by being proactive, they were key in refining an aspect of curriculum design. They are proud of this achievement and of their attitudinal shift.


The certainty of evidence-based research gave the trainees the confidence to challenge provision in schools and while it must be acknowledged that teacher practitioners are working hard to ensure that they provide classrooms that are equitable and fair, there are still areas to address, however small. This research led to attitudinal change in the students and ensured that they understood, at a deep level, what social justice means. Without this process, the students would have assumed that the books provided for pupils in schools have been carefully selected with pupils at the heart of the choices made.

Follow up

In response to the request from the focus group, this book audit activity is now embedded as part of curriculum design. It has been organized as a school based task, to be repeated annually to support the teaching and learning that takes place with first year student teachers.


Ahmed, S. (2012). On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. London: Duke University Press.

Blackledge, A. (2000). Literacy, Power and Social Justice. London: Trentham Books Ltd.

Department for Education. (2013). Schools, pupils and their characteristics. Retrieved March 27, 2016 from