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Grant funds research into 'flipped' classrooms

Seven Elon professors are part of a larger effort funded by the Teagle Foundation to study new classroom approaches to the humanities with an emphasis on engaged learning.

A team of Elon University faculty members will spend the next three years identifying best practices for teaching the fine arts, music and foreign language in courses where students read materials and watch online lectures at home while spending classroom time engaged in hands-on activities.

With financial support from the Teagle Foundation, whose mission is to “advance the well-being and general good of mankind throughout the world," the Elon team is part of a larger project titled “Sustained Change in Practices of Engaged and Active Learning in Humanities Instruction,” which involves educators from four American universities.

The foundation awarded a collective $215,000 to those four schools - Elon, the University of Kansas, Park University and Rockhurst University - to work on developing “flipped classrooms” in disciplines that have received less scholarly attention on the benefits of such methods.

“These funded efforts illustrate the foundation’s continued commitment to promote creative approaches to teaching that best serve student learning,” said Teagle Foundation President Judith Shapiro.

Elon University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning will work with the following Elon University faculty members involved in the research:

  • Omri Shimron, Music (faculty team leader)
  • Brandon Essary, Italian
  • Olivia Choplin, French
  • Ketevan Kupatadze, Spanish
  • Kristina Meinking, Classical Languages
  • Kevin Otos, Theatre
  • Shawn Tucker, Art & Art History

The professors this year will each conduct benchmark assessments of one course, introduce next year innovative approaches to teaching those courses, and in the final year of the grant measure student learning outcomes for possible conference presentations or journal articles. The team travels to Kansas in the months ahead for a meeting of faculty members from all four institutions involved in the project.

Ultimately, professors from the four universities will create a repository of educational materials to help colleagues around the world make their own classrooms more engaging to students.

“This project contributes to a larger conversation about how we think about student learning,” said Associate Professor Deandra Little, managing director of Elon University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning and a contributor to the Elon work. “How can we continue to make face-to-face classrooms a space where students can be more deeply engaged in their disciplines?”

The Teagle Foundation was established in 1944 by Walter C. Teagle, longtime president and later chairman of the board of Standard Oil Company, now Exxon Mobil Corporation. Over the years the foundation has made grants in many areas with an emphasis on the aid Teagle envisioned for “institutions of higher learning and research.”

Eric Townsend,
8/28/2014 8:00 AM