Flipping Seminars in sport, health & the social sciences

Posted in: Case Studies

Project Leaders: Emma Rich, Jessica Francombe-Webb, Michael Silk


The rationale for adopting a Flipped Approach within the BA Sport & Social Sciences programme was to contend with an increase in student numbers that threatened the collaborative generation of knowledge within a final year 12 credit unit (Advanced Issues in Sport, Health & the Social Sciences HL30433).

We wanted to think of innovative ways to maintain a ‘seminar-like’ learning environment whilst delivering ‘core content’ to nearly 100 students.

The flipped classroom

Across the semester we flipped 6 weeks. Thus, following two introductory sessions the students were fully engaged with ‘flipped’ content prior to attending a weekly seminar (See attached Unit Structure). Our seminars were discipline specific so students had to write a short justification for the seminar they would like to attend (Learning across the Lifespan; Health & the Body; Policy) and based on this they were allocated a group.

Each week of flipped content consisted of: A guest lecture or talk recorded for the University of Bath by an eminent international scholar (funds were used to reimburse time for this). A ‘core concept’ panopto lecture delivered by Dr J Francombe-Webb and Dr E Rich. Links to online resources, readings and access to a seminar specific PADLET wall.

In advance of each seminar the students were asked to engage with the online material. To post their comments and questions to the PADLET as well as any additional resources or artefacts that they would like to discuss in the seminar.

In the first year (2013/14) the seminars took place in GTA space, however in the second year (2014/15) each seminar took place in 8W 1.28. This shared learning space is ideal for e-learning as each workstation has a monitor and plugs for laptops, tablets etc. This meant that the PADLET became a central mechanism for documenting the group discussion and creating a space for co-generated knowledge.

Lessons Learnt

This unit has been flipped twice now. Following the first year, we decided that we needed to optimize the contact time with the students and perhaps set a few more tasks to guide the seminars as opposed to being purely reliant on their input and direction. This seemed to work incredibly well in the second year and although more tasks set by the unit convenors, the seminars were, on the whole, vibrant places of student-led discussion. Additionally, we wanted to ensure that as many students as possible engaged in the seminar discussion/debate and contributed equally. As such we decided to book a technology-enabled teaching space to hold our seminars. 8W 1.28 was ideal for this and certainly encouraged more diverse forms of student engagement as they shared resources, presented ideas and posted to social media platforms such as Twitter.

Whilst we will continue to flip this unit and will look at ways to flip other units too, we have learnt a few lessons. Had we had more time before the start of the semester we would have worked with e-learning more closely to embed some activities into Moodle each week so that we could ensure that the students had an opportunity to apply the ideas and check for learning in advance of the seminar. Similarly, we needed to make some amends to the online content within the second year and this proved time consuming and the panopto editing tool is inefficient. We learnt therefore, that we needed to think more carefully about the sustainability of our resources and to build this into the planning and designing to ensure that excess work is not required when revisions and alterations are made.


The 2013/2014 Unit Evaluation can provide us with some evidence of the impact that flipping has had in terms of student satisfaction and engagement. Whilst the students’ responses to the generic questions do not provide much detail on the flipped approach, the qualitative comments can. I have provided both below in order to highlight some of the evidence that we have utilized to evaluate this approach—we have responded to a lot of this during 2014/2015:

Overall the feedback scores for this unit were high (mean between 4.04-4.50), however there were some areas that scored a little lower and we will aim to improve upon. One of these—which is relevant for evaluating a flipped classroom is:

The teaching methods that were used. Whilst students clearly liked the use of online videos and flipping, one of the key considerations when flipping the classroom is thinking about the way in which ‘contact hours’ are used. We appreciate that we can think more creatively about how to utilise this time in the future now that we have—or have begun to collate—the online material to be accessed via Moodle. We will learn from the best practice of others involved in flipping as well as introduce our own ideas as we plan for next year.

The student comments were on the whole positive. Below we have provided some positive and negative comments made by the students about flipping and the activities that facilitated the flipped approach. We have also included comments from flipping focus group discussions that we conducted as per our application to LTEO:

‘Being able to post our own artefacts is great and I like looking at what other people have posted in terms of websites, videos etc… it’s a great resource’

‘It’s great having the IPADS and being able to contribute to the online material actually in the seminar itself’

‘The padlets have been brilliant, it really helps me to understand the concepts and gives a great overview of the seminar discussion which is really helpful for then writing our reflective journals’

‘Its great when I post questions and get feedback from others in my class, I love hearing their views’

‘I have learnt more from this than other forms of teaching and as a consequence I am contributing more in lectures than ever before’.

‘I can’t believe we’ve been able to talk with some of these scholars we’ve been referencing in our work. I don’t know any other degree where you can contact the people who are writing what you are reading. I really think its an amazing opportunity. I don’t know any other degree programme where you have the opportunity to contact a professor known around the world… to talk about things like posthumanism. Andy was brilliant’

‘Students have found that they have learnt a lot more 'words' and understood them more in this lecture then in other units on the whole course’

“Great unit, fun change of flipping project. Great avenue for discussion (less lead input from supervisor at times would have let conversation flow more). Better more casual room/set up would have allowed for easier flow of conversations. swapping groups so that integration between the year groups could have been made. In the end really enjoyed presenting our idea although a less formal setting would have been more comforting.”

“continue with discussions and presentations within group, very effective. continue with panopto lectures, found them very useful!!”

“This unit catered for individuals who are confident speaking up in class. However the university must be aware that not everyone is happy speaking up in class therefore I felt that my learning was hindered due to the methods used. Time may have been better spent with the use of tutorials, I believe that my learning may have been improved if this approach was used”

Posted in: Case Studies