Targeted Teaching Key to “Flipping” the Classroom

by Christian E. Wurst, CPA, PhD, and A. J. Kreimer, CPA | Sep 03, 2019

One of the hottest trends in education has been the advent of the flipped classroom. In a traditional classroom, the professor presents the material, demonstrates it, and asks for any lingering questions. A flipped classroom jumps directly to the questions stage.

There are many benefits of the flipped classroom. Most of the instructional material is delivered by prerecorded video, which allows students to learn and study at their own pace. The method also allows students to review any material that they find particularly vexatious, and it offers the flexibility to schedule and tailor their learning tasks to accommodate their other time demands. In theory, it empowers students to be the “constructors of learning”1 as opposed to simply being the “consumers of information.”2

Another benefit of the flipped classroom is that it allows the teacher to spend all of her or his time working with the students in the classroom as they apply their newly acquired knowledge. The “sage on the stage” has morphed into the “guide on the side.” Teachers no longer “teach” the material; they plan “learning tools and activities” for student consumption.

Success in this endeavor, however, all depends on one significant factor that is beyond the control of the professor: students must be highly motivated self-efficacious learners.3 The students need to have strong self-esteem and a willingness to ask questions in class – thereby admitting that they do not know something. Most students, of all ages, are simply unwilling to do that. Any professor who has walked to the front of her or his lectern and asked “Any questions?” can attest to the deafening silence.

The key to eliciting questions is to provide students with an anonymous vehicle to do so. Many software polling packages provide that conduit. Some include AskNicely, Fieldboom, Formstack, GetFeedback, Qualtrics, SurveyGizmo, SurveyMonkey, Typeform, and Wufoo, among others.

The process begins with creating the survey. Take each learning objective for that class (“Complete a bank reconciliation,” for example) and turn it into a question (“Can you do a bank reconciliation?”). The students respond on a four-point Likert scale. The Likert scale choices are “Easily,” “Yes, but only with help from the text and other materials,” “Just barely,” and “Not at all.”

The data are harvested in an Excel spreadsheet, with each column representing a question and each row for a respondent. At this point, it is simply a matter of using the Excel “Find and Replace” to convert each qualitative response into a quantitative data point, such as “Easily” as a 1, “Yes, but only with help from the text and other materials” as a 2, “Just barely” as a 3, and “Not at all” as a 4. Then average each column to derive a general difficulty level for each learning objective.

Once those difficulty levels are determined, use the sort tool to arrange the learning objectives/survey questions from largest value to smallest. After determining which are the 10 or 12 most vexatious topics, create a unique PowerPoint presentation for that class to address those topics. Essentially, this process covers the questions that should have been asked but most likely would not have been.

Perhaps the best advantage to this method, at least from the student’s point of view, is that it avoids the dreaded “Death by PowerPoint” lectures common in too many classrooms. Instead of general slideshows that touch on every topic in the text, each class gets a presentation based on its unique needs. Students appreciate the respect it shows for their time. Instead of plodding through dozens of slides to find the ones they need, this technique produces a presentation that contains only the slides that they need.

While creating PowerPoint presentations for each class takes significant time, it does avoid wasting class time on topics the students either already know or are mostly inconsequential. Textbooks contain every conceivable topic the authors can include, hence there is always a fair amount of chaff with the grain. This practice of surveying allows professors to winnow out the chaff using the students’ criteria. In short, it fits the course to the class and eliminates unproductive and arbitrary decisions by the professor. 

1 L. S. Vygotsky, Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. (1978).
2 Christina Tovote, Customer or Refined Student? Reflections on the “Customer” Metaphor in the Academic Environment and the New Pedagogical Challenge to the Libraries and Librarians, presented at the 67th IFLA Council and General Conference, Boston (Aug. 16-25, 2001).
3 Albert Bandura and Dale H. Schunk, “Cultivating Competence, Self-Efficacy, and Intrinsic Interest through Proximal Self-Motivation,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (41, 1981), pgs. 586-598.


Christian E. Wurst, CPA, PhD, is an associate professor of instruction in accounting at the Fox School of Business at Temple University in Philadelphia. He can be reached at cwurst@temple.edu.

A. J. Kreimer, CPA, is an assistant professor of practice in accounting at the Fox School of Business. He can be reached at ajkreimer@temple.edu or on Twitter @AJKCPA.

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