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Special education college classroom takes a ‘flip’

Faculty members in the College of Education (COE) at Georgia Southern University recently published research on their efforts to analyze and reconfigure undergraduate special education classroom instruction for preservice teachers at the University.

Lead by Assistant Professor of Special Education Cynthia C. Massey, Ph.D., the research team included COE faculty members Selçuk Doğan, Ph.D., Edward A. Muhammad, Ph.D., Eric Hogan, Ph.D., and Jackie Kim, Ed.D., as well as former Heard County Schools Special Education Teacher Cindy N. Head, Ed.D. Their study, “The Effect of Flipped Instruction on Special Education Preservice Teachers’ Perceptions,” was published in the International Journal of Scholarship for Teaching and Learning.

In fall 2019, Massey taught her first special education assessment course in the traditional format at Georgia Southern with students who were juniors in their first semester of major courses. By spring 2020, she began research to explore alternatives for teaching the material.

“I decided to pursue this research project to explore a nontraditional approach to instruction,” explained Massey. “I wanted to improve the way I supported juniors in the special education program as they mastered course content and improved their pedagogical skills. I chose to use the flipped instruction model to increase the amount of time they spent applying the content learned in a supported atmosphere before implementing the strategies learned with their P-12 students. The purpose of this project was to analyze the effectiveness of this model.”

The new flipped instruction method requires both asynchronous and synchronous instruction, with students engaging in asynchronous assignments centered on the content prior to class time. During synchronous class, students met face-to-face and began with a review of difficult or confusing concepts from the content review done on their own.

“Once we completed review, we then had the remainder of the class time to engage in hands-on activities and group discussions that allowed students to demonstrate their knowledge of the concepts,” said Massey. “I aimed to increase the motivation and engagement with course content while increasing their content knowledge so they become better educators for students with disabilities.”

The use of instructional technology allowed the students to engage in conversation and instruction outside of the classroom. Programs and applications such as Perusall, Flip and Khan Academy allowed students to read, practice and discuss content for the course outside of the classroom without the necessity of costly textbooks.

To further analyze this instruction method, two additional courses were restructured to the flipped classroom method, with one instructor making the addition of administering digital badging to add a gaming element to the course.

After each course, students were surveyed about the new teaching methods. Results were definitive that students preferred the hands-on activities versus lectures and 100% of students surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that the course provided a student-centered learning environment.

“As educators, it is important that we continually seek the most effective way to reach our current students,” said Massey. “This project taught me the importance of continuing to grow as an educator to best serve the students I teach. I will continue to search for ways to provide students with a learner-centered classroom environment and evaluate educational technology tools that best meet their needs.”

Since the success of the flipped classroom methodology, several other special education faculty have applied this approach to their classrooms.


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