• Flipping Precalculus to Improve Student Learning

      Gentle, Adrian P.; Wilding, William; Wilding, William
      Precalculus is designed to prepare students for college-level calculus, and as such the course serves students majoring in a variety of STEM disciplines and pre-professional programs. Its efficacy, however, is unclear. Precalculus courses tend to have a high failure rate, while those students who actually proceed to calculus may not gain much benefit from the course (Sonnert & Sadler 2014). We describe a quasi-experimental study in which we flip an undergraduate precalculus course with the goal of improving student learning and increasing success rates through the implementation of evidence-based teaching strategies. While there is some evidence for the effectiveness of flipped pedagogy in improving student learning (Talbert 2017), positive outcomes are likely critically dependent on the specific implementation of the flipped classroom (O'Flaherty & Phillips 2015). In particular, improvements in student learning outcomes may be largely attributable to the active learning occurring during class (DeLozier & Rhodes 2017). Our flipped course structure is guided by these findings, together with the evidence-based design principles outlined by Lo, Hew & Chen (2017). Two sections of precalculus were flipped during a recent semester, with students expected to watch a short video (approximately 15 minutes), attempt a few introductory problems, and complete a brief reflection quiz before class. During class the students actively engaged in group-based problem solving with the support of the instructor. The student learning outcomes in these flipped sections are compared with a traditional “interactive lecture”-based section of precalculus taught by the same instructor in the same semester. In addition to comparing student learning outcomes, we use the Short Attitudes Towards Mathematics Inventory (Lim & Chapman 2013) to track affective changes, including enjoyment, the perceived value of mathematics, and mathematical efficacy (self-confidence) between the flipped and control sections.