Darrell A. Dromgoole, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Scott Cummings, Associate Department Head and Program Leader; Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Research on adult learners has identified key differences between adult and traditional student–aged audiences (Knowles, 1980; Merriam, 2001), providing a roadmap for effective andragogy (methods or technique utilized to teach adults) in Extension programming (Strong, Harder, & Carter, 2010). In particular, adult learners have greater capacity to direct their own learning, have problem-oriented learning goals, wish to immediately apply new knowledge, and are more self-motivated than externally motivated (Knowles, 1980).
According to Larkin, Weber, Galatowitsch, Gupta, and Rager (2018), these characteristics of adult learners align well with flipped classroom teaching methods. The flipped classroom is a type of blended learning. In this format, the traditional face-to-face educational components of teaching occur prior to face-to-face meetings via self-paced online modules, YouTube videos, webinars, etc. This independent learning is focused on knowledge and comprehension (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001; Milman, 2012), freeing up-face to face instruction time for higher level, more active modes of learning that leverage the presence of the Extension educators and peers to facilitate application, analysis, and synthesis (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001; Mazur, 2009).
In terms of Bloom’s revised taxonomy (2001), this means that clientele are doing the lower levels of cognitive work (gaining knowledge and comprehension) outside of the face to face educational environment, and focusing on the higher forms of cognitive work (application, analysis, synthesis, and/or evaluation) in face to face settings, where they have the support of their peers and Extension educators (Figure 1).
Researchers have advocated the flipped classroom as a means for improving Extension programming. Strong, Rowntree, Thurlow, and Raven (2015) argued for more community-centric rather than content-centric approaches to Extension and cited the flipped classroom as a tool for advancing that shift.
The University of Minnesota Extension has employed flipped classrooms in two programs focused on increasing the capacity for invasive species early detection and rapid response through citizen scientists (Larkin et al, 2018). The Minnesota Extension educators utilized flipped classrooms to accommodate a large amount of content delivery these programs required and reserved the face-to-face time for participants to practice, implement, and demonstrate competency with newly gained knowledge and tools (Larkin et al, 2018). These Minnesota Extension programs were AIS Detectors that targets detection and control of plant and animal aquatic invasive species and the Forest Pest First Detectors that focuses on terrestrial invasive insects and plants. Both of these programs engage adults as citizen science volunteers and place high expectations on participants’ capacity to (a) identify numerous invasive species and native look-alikes, (b) use a smartphone app to report suspected new infestations, and (c) communicate responsibly and effectively with professionals from resource management agencies and the public(Larkin et al, 2018).
The University of Minnesota Extension educators used knowledge tests and participant surveys to evaluate the effectiveness of the flipped classroom approach for participants in seven AISD workshops and two Forest Pest First Detectors workshops held across Minnesota in spring 2017 (Larkin, et al, 2018). For the AISD, they tested participants’ understanding of key issues and concepts at three points through testing administered before and after exposure to the online curriculum and a post-workshop knowledge exam (Larkin et al, 2018). For Forrest Pest First Detectors program, they assessed content knowledge through testing administered after the online curriculum. In addition, they used post-workshop online surveys, created via Qualtrics online survey software, to solicit anonymous evaluations from participants. For AISD, they asked participants to rate the effectiveness of the flipped classroom format using a multiple-choice question and sought comments through an open-ended question. For Forest Pest First Detectors, they used a multiple-choice question to gauge participant agreement with the statement “The flipped classroom approach worked well for me” (Larkin et al, 2018). Additionally, in response to a general request for comments, several participants commented on the flipped classroom concept (Larkin et al, 2018).
Results from knowledge testing of 174 participants (AISD n = 123, FPFD n = 51) and survey responses from 106 participants (AISD n = 66, FPFD n = 40) indicated the flipped classroom to be highly effective (Larkin et al, 2018). For AISD, testing indicated that prior to completing the online curriculum, only 18% of participants had satisfactory knowledge of AIS (based on a passing grade of 70%). After completion of the online curriculum, all participants passed (M = 93%) (Figure 2). In the AISD post workshop exam, all but one participant passed (M = 88%), the lone exception being the only person who had not completed the online curriculum. For FPFD, all participants scored 95% or higher on knowledge assessments following completion of the online curriculum.
Participants also reported high satisfaction with the format: 92% of AISD respondents considered the format to be very or extremely effective; 95% of FPFD survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the flipped classroom approach worked well (Figure 3).
The Minnesota Participants’ qualitative survey responses highlighted factors that contributed to their satisfaction with the flipped classroom format. In particular, participants reported that the flipped classroom helped them understand the material, enjoy the learning experience, and make the most of their in-person time (Table 1).
When thinking about utilizing the flipped classroom approach consider how Extension educators might enhance the effectiveness of something like a crop tour. For decades, these tours have traditionally included a series of stops, each involving a brief presentation by subject matter experts, followed by a quick walk into the field for closer inspection before moving onto the next tour stop.
Using the flipped classroom approach the Extension educator would record the presentation using a platform such as YouTube™ a few weeks ahead of the tour, freeing up more time for crop inspection and subject matter experts in the field. This enables clientele to achieve the lower levels of cognitive work (gaining knowledge and comprehension) outside of the face to face educational environment, and focusing on the higher forms of cognitive work (application, analysis, synthesis, and/or evaluation) during the tour, where they have the support of their peers and Extension educators.
Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy. New York, NY: Longman Publishing.
Knowles, M. S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Cambridge Books.
Larkin, D.J., Weber, M. M., Galatowitsch, S.M., Gupta, A. S., & Rager, A. (2018). Flipping the Classroom to Train Citizen Scientists in Invasive Species Detection and Response. Journal of Extension. 56 (5), Article 5TOT1. Available at: https://joe.org/joe/2018september/tt1.php.
Mazur, E. (2009). Farewell, lecture? Science, 323(5910), 50–51.
Merriam, S. B. (2001). Andragogy and self-directed learning: Pillars of adult learning theory. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 2001(89), 3–14.
Milman, N. B. (2012). The flipped classroom strategy: What is it and how can it best be used? Distance Learning, 9(3), 85.
Strong, E., Rowntree, J., Thurlow, K., & Raven, M. R. (2015). The case for a paradigm shift in Extension from information-centric to community-centric programming. Journal of Extension, 53(4), Article 4IAW1. Available at: https://www.joe.org/joe/2015august/iw1.php.
Strong, R., Harder, A., & Carter, H. (2010). Agricultural Extension agents’ perceptions of effective teaching strategies for adult learners in the master beef producer program. Journal of Extension, 48(3), Article 3RIB2. Available at: https://joe.org/joe/2010june/rb2.php.