The application of flipped instructional model and team-based learning in Asian classrooms

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By Dr Shelen W H Ho, Associate Professor in International Business and Strategy, Henley Business School, University of Reading Malaysia

Most Asian classrooms follow the traditional model of classroom instruction where the teacher is typically the central focus in a lecture and the primary disseminator of information during the class time. In recent times, the flipped learning instructional model and team-based learning (TBL) have grown in popularity throughout the world with great enthusiasm in the West. Many people who hear about this new instructional model and learning approach say that ‘it just makes sense’. However, does it make sense in the Asian classroom setting? Are there cultural factors that need to be addressed for its effective implementation?

The sharing in this blog is a part of an ongoing participative action research initiated by the author on the flipped and TBL model in Asian classrooms to teach strategy modules. This blog presents an example activity plan for a flipped session and explains the rationale for the design, taking into consideration the Asian learning culture and the resources available in the institution.

THE PREPARATION

The flipped instructional model is new to the institution under study. There is no resource for online lectures or video lessons as with most flipped classrooms in the West.

The module document is the key instrument to prepare students for lectures. Class agenda, essential pre-reading, essential pre-class work, cases, assessments and in-class activities are systematically detailed in the document for every lecture.  The document is available to students before the commencement of term.  Asians do not appreciate surprises that put them on the spot and cause them to lose face. End-of-module student feedback has consistently shown appreciation for having details in advance.

ACTIVITY PLAN AND RATIONALE

Different class activities and assessments are purposefully designed for different topics of the module.  Unlike the previous generation of Asians who place great importance on the ordering of relationships by status in class, the study reveals that younger generations today prefer interactive learning activities once they are shown they are in a ‘safe environment’ to share.

Session design focuses on inculcating thinking skills that are critical in strategic management education, where students tackle problems individually, work in teams and construct knowledge with the help of their teacher and peers.

Figure 1 shows an example of the sequence of activities in a strategy lecture.

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Figures 2-4 provide rationale for the activities.

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PECULIAR FINDINGS ON SUPPORTING ASIAN STUDENTS

Flipped and TBL sessions are intense and require punctuality.  Asian time orientation is rather subjective, flexible and carefree. For Asians, the norm of reciprocity is pervasive, with roots grounded deep in collectivism. A negotiated ‘giving in’ of 5 minute wait time before activity commencement is often perceived as a ‘fair deal’ and found to have encouraged punctuality in class with Asian students.

Although students are mostly non-confrontational with an Asian emphasis on courteously restraining over-assertiveness, respect needs to be earned.  In the hierarchical culture, the leader (in this case, the teacher) is expected to anticipate and take care of the followers’ needs. This includes structuring comfort breaks for longer class sessions to demonstrate care so students will not miss class activities and discussions due to nature calls. This has consistently surfaced in Asian students’ feedback.

Education is seen as the path to success in much of Asia.  Parental demands, fear of failure, competition and pride have fueled Asia’s academic ascension worldwide. Typical Asian students are described as committed, competitive, passionate and ambitious. They are generally eager to know how they are performing. The action research study has found that regular feedback on individual and team performance has the positive effect of spurring performance due to the cultural values of sense of shame, and the importance of perseverance with peer pressure to perform better. However, it is also important to develop cultural fluency with feedback style to protect the face and social standing.

CONCLUSION

There are little reported empirical studies on satisfaction and cultural appropriateness of the flipped learning instructional model and TBL in the Asian context. This action research is an ongoing study at various institutions in Asia which the author is connected with. Thus far, the findings suggest that the flipped TBL model makes sense in the Asian classroom settings if activities are carefully planned for cultural sensitivity. The purpose of this blog is to encourage continuous conversations on the topic.

Discussion

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