Collaborative lecture theatres


This case study is about my use of one of the newly-redesigned collaborative lecture theatres at Leeds in a first year one-semester introductory module with 100+ students.  I developed a semi-flipped approach with some lecture sessions being ‘flipped learning sessions’ and others more traditionally taught but with interactive pedagogies making use of the room features and affordances.

Goals / Purpose

I decided to use the collaborative theatre because although both student performance and student feedback on the module were strong, I felt that lectures were ‘flat’ with limited interaction and the seminar leader reported that she had to revise technical points from the lectures with students, limiting the time in seminars for higher level discussion (which students found challenging and would help them with exam preparation). I was not planning any syllabus changes to coincide with the change in approach, so I chose to flip alternate lectures – the ‘semi-flipped’ approach described above. This is because when I reviewed the syllabus, some topics were more appropriate for a flipped approach than others, and because I had limited preparation time to record videos for the pre-lecture work.

Implementation / Activity

All lectures were delivered in the collaborative theatre, with students working together in pod groups of up to five which they self-selected, using the provided laptop or their own devices. Every other lecture was a flipped session, for which students had to prepare in advance by watching a video of the key technical concepts that I had recorded and completing a quiz to test their understanding.  Student groups led the recap of the video and the lecture time was spent applying the technical concepts by students generating ideas on Padlet, answering questions on Meetoo and working through partly-completed complex examples.  Myself and often the seminar leader were also moving round the room assisting students as they worked.  The non-flipped lecture sessions had some more plenary sections but also consisted of interactive activities.

Reflections and lessons learnt

Planning the flipped sessions was time-consuming, because with a large cohort and a long lecture slot (90 minutes), decided to break up the 90 minute lecture session into 10-15 minute chunks when planning, to ensure a balance of activities, and ensure there were points at which I bring the class back together and adapt the session according to the pace at which students were progressing with the activities.  The collaborative theatre and the design of lectures were well-received by most students. The approach did not adversely affect performance and student feedback.   Indeed, the teaching team received fewer emails from students as there were more opportunities for students to ask questions in class, and the seminar leader felt students were better prepared for seminar classes, which allowed time for discussion and exam preparation.  After the first year of this approach in 2016/17, I made some changes for 2017/18 including letting the students recap pre-lecture work to encourage completion, and provision of extension materials for groups which wanted to work at a faster pace. 

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Casebook author

Alice Shepherd
Alice Shepherd SFHEA FCA, Senior Teaching Fellow in Accounting and Finance, Leeds University Business School

Interests: blended learning practices in HE and employability.