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Flipping the Law Classroom to Ease Student Anxiety

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Flipping the Law Classroom to Ease Student Anxiety

Pepperdine University leveraged this technology to help students prepare for first-year law classes.

posted December 6, 2013

The flipped classroom is a trending pedagogy in classroom instruction. Flipping a classroom has two essential components:

  • Prerecording a class lecture in its entirety for students to listen to before they attend class
  • In-class activity and discussion, which takes place during normal class meeting times

The idea is to move away from in-class lectures and toward more engaging classroom activities. Students can work on group projects during class so that instructors can address any difficulties and questions in person. It also allows more time for discussion and debate; students contribute to the conversation instead of listening passively.

Flipping the Law Classroom

A similar approach was recently studied at Pepperdine University School of Law. The school conducted a study to determine whether anxiety felt by first-year law students was reduced if students knew what to expect before attending each class.

The goal was to provide each first-year law student with a prerecorded video “primer” that briefly outlined the upcoming class, including the class’s learning objectives. The primer highlighted how the students should prepare, what would be expected of them, and what they could expect to achieve from the class meeting.

The video primers were recorded by a small group of faculty members using capture recording software, a webcam and a microphone. Pepperdine’s manager of instructional technology provided the faculty with an instructional design document, a storyboard document and a scripting document to help create the primers. No postproduction was used, so faculty members scripted what they wanted to say. If they weren’t satisfied with the recording, they re-recorded.

Keys to Successful Primers

It was important that the primers be short, visual, and specific. The primers were 3 to 15 minutes long; included PowerPoint screens with specific keywords transitioning across the video to provide specific information in a visually appealing way; and included a thumbnail image of the faculty as a subset of the main screen. Capturing the faculty provided a personal touch to the primer; students who viewed the primers recognized their professors and started a friendly rapport even before classes began.

The primers were disseminated before each of the first five classes. Students viewed short recordings before preparing for each class and then completed a series of survey questions to provide feedback regarding the usefulness of these primers.

Of the surveyed students, 61.5 percent said that not knowing what to expect from the course caused anxiety. During the primer video program, 72.3 percent of students said that knowing what to expect from the course reduced anxiety, and 63.3 percent thought the primers were useful in preparing for their classes. In fact, 55.4 percent of students would have liked primers for every class meeting, not just the initial five, and 64.1 percent said the primers would be useful for all courses.

How is your college or department leveraging technology to keep students engaged? Let us know in the Comments.

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