Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Michael Waugh

Committee Members

Brandon Horvath, Joanne Logan, Gary J. Skolits


The purpose of this study was to examine student engagement patterns in smallgroup learning activities conducted in courses organized using a Flipped Learning Instructional Pedagogy (FLIP) at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UTK). A literature search on FLIP revealed no papers that examined student engagement at a fine-grained level. Classrooms were examined using an observational tool developed specifically for the examination of fine-grained student engagement. In order to observe overt engagement patterns of students during active learning in small groups, an observation tool was designed by combining an engagement framework with an in-class activity inventory.The Complex Level of Overt Student Engagement/Student-Centered Active-learning Exercises (CLOSE SCALE) tool was the result of this combination. The CLOSE SCALE tool was used to detect fine-grained student engagement levels on a minute-by-minute basis during the small-group activities. Eight different courses which sought to engage students in small-group active-learning were observed. Class sizes ranged from 12 to 41 students with group sizes of 2 to 12 individuals. The study focused on four specific research questions to determine: (a) the typical proportion of time spent in small-group activities during flipped classroom sessions, (b) the statistical significance of student engagement variations across levels of activity complexity, (c) the statistical significance of student engagement variations across levels of activity complexity across smallgroup sizes, and, (d) the correlation of instructors’ estimates of engagement with an engagement complexity moment calculated from observations of students’ group work. Across the eight observed classes students typically spent approximately 50%, of their in-class time in small-group activities. Chi-square tests determined that student engagement levels were statistically significantly different across activity level and group size. Instructors’ estimates of student engagement during small-group activities were moderately correlated to the complexity moments calculated from researcher observations of specific small groups within the class. The CLOSE SCALE was found to be a useful tool for recording fine-grained student engagement during small-group activities in FLIP classrooms. This tool may be useful for future in-class observations and determinations of student engagement in both FLIP and non-FLIP classrooms.

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