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Reflections on a Pilot Team Teaching Course and Applying the Flipped Classroom Approach in a Pharmacy Module


In this installment, colleagues from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) and the Department of Pharmacy share their experiences of applying different teaching approaches and activities to more effectively engage students in order to improve their learning.

The teaching team from LKYSPP, comprising Dr Caroline Brassard and Dr Namrata Chindarkar, compared the effectiveness of team-taught and co-taught modules in fulfilling the intended learning outcomes for the Master of Public Policy Programme. They defined co-teaching as an approach in which instructors share a module’s teaching load but do not actively engage in each other’s class or address the class together. Meanwhile, team teaching is defined as an approach in which there is active collaboration between module instructors at every stage of the curriculum’s development, from the module’s design stage to the delivery of the module content in lectures and tutorials. In their paper, Drs Brassard and Chindarkar provided the rationale for incorporating team teaching into the module, and the process involved in developing and incorporating team teaching into the Programme’s core modules. They also evaluated the extent to which the team teaching approach resulted in improved learning gains for students, and the learning points they derived from this experience.

Meanwhile, in an effort to develop independent learners amongst Year 2 pharmacy students taking their pharmaceutical formulation and technology module, Dr Loh Zhi Hui and Assoc Prof Chan Lai Wah carried out a pilot study to explore the feasibility of implementing the flipped classroom approach in their course. The authors hoped that this approach would enable their students to effectively apply their knowledge of drug product design in actual practice. In addition to sharing the process of developing the flipped classroom learning activities, which included developing short video lectures and the follow-up face-to-face sessions, the authors also carried out a post-session survey to evaluate students’ perceptions toward this approach. In their paper, they provide extensive reflection on the survey results and how it would inform the implementation of the flipped classroom approach for subsequent iterations of the module.

We hope the reflections and teaching experiences highlighted here provide rich food for thought as you develop your own teaching practice. In the coming year, we will be sharing more case studies and teaching reflections. We also welcome articles on developing one’s teaching practice, and the submission guidelines can be found here.

On behalf of the editorial team, we would like to wish all our readers a happy holiday and a wonderful new year!


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Cautiously Implementing Team Teaching: A Reflection on a Pilot Team Teaching Course


Caroline BRASSARD and Namrata CHINDARKAR
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

Recommended Citation:
Brassard, C. & Namrata C. (2017). Cautiously implementing team teaching: A reflection on a pilot team teaching course. CDTL Brief, 20(1), 1-7.

The practice of collaborative teaching is increasing in universities, especially in interdisciplinary programmes. While collaborative research is encouraged (and at times the norm), collaborative teaching is not as prevalent. Where collaborative teaching is practiced, the nature and extent of collaboration differs. Hence, when moving away from the traditional lecture format where course content is imparted by a single lecturer, there is a need to understand the institutional implications of adopting alternative teaching models such as co-teaching or team teaching. This article is based on our experiences and reflections in adopting these alternative teaching models to teach eight modules in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy’s (LKY SPP) Master of Public Policy Programme over two academic years. It compares team-taught and co-taught modules in the programme which are related to interdisciplinary topics¹.

What is team teaching?
Based on our experience, we conceptualize co-teaching as a teaching model where instructors share the module’s teaching load, either equally or as per mutual understanding, but do not actively engage in each other’s class or address the class together. In contrast, we define team teaching as an active collaboration between instructors, starting from the module design stage to the delivery of the material in the classroom.


Our definition draws upon our experience at the LKY SPP, where core modules of the Master of Public Policy Programme have moved away from being single faculty-taught to team-taught modules by two to three faculty. The assumption is that team teaching may foster deeper learning compared to single-taught courses (Anderson & Speck, 1998; Carpenter et al., 2007; Crow & Smith, 2003).

Rationales for team teaching
The impetus for implementing team teaching at the LKY SPP stems from various rationales that reinforce each other:

  1. To facilitate the integration of junior faculty with little teaching experience.
  2. To capitalize on complementary expertise between faculty within a similar area of expertise.
  3. To enable students to understand public policy from various schools of thought, such as an economic, political and institutional perspective, which is necessary in some inter-disciplinary courses.

With respect to the first rationale, as discussed later, there is a need to exercise caution such that no faculty within the team would ‘overshadow’ another, but instead work on an equal footing where all members of the team would learn from each other. Regarding the second rationale, student evaluations have shown that because of the complementary expertise different faculty bring to the team, team-taught courses provide students with the opportunity to be exposed to diverse points of view. Finally, for the last rationale, team teaching would enable students to look at complex public policy problems from different disciplinary perspectives, understand the pros and the cons of analytical tools, or build argumentation by utilizing different data sources and information.


These team-taught core modules occur in the first year of the two-year programme, and constitute about 25 percent of the total number of modules. The total enrolment for the programme is about sixty, comprising mainly international students. After two years of implementing team-taught modules, a new team of instructors would be put together for each module, to facilitate continuous innovation and experimentation.

Intended learning outcomes
The main learning outcomes of these core modules are to enable students to adopt an integrative approach to public policy analysis through various disciplinary approaches such as economics, politics, and development studies. Our team teaching approach implies that instructors work as a team to design the learning objectives of the module, planning all assignments, and assessing students’ work as integral components of team teaching. Holding post-class debrief meetings is also crucial to team teaching, ensuring continuous interaction and dialogue between instructors.

Implicitly, the adoption of a team-taught approach assumes that the learning outcomes of students in team-taught classes are reached more significantly than those taught by a single instructor. However, in order to test this proposition, a comparison group would be required. The available evidence from the literature tends to focus on the advantages and disadvantages contrasting between common collaborative teaching models (Dynak, Whitten, & Dynak, 1997), as summarized in Table 1. In the context of the LKY SPP, a combination of complementary, parallel, and co-teaching approaches are used.

Table 1.
Collaborative teaching models: Features, advantages, and disadvantages
Dynak, Whitten, and Dynak (1997)

Evaluating the impact of team teaching
Experimental studies would be ideal to measure the impact of team teaching. However, it would require careful logistical planning as well as significant resource allocation. In programmes where total enrolment numbers are small, such as this graduate level programme offered by the LKY SPP, splitting the cohort for an experimental evaluation might be impossible. Measuring the impact would require tracking the students for a reasonably long period of time so that a change in learning outcomes is actually observed. Semester-long courses might not be conducive for these reasons, and year-long courses are not a norm in most departments. Further, with several departments emphasizing student diversity, identifying well-balanced treatment and control groups can be challenging, and this would have direct implications for the validity of results from the experimental evaluation.



Ensuring clarity of teaching approach and materials between faculty members
While there are definite advantages to team teaching, it is not without its disadvantages. For the students, team teaching could lead to more confusion than clarity on the material if the perspectives of instructors within the team are too conflicting (Buckley, 2000). It may also lead to confusion among students over who might be the “lead faculty” for the entire module and they may not know which instructor to approach or communicate with to clarify doubts outside the classroom. From the faculty standpoint, preparing for a team-taught module is certainly more challenging than preparing for single-taught modules. Specifically for our module, we spent a significant amount of time designing the syllabus, assignments, and exchanging feedback on lecture notes. This heavy investment in preparation time could be a concern especially to tenure track faculty, who must strike a balance between teaching and research.

Recognition of a different and preferred approach by the university administration
At the administrative level, we draw the following conclusions. Firstly, when opting for team teaching as an appropriate pedagogic method for a module, the administrators must be clear that this is preferred over a single taught module. Secondly, the team members’ composition must be carefully selected to ensure complementarity, as well as equity and fairness between group members. Thirdly, administrators should recognize the workload involved in team teaching, which requires acknowledgement, in terms of the overall teaching load. This may become problematic especially when faculty are involved in multiple team-taught courses, due to the time required for coordination purposes.

For faculty on tenure track, training for team teaching can add to the existing burden of balancing research and teaching. As a result of these experiences, at the LKY SPP there is appropriate teaching load credit for team-taught courses. A point to consider for administrators would be whether to engineer team teaching or let teams form organically over time. At the LKY SPP, teams are assigned by the School’s management, and the rotational nature of teams at the LKY SPP after two years of teaching gives room for individual faculty to adapt and learn from each other, as well as strengthen the teams. Faculty who collaborate on research projects can also team up to teach, allowing them to bring in insights from their research into the classroom.

Provide training or mentorship for faculty members new to team teaching
In addition, just as new faculty members usually take part in training as they engage in teaching in their first years, some type of training should also be considered for team teaching. The content of such training should include a discussion on the various modes of team teaching and the value in mixing these models. The importance of forging good relations between members of the team is essential. As such, the training described above can partly serve as a ‘warm up’ for new teams.

Develop indicators to measure team teaching  
Thompson-Whiteside (2013) raises questions about standardized evaluations of teaching and learning. As frameworks are being drawn to ensure quality of teaching and students’ learning, and in order to benchmark institutions, these tend to take a more quantitative stance, in order to obtain more ‘precise’ and comparable measures. This trend may pose challenges for collaborative teaching, which involves a more complex set of interactions, and is challenging to quantify using standard measures that apply more to single taught courses. This reinforces the need to develop specific measures to assess collaborative teaching, so that the indicators reflect the diversity of teaching models used, and calls for the use of qualitative measures that could be used within a comparative perspective.

Developing such indicators requires further research, contrasting systematically student feedback (both qualitative and quantitative) in single taught courses versus co-taught or team-taught courses within the same field, or through the use of a control group within an experimental design. Given the internationalization of higher education, the expansion of partnerships across countries (via double degrees and exchange programs), we believe that this will be an increasingly important area of higher education management and deserves further research.


In conclusion, the benefits of team teaching can go beyond learning outcomes for students, as they see the team work together and interact with both faculty in class. Extensive interaction tends to work better for a class size of less than 40 students. It is also crucial that the faculty communicates clear expectations and deliverables together.

After more than three years of implementation, there is now a recognition that team taught courses are equivalent to a full course teaching load and faculty gets credit accordingly. However, it is still unclear how standardized student evaluation forms reflect the team-based aspect of teaching. Team teaching can be enriching but also more challenging (and time-consuming) than co-teaching, where only one faculty is in the classroom at a given time. Finally, team teaching requires a cautious and reflective approach to teaching, and one that respects professional growth of all team members.



  1. The Authors would like to thank CDTL for a teaching enhancement grant that allowed us to look into this issue of team teaching and reflect on our institutional practices. A lengthier version of this paper was presented at the Fifth Asian Conference on Education in Osaka, Japan, in 2013. We thank the participants as well as CDTL staff for their valuable comments.



Anderson, R. B. & Speck, B. W. (1998). Oh what a difference a team makes: Why team teaching makes a difference. Teaching and Teacher Education, 14(7), 671-686.

Blanchard, K. H. (2010). Leading at a higher level: Blanchard on leadership and creating high performing organizations (Rev. and expanded). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: F.T. Press.

Buckley, F. J. (2000). Team teaching: What, why, and how? Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage eBook.

Carpenter, D. M. II, Crawford, L., & Walden, R. (2007). Testing the efficacy of team teaching. Learning Environments Research, 10(1), 53-65.

Dynak, J. Whitten, E., & Dynak, D. (1997). Refining the general education student teaching experience through the use of special education collaborative teaching models. Action in Teacher Education, 19(1), 64-74.

Thompson-Whiteside, S. (2013). Are standards-based quality systems a threat to the internationalization of teaching and learning? The International Academic Forum (IAFOR) Journal of Education, 1(1), 11-37. Retrieved from

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Caroline BRASSARD is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. She joined the LKY SPP in 2002 where she taught statistics, development economics, research design, aid governance, and qualitative policy analysis. Her research interests include poverty eradication and development policy lessons from natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific, and disaster governance in urbanizing contexts. Her work has appeared in journals associated with development policy, including the Asian Journal of Social Science and the Global Risk Report 2014. Her latest edited book Natural Disaster Management in the Asia-Pacific (edited with David Giles and Arnold Howitt) was published by Springer in 2015.

Namrata CHINDARKAR is an Assistant Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore (NUS) and a faculty associate at the Institute of Water Policy, NUS. Her research interests are in development and social policy with a focus on infrastructure, energy, water, poverty and inequality, food security, gender, policy analysis and evaluation. Her methodological approach is applied econometrics using primary, secondary, and administrative policy data. She teaches graduate-level modules on quantitative policy analysis and development policy.



Student Perceptions and Attitudes Towards the Flipped Classroom Approach in a Pharmaceutical Formulation and Technology Module in NUS


LOH Zhi Hui and CHAN Lai Wah
Department of Pharmacy

Recommended Citation:
Z.H. Loh & L.W. Chan (2017). Student perceptions and attitudes towards the flipped classroom approach in a pharmaceutical formulation and technology module. CDTL Brief, 20(1), 8-19.


The NUS Pharmacy curriculum is geared towards producing well-trained community and hospital pharmacists who play active roles in managing their patients’ health through the appropriate use of medicinal products. As medicinal product experts, pharmacists should leverage on their knowledge of product design to make the best treatment recommendations. However, in recent years, it was observed that students often could not draw the link between drug product design and use, despite a strong grounding on the former through compulsory formulation and technology modules. This may be attributed to insufficient opportunities for the students to discuss and apply the knowledge acquired.  Hence, there is a need to improve knowledge integration in these areas.

It has been envisioned that adopting a flipped classroom approach may potentially bridge this gap (Tune, Sturek, & Basile, 2013; Freeman et al., 2014). In the flipped classroom approach, students undertake independent learning of prescribed materials, such as lecture slides, videos, and reference books, outside of class. When they meet their instructor and peers face to face in the classroom, they engage in discussions of the material learnt. This leads to a change in the classroom dynamic, from being traditionally passive and teacher-centric to an active, student-centric learning environment with teachers assuming the role of facilitators. Some key benefits of the flipped classroom approach include allowing students to learn at their own pace and convenience, as well as providing more opportunities for student-teacher and student-student interaction, both of which promote higher-order learning (Moraros, Islam, Yu, Banow, & Schindelka, 2015).

The literature abounds with examples of how the flipped classroom approach has improved student learning outcomes in many disciplines (van Vilet, Winnips, & Brouwer, 2015; Strayer, 2012). To date, this approach to teaching and learning is relatively new to the Department of Pharmacy. Hence, this pilot study was carried out to explore the feasibility of implementing the flipped classroom approach in a pharmaceutical formulation and technology module taken by 199 undergraduates in their second year of study. It was hoped that this approach would provide students the opportunity to effectively apply their knowledge of drug product design in actual practice. The ultimate aim is to develop independent learners with critical thinking skills.

The topic of “Suppositories” was selected for this pilot study. This topic focuses on the formulation, production and evaluation of suppository products. Short video lectures were developed to address these three aspects of suppositories, and the videos were subsequently uploaded to an online platform (IVLE) for students to view over a span of three months. To meet the objective of knowledge integration, the face-to-face sessions were designed to enable students to apply their knowledge of the formulation, production and evaluation of suppositories in the development of anti-malarial suppositories, demonstrated to be of value in reducing the incidence of malaria-related deaths in African children. As this was the inaugural attempt of implementing the flipped classroom approach in this module, a survey was carried out to evaluate student attitudes and perceptions towards this new teaching approach.



Video lectures
Six video lectures, each lasting between 10 to 20 minutes, were created using a screen recording software equipped with video editing functions (Camtasia® for Mac). A summary of the videos’ content can be seen in Table 1.

Table 1
Content of the short videos produced on the topic “Suppositories”

The total time of all 6 video lectures was approximately 1.5 hours. To improve student engagement and sustain their interest, timely animations highlighting important points, video snippets of practical experiments, music, as well as clear voice-over narration were incorporated in the video lectures. Students also received the lecture slides, complete with the video script.

Face-to-face sessions   
The entire class, which consisted a total of 199 students, was divided into 7 groups, each group comprising a maximum of 30 students. Accordingly, 7 face-to-face sessions were scheduled, with each session lasting 90 min. These face-to-face sessions were organized as a follow-up to the video lectures, that is, students attended these sessions after the 3-month period allocated for them to view the video lectures. During this 3-month period, students attended traditional lectures for the other topics in the module, over and above the video lectures on Suppositories. There were no formative assessments conducted but consultations were readily available to the students.

For each face-to-face session (up to 30 students per session), students were further divided into 5 discussion groups, where each group had to work on assigned questions and give a presentation of their answers. Questions were set to enable students to apply the material learnt from the video lectures to the formulation, production, and evaluation of suppositories for the treatment of malaria. The way each session was structured is detailed in Table 2. The same content was covered for all 7 face-to-face sessions.

Table 2
Example of the structure of a face-to-face session

Student survey
After each face-to-face session, a paper-and-pen survey comprising a total of 10 statements was administered to the students to obtain their feedback on specific aspects of the flipped classroom approach (Table 3). Students responded to the statements based on a 5-point Likert scale (“Strongly Disagree”, “Disagree”, “Unsure”, “Agree”, and “Strongly Agree”). Prior to attempting the survey, students were asked to indicate the number of videos they had watched at home. Students could also provide qualitative comments at the bottom of the survey form.

Table 3
List of statements in the survey form



Response rate and number of videos watched by students
In total, 195 students (or 98%) responded to the survey. The high response rate was likely due to the fact that the paper-and–pen survey was administered immediately after each face-to-face session. The 4 students who did not participate in the survey were either absent or left before the session ended.

Figure 1. Bar chart showing the number of videos watched by the 195 respondents.

Overall, the number of videos the respondents watched varied between zero to six, with more than half (63.6%) who watched all six videos (Figure 1). A small proportion of students (38 out of 195 respondents or 19.5%) indicated that they did not watch any of the uploaded videos. Amongst these respondents, 6 of them commented that reading the accompanying video scripts was sufficient, and one commented that he/she could not watch the videos but no reasons were provided. The remaining 17% of the 195 respondents watched between one to five videos.

After analyzing the survey results, it was observed that there was no correlation between the number of videos respondents watched and their responses to the statements in the survey. The data showed that the number of videos the respondents watched did not appear to have any bearing on their responses to the survey statements. For example, it did not mean that respondents who had watched more videos felt that the flipped classroom approach increased their workload and vice versa. Hence, the data presented in the next section (Figures 2a to 2j) represents the responses from all 195 respondents regardless of the number of videos they had watched.

In the following section, to keep things simple, the responses for “Strongly Agree” and “Agree” were summed up and discussed collectively as agreeing with the respective statement. Likewise, the responses for “Strongly Disagree” and “Disagree” were summed up and discussed collectively as disagreeing with the respective statement.

Feedback on video-based teaching and learning: Statements 1 to 3

Based on the survey results, there was positive student feedback towards the flipped classroom approach.

Figure 2. Responses of students to Statement 1 in the survey.

For Statement 1 (see Figure 2), 159 respondents felt that the pace and content of the video lectures were appropriate for self-learning at home [with 102 (52%) and 57 (29%) respondents indicating that they “Agree” and “Strongly Agree” respectively]. Meanwhile, 4 out of the 195 respondents (or 2%) indicated they disagreed and 32 (or 16%) indicated that they were “Unsure”. 26 out of the 32 respondents who had indicated they were “Unsure” about Statement 1 did not watch any of the videos at all1, and as expected, they were unable to gauge if the pace of the videos were appropriate.

Figure 3. Responses of students to Statement 3 in the survey.

Meanwhile, 148 respondents agreed with Statement 3 (see Figure 3), that the flipped classroom approach allowed them to learn at their own pace and convenience which they found beneficial [with 113 (58%) and 35 (18%) respondents indicating that they “Agree” and “Strongly Agree” respectively]. 31 respondents (or 16%) indicated they were “Unsure”, and 16 respondents (or 8%) disagreed with Statement 3.

Figure 4. Responses of students to Statement 2 in the survey.

However, opinions were divided with regards to Statement 2 (see Figure 4), on the impact of flipped classroom teaching and learning on students’ workload. The total number of students indicating that they “Agree” (65 respondents, or 33%) and “Strongly Agree” (14 respondents, or 7%) with Statement 2 was almost equal to the total number indicating that they “Disagree”(68 respondents, or 35%) and “Strongly Disagree” (10 respondents, or 5%). The remaining 38 respondents (or 20%) indicated that they were “Unsure” of the impact of flipped classroom teaching on their workload. There was no trend observed between the number of videos watched by the students and their responses to this question, i.e., it did not mean that students who watched more videos at home felt that their workload associated with flipped classroom teaching had increased.

Feedback on the face-to-face session: Statements 4 to 7

Figure 5. Responses of students to Statement 4 in the survey.

With regards to the face-to-face session, the general consensus amongst the students was that the session not only reinforced the content covered in the video lectures, but also made them see how the knowledge would be relevant and applicable in solving real issues related to practice. This was evident from students’ responses to Statement 4 (see Figure 5), with an overwhelming majority of respondents indicating that they “Agree” (106 respondents, or 54%) and “Strongly Agree” (73 respondents, or 37%). Only 1 respondent disagreed, and 15 respondents (or 8%) indicated that they were “Unsure”.

Figure 6. Responses of students to Statement 5 in the survey.

The face-to-face sessions were carried out in classrooms with the chairs and tables arranged for small group discussions. Based on personal observations, this classroom layout facilitated student-student interactions and promoted discussion and learning. These views were similarly echoed by the survey results for Statement 5 (see Figure 6), with the majority of respondents indicating that they “Agree” (105 respondents, or 54%) and “Strongly Agree” (48 respondents, or 25%) that the flipped classroom session created opportunities for student-student interaction that promoted learning. A total of 7 respondents (or 4%) indicated they disagreed (5 respondents, or 3%) and strongly disagreed (2 respondents, or 1%) with Statement 5, and 35 respondents (18%) indicated that they were “Unsure”.

Figure 7. Responses of students to Statement 7 in the survey.

It was also gratifying to note from the survey results that the flipped classroom approach did not result in a compromise in student engagement compared to the traditional didactic lecture. This was based on the results for Statement 7 (see Figure 7), with more than half of the 195 respondents indicating that they “Disagree” (99 respondents, or 51%) and “Strongly Disagree” (23 respondents, or 12%). 45 respondents (or 23%) indicated they were “Unsure”, while the remainder indicated that they agreed (22 respondents, or 11%) and strongly agreed (6 respondents, or 3%) with Statement 7.

Figure 8. Responses of students to Statement 6 in the survey.

Most importantly, the flipped classroom approach had aroused the interest of the majority of students in the topic that was taught this way, with the majority of respondents indicating they “Agree” (100 respondents, or 51%) and “Strongly Agree” (39 respondents, or 20%) with Statement 6 (see Figure 8). 47 respondents (or 24%) indicated that they were “Unsure”, while the remainder indicated that they disagreed (8 respondents, or 4%) and strongly disagreed (1 respondent, or 1%) with Statement 6.

Reflections and overall view on flipped classroom teaching and learning: Statements 8 to 10

Figure 9. Responses of students to Statement 9 in the survey.

The survey results also showed that the majority of the respondents agreed (116 respondents, or 59%) and strongly agreed (30 respondents, or 15%) with Statement 9 (see Figure 9), acknowledging that the flipped classroom approach was a positive experience for them and that they had reaped additional educational benefits from this teaching method. Only 44 respondents (or 23%) indicated they were “Unsure” and the remainder indicated they disagreed (3 respondents, or 2%) and strongly disagreed (2 respondents, or 1%) with Statement 9.

Figure 10. Responses of students to Statement 8 in the survey.

In spite of these advantages, when probed in Statement 8 (see Figure 10) whether the flipped classroom approach should be applied to other selected topics in this module, the survey results once again show that students’ opinions were divided. Less than half of the 195 respondents indicated that they agreed (62 respondents, or 32%) and strongly agreed (18 respondents, or 9%) to a wider application of flipped classroom teaching, with a similar proportion (80 respondents, or 41%) indicating that they were “Unsure”. The remainder indicated they disagreed (27 respondents, or 14%) and strongly disagreed (8 respondents, or 4%) with Statement 8.

Figure 11. Responses of students to Statement 10 in the survey.

Meanwhile, almost half of the respondents indicated that they agreed (72 respondents, or 37%) and strongly agreed (18 respondents, or 9%) with Statement 10 (see Figure 11). In short, they still preferred the traditional lecture format over the flipped classroom approach. 67 respondents (or 34%) indicated that they were “Unsure”, and the remainder indicated that they disagreed (28 respondents, or 14%) and strongly disagreed (10 respondents, or 5%) with Statement 10. It should be highlighted that the students were given 3 months to go through the videos without any formative assessment. The lack of engagement over a relatively long period of time might have contributed to the lukewarm response to this flipped classroom approach.



In conclusion, flipped classroom teaching was successfully carried out in a pharmaceutical formulation and technology module in the Department of Pharmacy at NUS. This approach to teaching and learning was advantageous in that it provided students with the opportunity to apply their knowledge of the design of suppositories in the treatment of malaria.

A survey of student perceptions and attitudes towards the flipped classroom approach revealed that although most students had indicated they experienced the benefits of this approach, a large proportion of them still preferred the traditional lecture method format. As the flipped classroom approach requires students to take greater ownership of their learning, step out of their comfort zones and engage as active learners through discussions with their peers, this may unknowingly create feelings of competition and anxiety. These negative feelings are compounded with the uncertainties of how the flipped classroom approach, if implemented on a larger scale, could potentially impact their academic performance in the module. These are possible reasons why many students still prefer the “tried-and-tested” teaching and learning methods, based on the results of this survey. For the flipped classroom approach to work, it is important to allay the anxiety of the students, to continually engage them, and give some incentive for active participation.

Furthermore, as it was neither practical nor feasible to teach the same topic using two different approaches, it may have been difficult for students to compare the effectiveness of traditional lectures and the flipped classroom approach on the same basis. The nature of the topic selected for the flipped classroom approach may skew student perceptions and attitudes towards this new teaching approach. Cross-cohort studies that compare the performances of two different cohorts of students, of which one is exposed to traditional teaching methods and the other to the flipped classroom approach, may provide a possible solution.

Another limitation of this study relates to the time available for peer interaction and discussions. As shown in Table 2, a significant amount of time in each face-to-face session was taken up by the instructor presenting the background of the case study, which left little time for peer discussions and presentations. This could be avoided by having the instructor provide students with the case studies beforehand, so that they can acquaint themselves with the background knowledge necessary for a fruitful discussion. These limitations can be addressed in future extensions of this study.



  1. In the survey, the respondents were asked to indicate the number of videos they had watched.



Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 111(23), 8410-8415.

Moraros, J., Islam, A., Yu, S., Banow, R. & Schindelka, B. (2015). Flipping for success: evaluating the effectiveness of a novel teaching approach in a graduate level setting. BMC Medical Education ,15(1), 317.

Strayer, J. F. (2012). How learning in an inverted classroom influences cooperation, innovation and task orientation. Learning Environment Research, 15(2), 171-193.

Tune, J. D., Sturek, M. ,& Basile, D. P. (2013). Flipped classroom model improves graduate student performance in cardiovascular, respiratory and renal physiology. Advances in Physiology Education, 37(4), 316-320.

van Vliet, E. A., Winnips, J. C. & Brouwer, N. (2015). Flipped-class pedagogy enhances student metacognition and collaborative-learning strategies in higher education but effect does not persist. CBE Life Sciences Education, 14(3), ar26.


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LOH Zhi Hui was a lecturer at the Department of Pharmacy. Her research interests include dosage form design and drug delivery. Her work has appeared in journals associated with  pharmaceutical formulation and technology. She is currently working with GlaxoSmithKline, a multinational pharmaceutical company.

CHAN Lai Wah is an Associate Professor at the Department of Pharmacy. Her research interests include dosage form design and drug delivery. Her work has appeared in journals associated with pharmaceutical formulation and technology, including Pharmaceutical Research and Expert Opinion in Drug Delivery.


On Using Formative Feedback, Virtual Mobile Technology, and Other Classroom Strategies to Engage Learners


In this issue, colleagues reflect on the effectiveness of various learning activities put in place to deepen their students’ knowledge and understanding of course content (within and beyond the existing curriculum), and to build their capacity for critical analysis and self-regulated learning.

For students taking his module on industrial organization, Dr Ko Chiu Yu (Dept of Economics) developed a comprehensive formative feedback mechanism to help enhance the academic quality of the written reports for their research projects. His article charts the implementation of this feedback mechanism over two academic years and its subsequent refinement, where students received formative feedback from both the instructor and their peers at early and intermediate stages of the research project. Dr Ko also discusses how he scaffolded the feedback process, the challenges involved in doing so, and students’ responses regarding the effectiveness of instructor and peer feedback strategies. In her article, Dr Tan Kai Soo (Dentistry) discusses the rationale behind the introduction of a 7-day bridging programme for residents taking the Masters of Dental Surgery (MDS) programme, namely to deepen their knowledge of oral microbiology, immunology and molecular biology. She describes the implementation of the programme in its first academic year, the gaps uncovered during the post-programme evaluation survey, and the refinements put in place to enhance the bridging programme’s effectiveness in meeting the key learning outcomes of the MDS programme.

Meanwhile, Dr Kevin Yap (Dept of Pharmacy) chronicles the process involved in developing a virtual patient record (VPR) mobile application which simulates an electronic health records (EHR) system. The VPR app aims to educate pharmacy students on how to retrieve patient health information from EHRs during their pharmacy practice. He also reflects on students’ perceptions of the app’s effectiveness as a tool to support their learning, and how he plans to refine its existing features. Finally, Dr Satyen Gautam (Dept of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering) and his colleagues discuss the various aspects of industry development in the capstone design project for chemical engineering students and the learning benefits to be gained, including how it gives students exposure to expert knowledge and performance which would give them insights into how “a real practitioner behaves in a real situation” (Herrington & Herrington, 2006, p.5).


Herrington, A., & Herrington, J. (2006). What is an authentic learning environment? In T. Herrington, & J. Herrington (Eds.) Authentic Learning Environments in Higher Education (pp. 1-14). Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing.

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Using Formative Feedback, Peer Review, and Online Video-Recorded Presentations to Enhance Students’ Research Reports


KO Chiu Yu
Department of Economics

Recommended Citation:
C.Y. Ko (2016). Using formative feedback, peer review, and online video-recorded presentations to enhance students’ research reports. CDTL Brief, 19(1), 3-9.

This article describes how timely formative feedback was provided to students reading the elective module EC5322R/EC5322 “Industrial Organization” at various milestones in their research projects. The provision of timely formative feedback was used as an intervention to enhance their reports for such projects. Formative feedback was provided by the instructor and peers following a peer review of students’ online video recorded presentations. The intervention was carried out over two rounds of teaching EC5322R/EC5322, with some fine-tuning of the approach after the first round. Some preliminary findings from the pilot study is also shared.

EC5322 ‘’Industrial Organization’’ is listed as both a graduate elective and an undergraduate module, EC5322R, which is open to undergraduate students pursuing an Honours Degree in Economics. The purpose of this module is for students to be able to understand and make in-depth analysis of various theoretical issues related to modern industrial organization. The module aims to enable students to develop their own economic models to explain real-world phenomena, and communicate these models well in both oral and written form. Hence, 70% of the module’s assessment is based on an independent research project, while the remaining 30% is based on the final exam.

Challenges encountered
In my first year of teaching EC5322R/EC5322 (n=15), students were asked to present their findings in class before submitting their written reports. However, the main problem we discovered about this instructional strategy was that in the course of doing their projects, many students were too focused on the technical details and failed to see the “big picture”, that is, understanding the key economic concepts that underpin a lot of these real-world phenomena. For example, when students attempted to apply the economic models discussed in class to explain the outcomes of particular markets, some of them failed to appreciate that while the assumptions from different models may seem innocuous when taken separately, they may not be plausible when applied wholesale in certain markets. Had they received timely feedback on the preliminary work they had done for their projects and refined it accordingly, they would have written papers of better quality.

Interventions introduced: First cycle of interventions
As a result, in the second year, I refined the initial instructional strategy by replacing the in-class presentation with an online video recorded presentation. We felt that incorporating peer review through online video recorded presentations would benefit students’ learning in a few ways. First, it would facilitate timely feedback and enable closer monitoring of students’ progress throughout  the project. According to Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick (2006), providing timely feedback is one of the strategies that could be adopted to give quality feedback to students (p. 210). Secondly, through peer feedback, “students learn a great deal by explaining their ideas to others and by participating in activities in which they can learn from their peers” (Boud, 2001, p. 3). Another motivating factor was that the online mode would alleviate logistic problems. For instance, if each student were to do a 10-minute classroom presentation of their project, it could take several weeks of classroom time even for such a small class. With online video recorded presentations, we could set aside more time for in-class post-presentation debriefs and discussions. Finally, submission of multiple drafts would be hard to apply in this case as building economic models would require iterative development. When it comes to building a good economic model, one should follow the advice found in a phrase attributed to Albert Einstein: “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” A good economic model requires abstraction of complicated real-world problems into a few key assumptions. They should not only be simple enough to be tractable for analysis but also flexible enough to accommodate different possible extensions. Refining an economic model usually takes much more time than developing the first prototype.

The quality of the written reports appeared to improve with this modification to the instructional strategy. This could be due to students’ participation in the online discussions following each presentation, which generated constructive comments. In fact, one student’s paper was so well-written that it was later developed into an integrated honours thesis, and that particular student went on to achieve a double first-class honours.

Moreover, as the post-presentation discussions generated constructive comments that helped improve their written reports, I asked students to comment on their classmates’ presentations using the forum function of the website on which the presentation videos had been uploaded. Although we incentivised the peer evaluation by making it count towards 5% of their final grade, it was observed that the comments collected were less thoughtful and constructive than expected. One possible reason could be that students may encounter difficulty in evaluating a working idea from the video presentation without a written draft.

Interventions introduced: Second cycle of interventions
Therefore, in my third year of teaching EC5322R/EC5322, I refined the instructional strategy further by including an additional online video-recorded presentation to allow students to provide feedback in the early stages of their projects. A 3-page written proposal was also included to facilitate the peer review process for the second online video recorded presentation. Based on my subjective evaluation (as well as feedback from colleagues and students who compared the submissions with those from previous cohorts), the quality of the peer reviews, written reports and in-class presentations all improved significantly with this further modification. Informal interaction with students and a survey confirmed the success of this experiment. The following sections detail the implementation of these additional learning activities.

Project Milestones Provided for Students
The revised instructional strategy, with its additional learning activities, was divided into three key phases over the semester:

  • The screening phase. To kick-start the assignment, students were asked to share initial ideas of their respective independent research projects via 5-minute online video-recorded presentations in Week 5. The post-presentation discussions I had with the class were useful in helping to filter out less promising ideas and for me to provide input to improve the more promising ones. Prior to these discussions, students were given guidelines on how to evaluate their peers’ work. To complete the peer evaluation, they are required to answer qualitative questions in a form created on Google Docs.
  • The feedback phase. Based on the feedback received from their peers, each student would prepare and submit a short written proposal (3 pages) in Week 8, in which they had to formulate the research question. This was followed by a second extended online video-recorded presentation (10 minutes) in Week 9 which focussed on their methodologies, and a peer review in Week 10.
  • The reporting phase. Finally, students presented their results during the last two classes before submitting their final reports in Week 13.

Thus, there were five tasks within the three phases where students could receive critical and constructive feedback before submitting their written reports. Table 1 lists the project milestones for the research project. The tasks were arranged within these phases to scaffold their learning; it also gave them ample time to revise their ideas, or even switch to other topics. To implement such an elaborate feedback mechanism, I gave out a clear roadmap during the first class with detailed guidelines for each part of the assessment.

Table 1.
Project Milestones for the Research ProjectChiu_table1

Screening phase: 5-minute online video recorded presentation
During this initial phase, students were given a list of topics to explore. These topics had been attempted by previous cohorts and were useful in helping the current batch decide whether they were able and willing to conduct original academic research within 13 weeks.

What was the rationale for including the screening phase? I felt that it mentally prepared the students as they embarked on the research project, which was crucial for a successful paper. It minimised their tendency to procrastinate, an easy trap to fall into unless they really enjoyed working on their projects. Since the willingness to do research was hard to write down as a prerequisite, the screening phase allowed them to do a self-check at an early stage of the project. However, I did emphasise that they were free to explore topics beyond the list, especially since the class composition differs from year to year.

In Week 5, each student would upload a 5-minute presentation of their chosen research topic to Youtube, which allowed for easy viewing and file-sharing during the peer-review component of the project. Students could also choose to put their videos on a restricted channel to ensure their presentations were not searchable online. While students were free to choose their presentation styles, they were also given minute-by-minute guidelines on how to structure their presentations. In the guidelines, it was recommended that they spend one minute each to do the following in their presentation: describe their research idea in non-technical terms, justify its importance, spell out deficiencies in previous research, explain what can be done, and summarise the expected outcomes. Having students record their presentations reduced their anxieties over presenting their preliminary ideas. To further relieve students of this pressure, they were awarded full marks for their effort in completing this first online video recorded presentation. Each student would subsequently receive my feedback via email with emphasis on the feasibility of the ideas they proposed. After this screening phase, three students shifted their  research focus or changed research topics.

Feedback phase: 10-minute online video recorded presentation, research proposal, and peer review
As part of the milestone for the project, each student was to submit a 3-page research proposal in Week 8. In the proposal, they had to highlight the importance of their proposed research question, conduct a thorough literature review, and describe the methodology. The page limit was set to ensure students produce a concise report. This would not only compel them to think more deeply about the outcomes they wanted to achieve for this research project, it would also help reduce the number of pages to comb through for the subsequent peer review. It was interesting to note that students strictly adhere to the criteria listed for the proposal. In fact, two students sent me an email to request a topic change, even though my approval was actually not required.

In Week 9, each student submitted a second 10-minute online video recorded presentation in which they gave further elaboration of their analysis. One important purpose of the second presentation was for students to provide verbal and graphical illustrations, especially given that a formal mathematical model may not be ready at this stage. Once the entire class had submitted their presentations and proposals, each student evaluated the presentations of two randomly assigned classmates on Week 10. For the peer review, I issued a standardised feedback form for students to record their qualitative comments on potential deficiencies as well as suggestions for improvement. The comments were then posted online to inspire further discussion. I emailed my input to each student only after the entire class had completed the peer review. During this phase, only one student switched topics.

Reporting phase: In-class presentation and written report
Students presented their research findings via 15-minute in-class presentations in Weeks 12 and 13. We incentivised the post-presentation discussions by getting students to provide qualitative feedback to their peers individually, with evaluation forms provided. The feedback formed part of the overall assessment. We hoped that this would encourage active class participation amongst students and garner higher quality feedback. A surprising thing we observed was that having to do the two online video-recorded presentations may have substantially improved their time-management skills. Most of students from the current cohort were able to complete their presentations within the time limit, unlike those from the previous two years.

Based on the feedback received from their peers after the second online video-recorded presentations, students finalised and submitted their 20-page written reports at the end of Week 13.

Findings and Discussion
At the end of the research project, I conducted an informal survey to collect students’ feedback about the whole process. Ten out of a total of sixteen students in the class responded.

Quantitative feedback
According to the quantitative feedback collected, 100% of the respondents found that comments from myself or their classmates were useful in helping them improve their research project. On a scale from 1 to 5 (best), overall usefulness of the learning activities received an average score 4.6. More details are shown in Table 2.

Table 2.
Students’ Responses Regarding the Usefulness of the Tasks Evaluated

In terms of the 20-page written reports submitted, I found most of them to be of high quality. The survey results also indicated that students were happy with the quality of their papers, with 50% of the respondents planning to further develop their written reports into research articles.

Qualitative feedback
The majority of qualitative comments were positive but there were two suggestions worth mentioning.

First, one student expressed disappointment over the peer review, noting that “comments from [the] professor are useful, but comments from one of two peers may not be so useful because some peers may have not taken peer review work seriously.” I believe that this might be due to the fact that students might be lacking in experience when it comes to critically analysing research projects. To minimise such occurrences in the future, I may provide students with guidelines and examples of good peer feedback, or even explore other peer feedback formats such as voice feedback. In addition, I may consider getting future cohorts to write short reflection journal entries about their learning experiences throughout the process. Such documentation would serve as a good source of data in helping me to further refine and develop the learning activities.

Second, some students suggested that the second online video-recorded presentation could be conducted earlier in the semester to ensure that “[they] have more time to adjust the model according to the comments from others.” One way to do this would be to have students submit both the 3-page proposal and the online video-recorded presentation in the same week to allow more time for them to provide peer feedback.

One of the biggest challenges I faced when it came to teaching students to conduct original research in EC5322R/EC5322 was helping them to overcome the tendency to procrastinate. Most of the time, they had poor time management skills and had the tendency to underestimate the time required to complete the analysis. It was observed that some spent several weeks on gathering information and looking for a topic, which left them with very little time to complete their paper. In fact, some believed that they could complete their project by cramming all their tasks in the last few weeks! Also, while the conventional approach of using interim presentations and submission of drafts can help students set project milestones, they are not ideal for research projects such as the ones for EC5322R/EC5322, which require frequent feedback. This is because for such projects which require iterative development, it is very difficult to transform a budding research idea into a full-fledged research project without taking multiple detours. This is the case even for established researchers. Although the current learning activities implemented in EC5322R/EC5322 seem to be helpful in providing some form of scaffolding to students in carrying out their projects, it would be crucial, as a complementary measure, to include additional rounds of feedback in future and even different channels of feedback.

Meanwhile, online video recorded presentations have several advantages over the submission of drafts and interim in-class presentations. First, they do not occupy any classroom time since students can watch them outside of curriculum hours. As such, multiple online video-recorded presentations can be used as a mode to scaffold students’ learning through peer feedback. Second, students may feel more at ease presenting their ideas online instead of speaking in front of the whole class. Third, students can evaluate their own presentations and improve their exposition through multiple recordings. Fourth, online video-recorded presentations allow students time to think through their responses before sending in their feedback. Fifth, the online platform ensures that the exchange of ideas and comments between peers is not constrained by time limits, which it would be if the presentations were conducted in the classroom. Finally, going through two rounds of online video-recorded presentations means that students learn how to manage their time more efficiently in a presentation; they would have had more practice learning how to plan their presentations within the time limit. Thus, based on preliminary findings of the pilot study, it seems that the use of formative feedback through peer review leveraging on online video-recorded presentations enhances the quality of  students’ written research reports.

Boud, D. (2001). Introduction: Making the move to peer learning. In D. Boud, R. Cohen, & J. Sampson (Eds.). Peer learning in higher education: Learning from & with each other (pp. 1-17). London: Kogan Page Ltd.

Nicol, D. & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 199-218.

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PhotoForBrief_3cmAbout the Author
Dr Ko Chiu Yu
teaches EC4344 “Financial Market Microstructure” and EC5322/EC5322R “Industrial Organization”. He subscribes to the philosophy that effective learning requires understanding of multiple facets in both depth and breadth. He also believes that giving students continuous feedback during the course is crucial as it means they learn from their mistakes,which consolidates the knowledge they have acquired, and gives them the motivation to explore further and deeper.