Journal of Foreign Language Education and Technology

Flipping the Classroom and Turning the Grades: A Solution to Teach Unbeloved Phase Diagrams to Engineering Students


Anja Pfennig

In higher education at applied universities phase diagrams are introduced
already in introductory material science courses for mechanical, automotive and
economical engineers. Phase diagrams may simply be described as alloying maps in
material science to help characterize microstructures and properties of engineering
materials. However, the required thermodynamic background knowledge is
considered high level and understanding of the cooling procedure of metal melts as
well as microstructure of metal alloys is challenging. Common teaching material
presents phase diagram as a working tool, but does not explain how to interpret the
microstructure of materials and leaves frustrated first year engineering students
behind. Knowledge on “how to read” phase diagrams is expected from students in
advanced courses, but requirements are seldom met. Teaching phase diagrams in an
“inverted classroom” scenario is a method to let undergraduate students in their first
year study the science on their own and then take time to discuss their questions and
do extended hands on lectures or exercises in class. Implementing the inverted
classroom approach in an introductory material science course at HTW Berlin has
been proven to be successful in terms of learning outcome, problem solving skills
related to phase diagrams and in improving grades. Although the time of
preparation for eight contact hours is raised by a factor of approximately four, the
positive and sustainable learning outcomes make it fun to teach and worth the effort.
This study aims at a successful method to gain sustainable knowledge on how to
read and interpret phase diagrams and increase the students motivation.


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