Flipped Learning Case Study: Corporate Governance and Ethical Decision-Making

Ashley Weleschuk, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning 

Based on an interview with Dr. Peggy Hedges, Haskayne School of Business, Department of Finance.

June 8, 2018

Course title

MGST 451: Corporate Governance and Ethical Decision-Making

Student profile

Fourth-year business students

Class size

Several sections with 60 students each


Traditional classrooms

Thoughts and Reflections

How would you describe your typical flipped classroom?

Students are expected to complete readings before coming to classes, which run on Tuesdays and Thursdays for each section. Tuesday lectures are typically dedicated to in-class activities based around the course content in the readings, while Thursdays focus on debriefing and discussing the outcomes of the activity and delving further into the course content. These activities and discussions are to help connect the experiences in class to the content being studied. A wide variety of activities are delivered throughout the semester. Peggy and her colleagues have designed them to demonstrate the importance of thinking through how a seemingly simple decision, even if it “simply following policy” can have a significant impact on others and what might be done to minimize those impacts. They want students to see and experience how people are impacted – both from the decision-makers point of view and from the recipient (intentional or not). For example, in one activity, students are given some information about a company’s CEO and are asked to determine what an appropriate salary would be. But the groups are given different information about the gender and marital status of the CEO. This activity opens up a discussion between students about how cognitive biases, assumptions, peer pressure, etc. may influence decisions.

What was your motivation to get started with flipped learning? How did you start?

Peggy found that it was hard to get students engaged in traditional lectures. Corporate governance is an interesting topic but without significant business and life experiences, it can feel rather dry and dull. Students would simply respond that the decision or the outcome from the decision was because people were stupid, greedy, and the like.

The course initially was a half-semester (six weeks) long but was expanded to allow more content to be covered. In the final offerings of the shorter course, Peggy made the decision to try a full flip of the class. It was a major challenge and took a lot of planning. At that time, students were not used to the methods being used, but they were willing to be part of the experiment and provided tremendous feedback while the course was being delivered and after the course was finished. This was a good learning experience for Peggy since she saw what did and did not work in a flipped classroom. The expanded, semester-long course incorporates some of what worked from the original flipped classroom, but the activities were modified to be more guided and focused on the content.

What were excited about? What were you concerned about?

It is exciting to watch a course develop over time. While a full flip was not right for this course, the updated model fits really well. It has been running for several semesters now, and it continues to improve. Peggy was concerned with the amount of planning and workload that she would have to do each year but has found that improvements come in small ways. The majority of assignments don’t require massive changes each year, so once they are created, they can be re-used.

What was your biggest challenge and how did you address it?

The biggest challenge was giving up control over the class. As an instructor, it can be hard to tell whether or not students will be receptive to a different learning method. It requires a great deal of planning to ensure that readings and in-class activities are setting students up for success. However, Peggy always sees students take the initiative with their learning in the course. Students take whatever challenges they are given and rise above them.

What tips do you have for other instructors to engage students in flipped learning?

Flipped learning requires mindful course design. Peggy highlights the importance of finding a balance between familiar and new teaching and learning techniques. Too much of a shock can be a barrier to student engagement and buy-in.

It is also important to reward and commend students who are working hard and are able to take their learning to a higher level. Students who are still adjusting to the expectations and methods need encouragement and opportunities to improve.

Invite and be open to the feedback that your students have – good or harsh. For all students, whether the feedback is good or bad, ask them to help you understand what the problem was and how could it be improved

What was your biggest take-away from the experience?

Reflection and collaboration are key. Learning from your own mistakes and successes, as well as from those of others can make major improvements in flipped classrooms. Peggy is glad that she has experience doing the fully flipped six-week course, even though she would not use the same techniques again. Trying something out is the first step in finding the flipped learning methods that work for a specific class.

Assessment and Technology

What kind of technology do you use?

Technology was not used in the course. All of the pre-coursework is in the form of readings from the course textbook or notes packages. Peggy believes that you don’t need a lot of technology for a flipped class to work and to be effective.

How are students assessed in the course?

This is the next challenge for the course. There are multiple lecture sections and instructors each semester and they agree that it is important that assessments remain as consistent as possible between each. Right now, all of the sections have the same case analysis assignments, writing critiques, and final exams. This accounts for 70% of the course grade. The remaining 30% comes from the in-class activities. Students are graded on their best 6/8 activities. The flipped component of the course has a very small impact on the assessments in the course, they are looking at what else can be done that will be meaningful to students and still provide the assurance that “they get it” and “they’ll remember it when they have to make those kinds of decisions.”

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