eCOTS 2014 - Virtual Poster #8

"Developing a flipped pedagogy for undergraduate Engineering Statistics, 15 years before its 'invention'."
Marc Bourdeau, École Polytechnique de Montréal


We had to acknowledge that our only compulsory course of Statistical Methods for our undergraduate Engineering students had no impact. We changed our whole approach to mimic as closely as possible the situation of the practicing Statistician in the workplace. That was 15 years ago. We were a precursor (or re-inventor) of flipped pedagogy.

Based on the triad "Reading, Meeting, Writing", we introduced active learning, with real data from the industry, and report writing for case studies that included a good part of the theory. We completed over the years our own fully hyper-referenced textbook, including our own interactive animations and simulations for all the basic concepts up to regression modeling. A website was used to link the class horizontally and vertically. Most of the students' work, partly in class, was done in small groups, with much less formal teaching, the professor shifting his role from sage on the stage to guide on the side. We introduced a novel protocol for the continuous evaluation of the course by the students. It played a crucial role in building the students' positive attitude towards Statistics.

After a brief description of the final stage of our pedagogy, we will present some of our interactive animations and simulations that greatly improve the understanding of the basic concepts, and provide examples of the case studies that constitute the basic units of the students' work.

The new pedagogy generated a lot of enthusiasm among the students and the professors involved! The level of the course greatly improved. Success rates came close to 100%. Our work was awarded a PrixPoly1873 for pedagogical efficiency.

We will briefly discuss the advantages and drawbacks of this approach for the students and the professors, with a perspective on the information revolution that transforms university teaching. We will refer the interested listeners to a Web-page, including a forum of discussion, with complete details of our talk, the animations and simulations, and some description of the pedagogy's evolution that took 4 terms up to its final form, and what remains to be accomplished.



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Nicholas Horton:

It's good to see how "Reading, Meeting, Writing" was used as a motivating philosophy for a flipped classroom model circa 1999. @askdrstats

Marc Bourdeau:

Indeed, Nick, indeed! Thank you for this comment.

When reading the original F. Bacon quote that I cite in my slides, that was many years ago, I thought: «Is there something else to teaching than using these 'technologies'?» It took me a long time to be able to get, within the flipped pedagogy that I report here, the full extent of it...

I still think, in our ever developing computer age where people are connected all the time, that learning is «Reading, meeting, writing»!

Marc Bourdeau:

Indeed Nick, indeed. Old ideas but still alive. Is there anything else in pedagogy. I have another interesting citation by J.-P. Sartre: «Writing is the best tool to elucidate one's thought».

There are quite a few presentations in the Poster session related to mine...

Very interesting conference for me!

And your intervention yesterday (Monday), on «Big Data...» was up to the point. I will be very happy to watch//read it again...

What a nice way to attend a 'meeting'

Marc Bourdeau:

Indeed, Nick, indeed! Francis Bacon, in the sixteenth century is still up to date in our brave new world where we spend most of our time connected to a computer, lost in the virtual space! Tell me: is there something else to learning than «Reading, meeting, writing»?

Marc Bourdeau:

Sorry for the triplicates of my reply ti Nick. A glitch in the system prevented me to see my replies...

John Conrad:

I find this "flipped" classroom idea worth a try but I am in search of supporting activities. I have of course used "M&M's" and "Hershey Kisses"
for everything and a food based course is nice but I need some "new" material that will work in a 1.5 hr period. Any new ideas? I teach an introductory course in a community college. Of course data sets are abundant but I like to have students generate data on their own once in awhile...keeps them focused and awake.

Marc Bourdeau:

Would you please send me an e-mail on the subject to

I will send you a file with an class-experiment that could interest you. And indeed, the student were extremely involved and interested in the experiment. This put the course in a very favorable light for them --Statistics can be fun!

Quite a motivation. Theme: «Variation and uncertainties». With the Deming famous quote: «There is no true value of anything»...

Flipped classrooms are now much more practised than at the time of my own experiment with the pedagogy. At that time, I knew almost nothing of new pedagogies for teaching Statistics. And, furthermore, flipped classrooms, if ever in existence, were quite rare.

That is in the natural sciences. In a way, Liberal Arts were using this sort of approach to learning for decades.