Gathering Evidence that Flipping the Classroom can Enhance Learning Outcomes

by Kelly Walsh on March 10, 2013

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Three universities provide empirical evidence supporting the potential for ‘the flip’ to make a measurable difference in engagement and learning.

As an advocate of the potential of the flipped classroom, it’s rewarding and encouraging when student and teacher feedback supports the benefits of this approach, and this happens quite often. However, a wealth of measurable evidence that the technique can improve learning outcomes would go a long way towards convincing educators everywhere that this is an important technique to consider leveraging further in our schools.

Not long ago I stumbled across an article about San Jose State University that discusses measurable improvements in test scores in a course in which some students used a flipped model. This weekend I went in search of more such examples, and share these findings here. (If you know of any other examples like these, please comment and tell us about them.)

“San Jose State U. Says Replacing Live Lectures With Videos Increased Test Scores”

The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 17, 2012

“In an effort to raise student performance in a difficult course, San Jose State University has turned to a “flipped classroom” format, requiring students to watch lecture videos produced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and using class time for discussion. And initial data show the method is leading to higher test scores, university officials announced this week.”

Khosrow Ghadiri, an adjunct professor, explains that concerns about the course “Engineering Electronics and Circuits,” and its historically low passing rate (40% of students in the class received a C or lower last semester), led San Jose State professors to MIT. There they worked with the edX team, a partnership of MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, and the University of Texas at Austin focused primarily on developing MOOCs. They developed an approach wherein the 85 students in the flipped course watched edX lecture videos (from professors at leading universities) at home and attended class twice a week to practice what they had learned and ask questions while two other sections of students took a traditional version of the course.

The result: Midterm exam scores for students in the flipped section were higher than those in the traditional sections. Even though the midterm questions were more difficult for the flipped students, their median score was still 10 to 11 points higher.

“Flipping the Classroom”

Vanderbilt University ‘Center for Teaching’ Web Site

Carl Wieman and colleagues at Vanderbilt have published evidence that flipping the classroom can produce significant learning gains (Deslauriers et al., 2011). Two sections of a large-enrollment physics class were compared. For the first 11 weeks of the semester, the classes were both taught via interactive lecture methods for the majority of the semester and showed no significant differences prior to the experiment.

The flip came during the twelfth week of the semester, with one section being exposed to new material prior to class via reading assignments and quizzes, so that class time could be devoted to small group discussion and questions delivered through clickers and written responses. “The control section was encouraged to read the same assignments prior to class and answered most of the same clicker questions for summative assessment but were not intentionally engaged in active learning exercises during class.” These impressive results were evidenced:

  • At the end of the experimental week, students completed a multiple choice test, resulting in an average score of 41 +/- 1% in the control classroom and 74 +/- 1% in the “flipped” classroom, with an effect size of 2.5 standard deviations.
  • During the experiment, student engagement increased in the experimental section (from 45 +/- 5% to 85 +/- 5% as assessed by four trained observers) but did not change in the control section.

While this exercise was conducted with a very limited time frame, the dramatic increase in engagement and learning speaks well to the use of the flipped classroom model.

“THE EFFECT OF THE FLIPPED CLASSROOM ON STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT AND STRESS”

Cara A. Marlowe, MONTANA STATE UNIVERSITY, June 2012

This thesis documents research conducted by a student in pursuit of a M.S. in Science Education at Montana State. The document abstract explains, “In this investigation, the effect of the flipped classroom and associated differentiation was studied to measure the impact on student achievement and student stress levels. For the second semester of their senior year, students watched video lectures outside of class and completed assignments during class time.”

The effect of the flipped classroom on student achievement and stress levels was tested on 19 students in an Environmental Systems and Societies course. Students were taught using traditional lecture methods for an extended period of time and then using the flipped classroom approach for a period of time. In the flipped classroom method, lecture videos were recorded and published to YouTube. Students were responsible for watching videos and submitting questions they had about concepts after watching the videos (or a summary if they understood the lecture and had no questions). These questions and summaries were used to stimulate classroom discussions. Remaining classroom time was devoted to working on projects, lab activities, readings, research and other assignments that might otherwise have been assigned for homework. Grades, including formative and summative assessments were compared between semesters and in some instances, across the student’s high school careers. Students were interviewed and asked to reflect on their learning and stress levels throughout the process.

Jumping to the published conclusions, “Students reported lower stress levels in this type of classroom environment compared to other classes. Results of the study indicated that use of differentiation and independent study, through the implementation of the flipped classroom model, was successful. The grades from semester one and semester two were significantly different, with the majority of students seeing an average increase of three points in semester grades.”

I have little doubt that these are only the first of many such studies and reports proving out the benefits of the flip when it’s delivered well and used judiciously. If any readers know of other examples like this, please do comment and tell us about them (and if you know where we might find information online about these example, that would be great too!). Thanks.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
8 Great Reasons to Flip Your Classroom (and 4 of the Wrong Reasons), from Bergmann and Sams
Collecting studies focused on the impact of Education Technologies
Flipped Classroom Successes in Higher Education

 

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer, and an adjunct faculty member, at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Class Workshop in a Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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