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Flipped Learning Pilot Radically Reduces DFW Grade Rates in Two Courses

by Kelly Walsh on August 24, 2014


First Phase of a Flipped Classroom Pilot Produces Encouraging Results With Flip of Limited set of Lessons

Have you been struggling at your school with finding a way to encourage faculty to give flipped classroom techniques a try? At The College of Westchester, we found an approach that worked, and the results so far have been very encouraging.

With the growing body of data supporting the effectiveness of the technique, I was eager to see faculty at my institution consider a structured approach to trying flipped teaching and learning techniques. Various instructors had been experimenting with the idea, but there was still a tentative nature to what had been done thus far. Working with CW Provost Warren Rosenberg, a small Competitive Grant was endowed, to enhance interest. Two grants of $1,000 each for two applicants were budgeted for. Applicants were selected through a formal proposal process.

Several CW Instructors submitted proposals for the “Flipped Class Competitive Grant”, which was a targeted to those who would be teaching courses in the Winter Day 2014 Term. Proposals from Dr. Christopher Nwosisi and instructor Alexa Ferreira were accepted based on their merit and various criteria including:

  • Average grades in all offerings of these courses during the 2012 and 2013 (i.e. lower average grades = more room for improvement in outcomes and better opportunity for greater return on the college investment).
  • Completion rates of the respective courses (again, using 2012 and 2013 completion rates as the ‘baseline’).

The Academic Approach

Instructors were required to define and document their approach, and to flip at least 30% of their lessons. Each chose to flip roughly every other week’s content, providing a variety of digital learning materials (videos, podcasts, docs, web-based tools) to be consumed outside of class, coupled with in-class exercises, projects, collaborative group work and work on assigned labs, individually and in groups.

This was a purposeful change to how class time was being used. A key goal and benefit of using flipped teaching methodologies is using class time to provide a more student-focused, personalized learning experience, incorporating increased used of active learning methods (University of Washington).

The Assessment Approach

Quantitative and qualitative assessment techniques were designed and incorporated in the study.

Qualitative Assessment: Qualitative assessments are based on a survey of student perceptions, and instructor perceptions of the course and the flipped class delivery method. This document addresses student perceptions.

Quantitative Assessment: Quantitative assessment techniques include a comparison of final grades in the piloted partially flipped course to average grades and completion rates in prior offerings of the same courses. Results are to be compared to prior offerings of the course by all instructors over the preceding two year period (2012 – 2013), as well as offerings of the course taught only by the same instructor who taught the partially flipped pilot (over the same two year period).

The focus of these assessments is to compare outcomes using two metrics, as follows:

  • Average Non-DFW grades: The Average of grades above D will be used as a comparative assessment element for the purposes of this study. F Grades and Withdrawals are clearly failures as Learning Outcomes. Similarly, D grades can also be counted as such, as they are below the 2.0 threshold required for degree completion, and they would not transfer to other institutions. Other academic assessments have used this ‘DFW’ construct (Fusch).
  • DFW Rates: The rates of students achieving D’s or F’s, or Withdrawing, with be constitute another vital metric in the assessment of the effectiveness of flipped instruction techniques as a tool to improve learning outcomes.

Summarizing Findings

Both Quantitative and Qualitative results from the Partial Flipped Classed Pilot have been very encouraging. Average grades increased, and even better, DFW rates significantly decreased. From a qualitative perspective, 94% of students responded that they liked this approach to learning and 72% indicated that this approach “Helped [them] learn the material better”.

Below I share a brief look at the Quantitative Results from this initial phase of this pilot study. Note that a second phase will follow this Fall, as we use a similar approach to assess the use of flipped techniques in 3 or 4 additional course offerings.

Quantitative Results Summary

Quantitative Assessment #1 – Average Non-DFW Grades

The graphic below shows how the average non-DFW grade in each of the pilot courses compared to the average non-DFW grade in all offering of the course over 2012 and 2013. As indicated, grades improved in both of the pilot offerings.

A similar analysis was conducted comparing the pilot course outcomes to the outcomes in prior offerings of the course taught specifically by the same instructor who taught the pilot course. Results were similar for the GEN300 course taught by A. Ferreira. For the NET125 course taught by C. Nwosisi, the grades in the pilot course were slightly lower than the average grade in the same course when Dr. Nwosisi taught it over the course of 2012 – 2013 (Dr. Nwosisi noted that the average grades in the evening course offerings were consistently lower than those in our day course offerings and that this contributed to these results).

CW-FlippedClassPilot-QuantitativeResults-AvgGradesQuantitative Assessment #2 – Average DFW Rates

The most startling and beneficial result of the Partial Flipped Class pilot was the drastic reduction of DFW rates.

As the graphic below indicates, DFW grades were eliminated in the pilot of GEN300, and radically reduced in NET125. Similar results occurred in comparing prior offerings of the course taught specifically by the same instructor who taught the pilot course.

CW-FlippedClassPilot-QuantitativeResults-DFW-RatesThis last result was surely the most encouraging Quantitative feedback, and we hope to see a continuation of this in the second phase of the pilot this Fall.

Please keep an eye out for Tuesday’s post, in which I will share Qualitative Results and a formal write up on this work with further details.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):

My Flipped Classroom – I Will Never Teach Another Way Again
2014 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report: Flipped Classroom Will See Widespread Adoption in Next 2 Years
Flipping the Online Classroom – One Professor’s Unique Approach


Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester, in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches. In 2009, Walsh founded He frequently delivers presentations and training on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. His eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book is available here. Walsh became the Community Administrator for the Flipped Learning Network in June of 2016. In his "spare time" he also writes, records, and performs original music ... stop by and have a listen!

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, or those of other writers, and not those of my employer. - K. Walsh]

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