Flipped Classrooms May Benefit Female and Lower-GPA Students


"Flipped classes" in which students consume lectures on their own and work on specific problems in class boost student achievement, a five-year study on an upper-level undergraduate science class found. Female students and learners with lower GPAs were identified as benefiting the most from the reversed pedagogical method of active learning.

The study conducted by the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst concludes that when learning is flipped, student comprehension improves. This improvement is more likely attributed to the fact that students are preparing in advance and studying the right material before coming to class and applying that knowledge, Mark Graham, the study's author, concluded according to Campus Technology.

"We found that because class meetings were active and engaging based upon the online lectures, students were preparing earlier and more often and more accurately in the flipped classroom as compared to the more traditional lecture format," he added.

The study showed that students in flipped classrooms had a 12% higher exam average than those in traditional classes. The improvement was particularly pronounced for female students. During standard classes, their exam scores were 4-5% lower than their male peers. In flipped classrooms, their exam scores were the same.

Students with lowers GPAs also seemed to benefit the most from the active learning model. The study revealed substantial improvement compared to students with higher GPAs both in homework assignments and exam scores.

For the study's purposes, the researchers analyzed student exam results from students taking a one-semester course in science. For three years, the researchers collected data from regular classes and for the remaining two years they used data from flipped classroom exams. In both settings, students used the same online homework and interactive textbooks.

Students in the flipped classroom met weekly for one 75-minute session or two 50-minutes sessions. The learners had a week to study pre-recorded lectures, but it was not mandatory. The weekly class meeting mostly revolved around problems students had to solve and shared activities and assignments with their peers.

Flipped or ‘active' learning is more engaging and interactive for learners, with the latter eagerly participating in class, David Gross, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at UMass, believes. But as he notes, active learning classes are often characterized as noisy and chaotic.

Students in flipped classrooms who can prepare in advance for their classes and examinations perform better in tests and get higher grades, possibly because they avoid cramming when an exam approaches, UMass says in its report on the study.

Robert A. Lue, faculty director of the Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University, says even though the study was focused on a Chemistry course, the flipped classroom could benefit groups that ‘historically underperform' in traditional classrooms, The Crimson says.

Student opinions on flipped classes vary. A student taking a flipped Physics class said it didn't help her master new material as the only option to understand a concept is to re-watch the same lecture, Yale Daily News reported.

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