Flipped Classroom

To clearly understand the differences that a flipped classroom model brings, what constitutes a tradition STEM college classroom environment needs to be established.  In a typical college classroom, students sit quietly at individual desks, listen to lectures, quietly take notes, seldom interact, move, or discuss, and rarely participate in active learning techniques.  The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. The professor posts pre-recorded lecture videos on an online education platform such as Coursera to be viewed by students before class and dedicates class time to exercises, projects, or discussions.  The flipped class format not only takes advantage of all of the benefits of online education previously discussed including retrieval learning techniques and mastery learning but also possesses some additional benefits.

Flipped Class in Bio 202

Review Time:

For all of the Coursera formative assessments including pre-lecture quizzes and Pre-lectureproblems sets, students can use an interface to submit questions concerning the related course material.  Professor Noor receives these questions and uses the first five to ten minutes of class on Mondays and Wednesdays to answer these questions and clear up any misconceptions.  This allotted review time in class helps most students reinforce the course material.  If a student’s question is not answered in class, Professor Noor will send that student a personal email explanation.

Students can also submit topics that they find particularly interesting, and Professor Noor may elaborate on these specific topics in class lecture or interact directly with the specific student or groups of students.  This molding of the class content to the interests and needs of the students extends beyond this allotted review time before each class.  For Friday class meetings, students submit questions about the course material, and Professor Noor spends the whole class reviewing confusing concepts while, at the same time, demonstrating the interconnectedness all of the individual concepts and their significance in the larger picture of the study of genetics and evolution.

Problem Solving TIme:

On Mondays and Wednesdays, the remainder of class not reviewing is allocated for Problem Setproblem solving.  During this problem solving time, students collaborate with each other to discuss and discover answers to the practice problems.  Professors and teaching assistants adopt the role of tutors as they walking around the lecture hall to answer questions.  Teachers no longer solely deliver information but engage in an active interaction to help an individual student or small group of students.  This active learning in the classroom represents one of the primary reasons for the efficacy of the flipped classroom format.  Many studies have shown that teaching methods promoting active learning and interactive engagement between faculty and students and students and their peers prove to be more effective than traditional methods of teaching.

A 2011 study published by Louis Deslauriers provides a recent example.  A large enrollment physics class at the University of British Columbia was divided and taught in a traditional (control) and interactive learning style (experimental).  The experimental section instructional approach included pre-class reading assignments, pre-class reading quizzes, in-class clicker questions with student-student discussions, small group active learning tasks, and targeted in-class instructor feedback (863).  In the active learning group, student engagement nearly doubled, attendance increased by 20%, and average scores on the same test increased from 41% to 74%.

An important caveat is that in order to provide a more engaging and interactive classroom experience, much of the traditional lecturing must be moved outside of the classroom.  Online education platforms like Coursera facilitate in replacement of the traditional lectures with interactive teaching techniques.

Changing Classroom Dynamic:


Duke professor Mohamed Noor helps students in his intro biology class with their problem sets during a recent class period.

In the classroom, an increase in teacher-student interactions parallels the increase in engagement and active learning.  Instead of lecturing to a big lecture hall of students, teachers can personalize student learning by transforming into a tutor.  Demonstrated by many studies conducted by Benjamin S. Bloom, tutoring has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of learning (Bloom 4).  This new tutoring component of the flipped classroom model combined with the active learning teaching techniques employed will provide significant benefits to the students.  With students of all learning abilities, teachers can employ differentiated learning with differing teaching approaches for students who master the material quickly versus students who struggle with the material.

student-studentBesides the increased teacher-student interactions, the student-student interactions have increased as well.  Two of the pioneers of the flipped classroom model Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams noted in their book Flip Your Classroom that “students are helping each other learn instead of relying on the teacher as the sole disseminator of knowledge” (27).  Students actively discuss and debate the practice problems or interactive activities in class.  Students actively create their own knowledge by asking questions. Exploring, and assessing what they know.

Personalized Education:

Increased time to interact with students allows the teachers to build meaningful relationships with the students.  Teachers not only can better answer the questions of students by adopting the role of a private tutor but also can expand their role to that of a mentor and a friend.  With a more personal relationship with each individual student, teachers can more quickly and effectively diagnose obstacles hindering effective learning and implement the necessary interventions (Bergmann and Sams 25-30).

Application of Online Technology:

The online lectures and the flipped classroom format allow students to literally pause, rewind, and fast-forward their teacher.  With this new technology, students can have the opportunity to process the lecture information at the ideal speed.  For this same reason, flipping the classroom also helps busy students.  If students know that they have a lot of other academic, extracurricular, or other commitments coming up, they now have the option to work ahead.  The flipped classroom adds an element of flexibility that many extremely busy students need.  Flipping the classroom especially benefits struggling students because these students can receive the assistance they need during the interactive teacher-student time (Bergmann and Sams 22-23).


Some of the benefits of the flipped classroom format include:

  • Increased
    • Student engagement
    • Higher order thinking skills
    • Teacher-student collaboration
    • Student-Student collaboration
    • In-class problem solving
    • Opportunity for differentiated learning
  • Students
    • Can review the lecture at their own pace and multiple times
    • Take more responsibility and ownership of their learning process

As Salman Khan said in a TED Talk, technology is used “to humanize the classroom.

Pioneers in the “Revolution” in Education:

In Colorado, Woodland Park High School Chemistry teachers, Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann were one of the first STEM teachers to flip their classroom and the first video in the following playlist of videos relating to the flipped classroom format, Aaron Sams describes his personal experience with the flipped class:

However, the flipped classroom model is not the solution to everything.

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