Study: ‘Flipped’ instruction boosts engagement and performance
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Study: ‘Flipped’ instruction boosts engagement and performance

We’ve been hearing a lot about the “flipped classroom.” So is it working? A recent study suggests it is. Researchers found significant learning benefits from the approach when compared to traditional classroom-based instruction.

The theory behind the flipped classroom is that traditional classroom time is wasted by lectures that impart information. Learners can get the information on their own, and the classroom should be used for things learners can’t get at home, such as asking questions, correcting misunderstandings and participating in peer-learning activities.

To test the model, researchers conducted a study in a freshman college course.

One class remained with the original professor, an experienced educator who relied primarily on lectures with some instructional support from e-learning modules. For the second class, the study replaced the regular instructor with a less experienced one. But the new instructor made some important changes.

Learners were required to view e-learning modules ahead of classroom time and answer online quiz questions. The new instructor then wrote a short lecture based on the weak points identified by the pre-class assessment. Furthermore, small group discussions, group activities and “clicker” questions (where students would “vote” on the correct answer) were introduced to boost engagement.

The results: The flipped-classroom learners ended up scoring between five and nine points higher than the traditional-instruction students on follow-up assessments.

Making the flipped classroom work

The flipped classroom approach is well-suited for training programs that use e-learning, but can be applied to instructor-led environments as well. Below are some recommendations for applying the research.

Have trainees access learning material in advance. Consider asking your learners to watch an e-learning module or read the training material in advance of a training session. If learners are given the right tools, they can absorb this initial learning event on their own. Consider using an online quiz to uncover learners’ weak points, or ask trainees to record any questions they may have.

Spend your classroom time promoting a deeper understanding. Based on learner feedback, use classroom time to deliver a brief, targeted lecture, answer questions and clear up any misconceptions. Don’t just respond to learner comments but ask some questions of your own to get trainees thinking deeply about the material.

Leverage social learning. Conduct classroom activities that engage learners. Group discussion and debates facilitate peer-to-peer learning and spark critical thinking. Create opportunities for social interaction that lectures and self-directed learning can’t provide.

Code, W., et al. (2014). Teaching methods comparison in a large calculus class. ZDM, 46(4), 589-601.

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