AMHERST, Mass. – University-level educators have known for some time that active-learning environments such as “flipped classrooms” increase student performance, but specifically how the approach helps learners is less well understood.
Now David Gross, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with colleagues at Yale University, report results of a five-year study suggesting that student gains are related to working with course material in a more timely and accurate manner. Students avoided “cramming” for tests and instead prepared ahead for classes and exams, allowing them to get higher grades.
Further, the researchers saw more pronounced positive effects for female students and those who came in with a lower grade point average. Details appear in an early online edition of CBE Life Sciences Educator and are expected in print in December. You can find a copy of the paper here: Increased Preclass Preparation Underlies Student Outcome Improvement in the Flipped Classroom, CBE-Life Sciences Education 14/1-8 Winter (2015). The abstract is below.
Active-learning environments such as those found in a flipped classroom are known to increase student performance, although how these gains are realized over the course of a semester is less well understood. In an upper-level lecture course designed primarily for biochemistry majors, we examine how students attain improved learning outcomes, as measured by exam scores, when the course is converted to a more active flipped format. The context is a physical chemistry course catering to life science majors in which approximately half of the lecture material is placed online and in-class problem-solving activities are increased, while total class time is reduced. We find that exam performance significantly improves by nearly 12% in the flipped-format course, due in part to students interacting with course material in a more timely and accurate manner. We also find that the positive effects of the flipped class are most pronounced for students with lower grade point averages and for female students.