Is Flipped Learning Flopping?

Since its introduction in the mid-2000s, flipped learning has been a hot topic for educators. Originally designed by high school chemistry teachers to provide students who had not attended class with a video covering missed material, the practice has become prevalent in higher learning but is primarily used in college classrooms.

The flipped classroom changes the traditional two-phase model of teaching which involves students who listen to a lecture in class and perform activities to reinforce concepts at home. In the flipped classroom, students learn basic content before attending class. In-class time focuses on clarifying the concepts and practicing problem-solving.

Proponents of the flipped classroom argue that the strategy encourages active learning, which provides deeper learning and engagement by using discussions, student presentations, group work, labs, and other problem-solving opportunities.

However, a recent meta-analysis of the flipped classroom concluded that “current levels of enthusiasm for flipped learning are not commensurate … with scientific evidence in its favor” (Kapur et al., 2022). The researchers found that data to support the belief that the flipped classroom results in better academic outcomes is weak due to the wide variation in the way professors implement the approach. As an example, they note that some professors both assign videos prior to class and then lecture the same material, thus perpetuating passive learning—the exact thing the flipped classroom is designed to reduce.

The researchers examined 173 flipped classroom studies in addition to 46 previous meta-analyses and arrived at the surprising conclusion that flipped learning resulted in more passive learning than the traditional teaching model.  The main reason, says one of the study’s authors, is that many instructors do not test to confirm that students are actually learning the material in the videos they are supposed to view prior to class. This leads them to be unprepared for the active learning exercises performed in class. Naturally, learning suffers.

Nevertheless, the authors agree that the concept of flipped learning has merit and propose an alternate model they call Fail, Flip, Fix, and Feed, that allows students to begin the learning process by engaging in solving novel problems prior to any instruction. The details of this alternative method follow.

Fail: The instructor provides an opportunity for students to problem solve a concept prior to any instruction, a strategy that is based on one of the study’s findings that productive failure boosts learning. (In the business communication classroom, this might mean asking students to compose a bad-news e-mail before learning the strategies that will result in a purposeful correspondence.)

Flip: Students view online lectures on the topic outside of class.

Fix: The concept is discussed in a traditional class session, during which students’ misconceptions are cleared up. This strategy is based on the of the study’s findings that flipped learning works best when it includes an in-class discussion.

Feed: The instructor provides feedback on student work with directions on what to do next.

As instructors, we are always excited about improving our students’ learning outcomes, and sometimes that means we must honestly appraise the efficacy of our own pedagogy. The research does not lie: The traditional flipped classroom model is ready for an update.

Kapur, M., Hattie, J., Grossman, I., & Sinha, T. (2022, September 26). Fail, flip, fix, and feed—Rethinking flipped learning: A review of meta-analyses and a subsequent meta-analysis. Frontiers in Education, 7.

Young, J. (2023, February 16). Does “flipped learning” work? A new analysis dives into the research. EdSurge Newsletter.

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