Student Voice

Can a ‘flipped classroom’ approach help students succeed?

By David Griffin

University educators and students face a range of challenges in teaching and learning. respectively. Face-to-face time may be limited; class sizes may be large; attendance may be below the desired level; students may struggle to engage with the material. Often it is academically weaker students who suffer most as a result of these challenges. To address these concerns, in recent years many educators have considered alternatives to traditional, lecture-based teaching. The ‘flipped classroom’ is one such alternative. This approach includes a broad range of teaching methods, however, it generally consists of two distinct parts. The first part is individual learning, involving the student exploring topics in advance of work in the lecture theatre, usually with the assistance of a recorded online lecture, Powerpoint slideshow, podcast or similar. The second part is an interactive learning activity during class time, often consisting of discussions, group work and application of the newly acquired knowledge.

A recent study at a Florida university sought to retrospectively analyse results data from a class within their Doctor of Pharmacy course (Mitroka, 2020). The ‘Principles of Drug Action I’ (PDAI) class employed both traditional lecture-based teaching and flipped classroom teaching over several years between 2011 and 2017. As a result, this class provided an opportunity to assess and compare student success through both approaches.

This class was typically delivered across a single semester. The curriculum was divided into three one-month blocks, with a different instructor delivering each of the three blocks. Block 1 in this course was delivered using a traditional lecture-based approach. This involved some limited interaction with students, such as asking individuals questions or polling the entire class. Students were typically assigned reading tasks as homework at the end of lectures.

Block 2 was delivered using a flipped classroom approach. Students were asked to watch a video lecture in advance of class, consisting of an online slideshow accompanied by an instructional voiceover. This introduced the students to material in advance of face-to-face teaching. During subsequent class time, students sat facing one another in groups of six. Each class began with students partaking in individual and group quizzes on that week’s material. These quizzes were typically followed by a group discussion around a case study related to the material the students had covered prior to class. Hypothetical situations and scenarios related to the case study were also discussed and time was then allocated to reviewing the quizzes.

Both Block 1 and Block 2 concluded with an exam set by that block’s instructor. This exam typically consisted of multiple-choice and short-answer questions. As delivery of Block 3 in this course often varied between the traditional and flipped classroom approach, its results were not considered as part of this study.

This work presented some fascinating findings. These can be summarised as follows:

  • Mean exam grades were not significantly improved when a flipped classroom approach was adopted.

  • However, students achieving grades within the lowest quartile saw significant increases in their grades with a flipped classroom approach.

  • At the same time, students achieving grades within the highest quartile showed no adverse effects from use of flipped classrooms.

Exam failures in the flipped classroom block were approximately half that of the traditional lecture block. Typically, in the PDAI course most failing students missed out on the 70% pass grade by only a few percentage points. Consequently, a slight increase in the grades of the lowest achievers could have a statistically significant impact on the failure rate. This was in keeping with the findings of several similar studies (Jensen et al., 2015; Flumerfelt, 2013).

The authors also noted that overall exam grades in the course reduced over the years examined, independent of the teaching method employed. They give several potential reasons for this decrease including an increase in student places on the course and a local natural disaster which adversely affected teaching. A primary goal of educators is to facilitate their students in achieving academic success. While this success comes with relative ease to some individuals, academically weaker students often struggle despite their best efforts. This study has demonstrated the potential value of the flipped classroom approach, particularly for those academically weaker students. This change in lecture format may enable those students to attain the passing grade requirements they strive for, and as such, empower them in their pursuit of academic and professional success.


Q: How do students perceive the flipped classroom approach compared to traditional lecture-based teaching?

A: The perception of the flipped classroom approach by students compared to traditional lecture-based teaching can vary widely. However, many students appreciate the flexibility and autonomy the flipped classroom offers, allowing them to learn at their own pace during the individual learning sessions. This method also tends to encourage more interactive and engaging class sessions, which can enhance understanding and retention of material. Through student voice, we learn that while some students thrive in this self-directed learning environment, others may find it challenging without the structure of traditional lectures. It's essential for educators to gather and analyse feedback through student voice and text analysis methods to identify common trends in perceptions and address any concerns effectively.

Q: What strategies are employed to ensure all students engage with the material in individual learning sessions before class?

A: Educators employ several strategies to ensure that all students engage with the material in individual learning sessions before class. These strategies might include setting clear expectations and providing detailed guides on how to effectively engage with the pre-class materials. Some educators use online platforms that track progress and quiz students on the content they've studied, offering immediate feedback. Additionally, the integration of interactive elements, such as discussion forums or question-and-answer sessions, encourages students to actively participate and prepare. Importantly, through analysing student feedback and engagement metrics, educators can adjust their strategies to better suit the needs of their students, ensuring that the approach promotes inclusive and active learning.

Q: How does the flipped classroom approach impact the development of soft skills, such as teamwork and communication, among students?

A: The flipped classroom approach has a significant impact on the development of soft skills such as teamwork and communication among students. By allocating class time to interactive activities like group discussions and collaborative problem-solving, students are given ample opportunity to practice and enhance these skills. The nature of the flipped classroom, which encourages students to come prepared to class, also fosters a sense of responsibility and improves communication skills as students share their insights and learn from each other. Furthermore, the emphasis on student voice in this approach means that students are more likely to engage in meaningful dialogues, offer feedback, and learn to articulate their thoughts clearly. This not only benefits their academic performance but also prepares them for professional environments where such skills are invaluable.


Jensen J.L., Kummer T.A., Godoy P.D. Improvements from a flipped classroom may simply be the fruits of active learning. CBE Life Sci Educ. 2015;14(1):1-12 Flumerfelt S. Using lean in the flipped classroom for at risk students. Educ Technol Soc. 2013;16(1):356–366
DOI: 10.1187%2Fcbe.14-08-0129

Mitroka J.G., Harrington, C., DellaVecchia, M.J. A multiyear comparison of flipped- vs. lecture-based teaching on student success in a pharmaceutical science class. Curr Pharm. 2020;12(2020):84-87
DOI: 10.1016/j.cptl.2019.10.014

Related Entries