Student Feedback on Flipped Teaching

By Daniel Johnston

In the IEEE’s Transactions on Education journal, in August 2020, Lucas Gren published his research building on the concept of the “flipped classroom” 1. In the context of this particular publication, Gren cites an earlier review of the field which defines this concept as “an educational technique that consists of two parts:

  1. the interactive group learning activities inside the classroom and
  2. direct computer-based individual instruction outside the classroom”.

As the name implies, this model of learning and teaching turns the traditional tropes of education on their heads.

Gren’s interest in this approach was piqued when, as a new PhD student in 2013, he took on various teaching responsibilities at Chalmers University of Technology. After a significant reduction in the student evaluation scores for one particular class, Gren concluded that this was due to inadequate teaching techniques (rather than his fresh arrival to the role). Given the shortage of studies into the effectiveness of the “flipped classroom” approach, Gren committed to adding to the existent understanding of the concept.

Before implementing “the flip”, Gren’s class adopted traditional lecturing (for up to 50 learners). For clarity, when referring to “traditional lecturing”, we mean that the lecturer narrated PowerPoint-based presentations and would occasionally answer questions via the blackboard (with learners being responsible for taking notes). This group, under these conditions - i.e. the 2014 class cohort – is what the publication uses as a control group. Note that a “blended learning” model was used in this control-case as well as in the flipped-case: i.e. students had access to the source textbooks, lecture PowerPoints, and related research articles via an online learning environment.

Post-flip – the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years of the experiment – the mode of delivery was drastically different. Once the students had familiarised themselves with the materials provided beforehand, lectures then consisted of teachers leading an active examination of this. For consistency, these new lectures took place in the same time slots as the previous (un-flipped) case. In this self-directed stage, the teacher provided a 10-20min video lecture (either made exclusively for this class or else found online); the students then had to answer a multiple-choice quiz based on its content. Concerning in-class activities, the typical format included – but was not limited to – the following (paraphrased from Gren’s publication).

  • Introduction in which students have a few minutes to discuss (in pairs) the online resources for that lesson.
  • A class-wide discussion on the online resources, often incorporating a short, open-ended question relating to what could be included/excluded/clarified.
  • Miscellaneous admin relating to lab work/reports.
  • Group discussions on video lecture content in which students were offered alternative perspectives by the in-class teacher(s).
  • The teacher(s) would share a statement/problem which challenged a particular point of understanding in the subject, and the students would engage in a process coined “think-pair-share”.
  • One or more worked-examples were presented with the students being asked to engage via digital-means (i.e. “voting” for the correct answer/approach).
  • Students were asked to design appropriate methods of investigating a given phenomenon in groups.

Note that this work is not alone in the conclusions it draws: an increasing number of experiments (with varying approaches) have been reaching similar, supporting observations since 2013. The consensus is that the flipped classroom model is a markèd improvement. The only significant variation in these conclusions is on the degree to which the new approach improves student satisfaction and performance.

Gren evaluated the results of his experiment by two measures: exam performance and student feedback. Firstly, considering the former, the exams contained a wide variety of question formats (as had also been the case in previous years). These questions ranged from multiple-choice to open- ended essay-style questions. While the experiment saw no measurable improvement for exam results after the 1st year of the flipped approach, the improvement in further years was significant.

Now considering the student satisfaction measure, Gren notes significant praise for the flipped approach in 2016 (the same year of significant exam result improvement). While 2015-17 show students’ preference for the flipped approach, this is a considerably less reliable measure due to the lack of response to the feedback questionnaires: 50% in 2014; 45% in 2015; 26% in 2016; and, 36% in 2017. While Gren, justifiably, sees the results of this survey as positive, he also draws attention to the need for consistent and rigorous training for teaching staff adapting to this new model. Furthermore, the author also notes that the teaching staff involved in the class was not constant over the years considered. For these reasons (and other statistical concerns) Gren determines that there was no “clear effect on students’ perception” of the class.

While there are some inconsistencies in this particular methodology (changing teaching staff/students, small control group, etc.), the improvement in attainment is a clear motive for more attention being dedicated to this new model of teaching. As Gren highlights, however, the drive for progress via such endeavours cannot solely rely on existing teaching staff: they have to be supported. But this support has to go beyond resources; it has to include rigorous training in the delivery of such promising approaches. If this is realised, the impact of lessons could extend far beyond the classroom.


Q: How does the flipped classroom model specifically impact different types of learners?

A: The flipped classroom model tends to have a varied impact on different types of learners, largely because it shifts the traditional roles of classroom and homework. In this model, direct instruction moves outside the classroom, while interactive, practical learning activities take centre stage within the class. For self-motivated students who thrive on independent study, this approach can significantly enhance their learning experience. They often use the opportunity to engage deeply with the material at their own pace outside the class, allowing them to contribute more effectively and confidently during in-class activities. This can amplify their student voice, as they may feel more prepared and willing to participate in discussions and collaborative tasks.

Conversely, students who struggle with self-direction or lack a conducive study environment at home may find the flipped classroom challenging. These learners might require more support to navigate the pre-class preparation effectively. Their student voice could be less prominent in the flipped classroom if they feel unprepared for the in-class activities due to difficulties with the at-home learning component. Addressing this discrepancy often requires additional strategies from educators, such as providing structured guidance for outside-class work or offering more in-class support to ensure all students can engage meaningfully with the material.

Q: What specific challenges did teachers face when adapting to the flipped classroom model, and how were these addressed?

A: Teachers adapting to the flipped classroom model often encounter several challenges, including redesigning course materials, mastering new technologies, and changing their instructional approach. One significant hurdle is the development of engaging and effective pre-class materials, such as video lectures, that students can interact with on their own. Additionally, teachers need to become proficient with various technological tools to support both the remote and in-class components of the flipped classroom.

Addressing these challenges typically involves comprehensive training and support for educators. This training can cover effective practices for creating digital content, strategies for facilitating active learning in the classroom, and ways to use technology to enhance student engagement. Moreover, fostering a community of practice among teachers can provide valuable opportunities for sharing experiences and strategies. Empowering teachers through professional development is crucial for them to effectively implement the flipped classroom model and encourage student voice, ensuring that all students feel heard and supported in this new learning environment.

Q: What were the long-term effects on students who participated in the flipped classroom model in terms of knowledge retention and application beyond the classroom?

A: The long-term effects of the flipped classroom model on students' knowledge retention and application beyond the classroom are promising but can vary. This teaching approach encourages active engagement with the material, which is known to enhance memory and understanding. By actively participating in the learning process, students are more likely to internalise concepts and skills, which can lead to better long-term retention. Furthermore, the flipped classroom model often involves practical, problem-solving activities that mimic real-world scenarios, helping students apply what they've learned in practical, outside-classroom contexts.

However, the extent of these long-term benefits can depend on several factors, including the quality of the pre-class materials, the effectiveness of in-class activities, and the level of support provided to students throughout the process. Encouraging student voice and giving learners a say in their educational experiences can also play a significant role. When students feel their perspectives are valued and they are actively involved in their learning, they are more likely to take ownership of their education, further enhancing the long-term impacts of the flipped classroom model. Continuous assessment and adaptation of the flipped classroom strategies are essential to maximise these benefits for all students.


[Source Paper] L. Gren, "A Flipped Classroom Approach to Teaching Empirical Software Engineering," in IEEE Transactions on Education, vol. 63, no. 3, pp. 155-163, Aug. 2020.
DOI: 10.1109/TE.2019.2960264

Related Entries