Assessing the flipped classroom

At Pearson’s 10th Biology Leadership Conference, I’ve been amazed and impressed by how many instructors have either flipped their intro biology class, or are seriously contemplating it. There was so much interest that over 30 instructors voluntarily gave up one hour of the two measly hours of free time for an impromptu discussion of the flipped classroom.

One recurring question is how effective is the flipped classroom? Is it better than the active learning strategies that most here at the BLC already employ? Who benefits? Does one assess student learning in a flipped class the same way as in a traditional mostly-lecture class?

I’ve been very interested in assessment of my flipped class. Given high levels of student resistance and decline in my teaching evaluations by the students, the temptation is to give up and revert to my previous active learning strategies, if I find no evidence for student learning gains. For comparison with previous years, I had to stick with multiple-choice exam questions to measure student learning.

First, I gleaned isomorphic questions from the Module 3 midterm from Fall 2009 and Fall 2011 (the first semester I taught this module with the flipped model). With only 7 such questions, I found no significant differences in a T-test (mean F09 = 73.3; mean F11 = 74.7; p = 0.55). Not encouraging. But I noticed that these were mostly lower-level questions testing recall of basic concepts. The reason I flipped the class was that students were not performing as well as I like at higher Bloom’s taxonomy level questions – the application and analysis.

I then compared the Fall 2010 and Fall 2012 Midterm 3 exams. I chose the Fall 2010 exam because it had a similar proportion (about 2/3) of application/analysis questions as the Fall 2012 exam. Moreover, the Fall 2012 exam was crafted around several scenarios, with groups of questions around a single topic. The Fall 2010 exam also had clusters of questions, although not to the same extent as the Fall 2012 exam. In the interest of sharing and open education, the two midterm exams are attached to this post as pdf files.

I classified each question on the two exams as to whether they tested primarily recall (Bloom’s levels 1/2) or application/analysis (Bloom’s levels 3/4). Then I analyzed student performance on these exam questions and charted the mean performance for each type of question.


This figure shows that in the two midterms, students had much greater difficulty with the application/analysis questions than on the recall questions, regardless of year. On recall questions, student score averages in Fall 2010 and Fall 2012 were nearly identical. But students who experienced the flipped classroom in 2012 performed significantly better on application/analysis questions than students in Fall 2010 (p < 0.05, one-tailed T-test).

This evidence, limited as it is, will help me make a case to my future students for the flipped model. Moreover, I’m still in the early stages of figuring out the flipped model. I’m getting some good ideas to refine lecture videos (although I’m not convinced that lecture videos are that important), and have some ideas to improve what we do in class, with better learning activities and classroom response systems like Learning Catalytics. And I’m more excited than ever about the untextbook idea to encourage students to personalize and own their own electronic class notes.

Earlier posts about my flipped intro bio class

Midterm 3 exams: click links below to download pdfs




About jchoigt

I'm an Associate Professor in the School of Biology at Georgia Tech, and Faculty Coordinator of the Professional MS Bioinformatics degree program.
This entry was posted in Teaching and learning biology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Assessing the flipped classroom

  1. Pingback: Assessing the flipped classroom | Web 2.0 and Social Media |

  2. Heloise says:

    This is great! Thank you for sharing those data.
    Would you know of other people who also posted their assessment on flipping their classroom?

    • jchoigt says:

      I don’t know of any others who have published or posted publicly their assessment data for flipped bio classes. I know Scott Bowling at Auburn has some interesting data on retention and DFW rates. Angela Hodgson at NDSU flipped her intro bio class 2 years ago, as well, and her students really liked the flipped format.

  3. jchoigt says:

    The same data is on a poster uploaded to Figshare, with a citable doi:
    Flipping the Large Intro Bio Class, Round 2. Jung Choi. figshare.

  4. jenniferleavey says:

    Hey Jung,
    Interesting! I saw the same effect when I used POGIL in Immunology. No difference in recall questions but an improvement in higher-level Bloom’s questions.

  5. Pingback: Assessing the flipped classroom | Flipping good |

  6. Pingback: The fallacy of evaluating “the flipped class” | Jung's Biology Blog

  7. jchoigt says:

    I received the following unsolicited email from a student in the Fall 2012 class:
    “I was a past student in your fall 2012 1510 class. As I’m studying for my finals, I just realized that your class has been one of two classes that I’ve enjoyed at Tech in my two years. Just wanted to let you know I really appreciated your teaching style and I hope you spread your passion and interest for biology.”
    This makes my day!

  8. Pingback: Flipped case studies workshop at Buffalo, 2014 | Jung's Biology Blog

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