MET:Flipped Classrooms in STEM Subjects

From UBC Wiki

Authored by Jenelle Kresak, solo, March, 2014

Flipped classrooms teaching approach has been most notably used in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects. Teaching in a flipped classroom allows students to listen to lectures as homework, and do the coursework/assignments during class time. Likewise, this style of teaching allows teachers to spend more time in class helping students, answering questions, and less time lecturing. Since STEM teachers often have many objectives and topics that need to be covered, flipping the classroom allows teachers to spend less time in class transmitting information to students, and more time in class assisting students with specific needs.

Educational Benefits

Referencing “The Flipped Classroom: Online Instruction at Home Frees Class Time for Learning” written by Bill Tucker and published in Education Next’s winter edition, Tucker finds a chemistry teacher from Woodland Park High School in Colorado, Jonathan Bergmann, who had much success with flipped classrooms. Bergmann shares, “ It takes a little while for students to get used to the system, as the year progresses I see them asking better questions and thinking more deeply about the content. After flipping my classroom, I can more easily query individual students, probe for misconceptions around scientific concepts, and clear up incorrect notions.” (Tucker, 2012) Bergmann’s system allowed him to get into his students minds and understand their thinking process in ways that would be impossible in a traditional lecture class, problem solve at home instruction style.

Furthermore, Bergmann finds that he now spends more time with struggling students, who no longer give up on homework, but work through challenging problems in class. Additionally, he points out, “Advanced students have more freedom to learn at a higher level independently.”(Tucker, 2012) Even though he says that high school students still occasionally lapse on homework assignments, Bergmann credits the new arrangement with fostering better relationships, greater student engagement, and higher levels of motivation.(Tucker, 2012) Bergmann’s approach to teaching not only benefits students with regard to learning the topics, concepts and objectives, but also fosters better relationships and motivation among low level to high level students.

Referencing Dan Berrett, published in The Chronicle of Higher Education titled, “How 'Flipping' the Classroom Can Improve the Traditional Lecture.”, he quotes a physics professor at Harvard University, Eric Mazur, who has essentially been flipping his classroom with success for the past 21 years. He has been practicing a method he calls, “Peer Instruction,” where students work in small groups to answer conceptual questions during scheduled “lecture” time. He began to use peer instruction after testing his own students on the Force Concept Inventory, which tests understanding of the foundations of Newtonian mechanics. Despite his consistently high ratings from students, Mr. Mazur saw that they were not learning as much as he thought they were.(Berrett, 2012) Mazur spoke at a conference at Harvard on teaching and learning about how much emphasis we put on the transfer of information when this information is growing more plentiful and widely accessible. He states, "Simply transmitting information should not be the focus of teaching; helping students to assimilate that information should. Then, once you engage the students' minds, there's an eagerness to learn, to be right, to master. In my opinion, liking the class is ultimately beside the point, using peer instruction shows that, on the force concept inventory, non majors who take his class outperform physics majors who learn in traditional lectures.” (Berrett, 2012)


As flipped classrooms is a relatively new teaching approach, research is ongoing, with new studies and data still being collecting. However, some studies and research has been conducted including, Jacob Lowell Bishop and Dr. Matthew A. Verleger’s paper written for 120th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition titled, “The Flipped Classroom: A Survey of Research.”. They cite a study done regarding visual based instruction. This study finds, video lectures (slightly) outperform in-person lectures, with interactive online videos doing even better. (Bishop & Verleger, 2013)

Bethany B. Stone, Associate teaching professor at the University of Missouri - Columbia, author of, “Flip Your Classroom to Increase Active Learning and Student Engagement”, a conference proceeding from the 28th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching & Learning at the University of Wisconsin, states her research on flipped classrooms in undergraduate Genetic Diseases and General Biology classes. She addresses three common questions many educators consider when implementing flipped classrooms:

1. Will “flipping” a class impact student learning?

The flipped classroom test scores were compared to a control course which has the same background of students, and the same, 8 AM, time schedule. Results showed the flipped classroom had consistently higher test scores than the control class. (78.5% and 77.5% in the control semester to 86.2% and 90.0% in the flipped semester, respectively). (Stone, 2012)

2. Will “flipping” a class impact student attendance?

Stone finds that the average attendance in the control class of Genetic Diseases to be 93.3% and General Biology to be 74.6%. In the flipped semester, Stone sees growth to 95.3% and 80%, respectively. This negates the myth that students will feel like they can do all the course work at home, and not value the in class time. (Stone, 2012)

3. What are students attitudes towards this teaching strategy?

Students were asked to complete the statement, “Compared to traditional teaching methods, I think the ‘hybrid’ format…” Nine percent completed the statement, “has neither helped nor hurt my learning.” while the other 91% responded, “has improved my learning.” (Stone, 2012)

Related Educational Fields

Experts believe that the most important part of flipping a classroom is not to simply rearrange the same lectures, content, and homework into different time allotments, but rather to expand the possibilities of what can be achieved in the same amount of class time. Bishop and Verleger list the following instructional theories as being essential to the flipped classroom theory: learning styles, peer-assisted, collaborative, and cooperative learning, project-based learning, and active learning. They argue that without the integration of each of these instructional styles, it doesn’t qualify as a flipped classroom per se. At it’s center, this approach is a complete shift in the way we teach and learn STEM subjects. Bishop and Verleger lament, “Unfortunately, some may overlook these student-centered learning theories and instead conceptualize the flipped classroom based only on the presence (or absence) of computer technology such as video lectures. This would be a mistake, since the pedagogical theory used to design the in-class experience may ultimately be the determining factor in the success (or failure) of the flipped classroom.” (Bishop & Verleger, 2013)

Suggested Resources

A number of video tutorial websites exist to search for and create your own videos. Two of the leading sites are:

Khan Academy is one of the leading resource websites for video lectures in STEM subjects. It provides a variety of levels and STEM subject objectives along with problems for students to solve. It also includes community forums for students and teachers to be communicate with each other.

Youtube is another often used website to search for videos. Many teachers who currently teach a flipped classroom will use ready made youtube videos, or create their own and upload them to youtube.

Criticisms from Teachers

Alan November and Brian Mull provide five common criticisms from teachers and rebuttals of flipped classrooms in their article “Flipped Learning: A Response to Five Common Criticisms.” Those criticisms are:

1. Implementing the Flipped Learning method makes me, as the teacher, much less important.

2. Kids do not want to sit at home watching boring video lectures on the Web. At least in the classroom, they get some kind of interaction with me and with their peers. This is just a lot of excitement over bad pedagogy.

3.Most of my kids do not even have internet access at home. There’s no way they can watch all of these videos.

4.Where is the accountability? How do I even know if kids are watching the videos?

5.As a teacher, I don’t have the time or the expertise to produce all of the videos required to teach like this.

For November and Mull’s response, see article.

Related Wiki Entries

Flipped Classroom, Collaborative learning, Khan Academy as a PLE, Youtube: Math Tutor, project-based learning,

Stop Motion Video

Flipped Classroom by Benjamin Key Components by Susan Beeley

Dacia Reid's Submission for ETEC510 65C Flipped Classroom in Stem Subjects

Graeme Scott Harkness' Submission for ETEC510 65D Flipped Classroom in STEM


Berrett, D. (2012). How 'flipping' the classroom can improve the traditional lecture. The chronicle of higher education, 12.

Bishop, J. L., & Verleger, M. A. (2013). The flipped classroom: A survey of the research. In ASEE National Conference Proceedings, Atlanta, GA.

November, A., & Mull, B. "Flipped Learning: A Response To Five Common Criticisms." November Learning. N.p., 29 Mar. 2012. Web. 7 Mar. 2014. <>.

Stone, B. B. (2012). Flip your classroom to increase active learning and student engagement. In Proceedings from 28th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching & Learning, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

Tucker, B. (2012). The flipped classroom. Education Next, 12(1), 82-83.