The impact of a flipped classroom format on student performance

A 2016 study from Balaban, Gilleskie and Tran presents evidence of improved student performance in a flipped classroom format compared to traditional lecture format.

A flipped classroom involves students gaining initial exposure to materials through preparation before class, leaving class time for active learning activities and problem solving under the guidance of their instructor. The flipped classroom is gaining popularity, but is often not adopted due to the time investment required to prepare materials for use before class.

Results indicate the flipped classroom increases performance in comprehension, application and analysis of content, supporting deeper learning and the development of critical skills for students.

Understanding the effectiveness of different teaching formats is critical in course design, increasing potential outcomes for both students and universities.
The Study

This study was made possible by the redesign of an introductory economics course in an American university. The instructor taught the same content over two semesters, using traditional lecture style in the first and a flipped classroom method in the next. As the course in economics was a core requirement for students from a range of disciplines, the researchers are confident that findings from can be generalised and do not just represent economics students.

Exam results were used to measure student performance, with exams conducted in MCQ format to ensure objective grading. The exams contained four types of questions; knowledge, application, analysis and comprehension.


Findings showed that students in the flipped classroom achieved significantly better grades, averaging 84% as opposed to an average of 77% in the traditional lecture format. This is a difference of 7 percentage points and standard deviation of 0.58.

Interestingly, performance on knowledge questions was unaffected, while scores in analysis, comprehension and application questions all improved. This suggests the flipped classroom can assist students in developing deeper understandings and higher level skills without affecting their content knowledge.

Class preparation time was consistent across semesters, indicating that the flipped classroom method did not inspire students to spend more time preparing for class than they would have otherwise. This supports the researchers’ conclusion that the active learning methods used in class explain the difference in grades.

While students at all grade levels saw an increase in grades, students in the top 25% of the class achieved the largest increase in grades. This is an interesting finding for instructors seeking ways to engage and continue developing their high performing students.

Key takeaway

While the flipped classroom requires a significant time investment to establish, the evidence is very clear that this method produces superior academic performance in students.


Title: A quantitative evaluation of the flipped classroom in a large lecture principles of economics course
Authors: Rita A. Balaban, Donna B. Gilleskie & Uyen Tran
Published: The Journal of Economic Education


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