Why FLIP? 5 Flipped and Active Learning Strategies Supported by Research

Let's examine five flipped and active learning strategies supported by research. 

One of the questions I’m often asked is, “Do flipped and active learning classroom models improve student learning?”

Well, yes, if it’s done well.  (Read more about my FLIP framework.)

If the flipped classroom model is poorly implemented, then no, there may not be improvements in learning or increases in student engagement. But, I could argue that applies to any teaching strategy.

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Now that the flipped classroom model has been around for many years, scholars are starting to publish more about how the model works and share recommendations for improving the experience for both students and faculty.

In a recent post, one of my colleagues, Dr. Robert Talbert (2016), examines the increase in scholarship focused on “flipped learning” or “flipped classrooms.” There’s a significant jump in the number of publications since 2011.

As I’ve discussed many times in my writing and when leading workshops, the flipped classroom was originally presented as the “inverted” classroom or “inverted instruction” in the mid-1990’s.

Many educators may not realize the different terminology really means the same model, but there are different interpretations and applications of the model throughout higher education, K-12, and professional training settings.

In this post, I wanted to broaden the scope of what we mean by “flipped” and get back to the basics of why we use student-centered learning strategies in the first place.

Whether you call it flipped classroom, flipped learning, inverted instruction, problem-based learning, or student-centered learning (or some other name!), the fundamental purpose is to actively engage students in higher levels of critical thinking.

Let’s step back from the specific terminology and focus instead on five strategies you can use to engage students and what those strategies mean for student learning.

Here are five “flipped” (or active learning) strategies with summaries of published peer-reviewed research:


One easy way to FLIP a class is to integrate brief pauses when giving a lecture or presentation.  For example, in a one hour class, if you are lecturing, try to pause two or three times for two or three minutes and allow students to review and share their notes with a peer.

Ruhl et al. (1987) found that this technique impacted short-term memory recall and long-term retention.  Prince (2004) summarized, the class that used the pause procedure, “averaged 108 correct facts compared to 80 correct facts recalled in classes with straight lecture.”

Prince (2004) continued, “Test scores were 89.4 with the pause procedure compared to 80.9 without pause for one class, and 80.4 with the pause procedure compared to 72.6 with no pause in the other class.”


Chunking is when you divide your lecture into parts and then giving students a few minutes in between to process what they’ve heard.  Most instructors will group common parts of a lecture or groups of similar information into one chunk and then allow students time to work through a problem or discuss the information with other students.

Wankat (2002) found a variety of research articles which confirm that a student’s attention span during a lecture is approximately fifteen minutes. Hartley and Davies (1978) found that after a lecture, students remembered 70 percent of information presented in first ten minutes only 20 percent of information presented in last ten minutes.


Find ways for students to engage in problem-solving and analysis during class.  Real-world case studies, practice problems, and analysis exercises allow students opportunities to practice their skills, learn from peers, and assess their knowledge immediately so you can offer corrections or clarification.

Wieman, Deslauriers, and Schelew (2011) draw on research in cognitive science, neuroscience, and learning theory. In their recent study, they used a technique called “deliberate practice” which challenges students to engage in the same practice and problem-solving techniques scientists apply to research.

They compared an introductory course using deliberate practice to an introductory course using straight lecture.  Students engaged in deliberate practice scored twice as high on a 12-question multiple-choice test of the material than those in the straight lecture.  As a side bonus, attendance increased by 20% in the class using deliberate practice.


Designing opportunities for students to interact and engage in active learning experiences remains the core of the flipped classroom model.  Regardless of which type of flipped model or definition you use in your classes, research continues to provide evidence that interactivity and engagement enhance learning, retention, and motivation.

Hake (1998) analyzed data for over 6,000 students in introductory physics courses.  Prince (2004) summarized Hake's findings and explained, “Test scores measuring conceptual understanding were roughly twice as high in classes promoting engagement than in traditional courses. Statistically, this was an improvement of two standard deviations above that of traditional courses.”


Most flipped classes usually encourage students to work cooperatively in groups.  Whether you use semester-long teams or small group activities within each class (or both), students cooperating with other students has been shown to increase learning gains.

Springer, Stanne, and Donovan (1999) determined that group work results in greater academic achievement, more favorable attitudes, and increased persistence. Pascarella and Terenzini (2005) found that cooperative learning and group work improved student learning by a .51 standard deviation.


Hopefully, these resources will help you justify your decision to FLIP or encourage you to try at least one active learning strategy in your class!

For more current research, follow me on Twitter. I post new articles from the literature and highlight the findings.

Resources & Recommended Reading:

Deslauriers, L., Schelew, E., & Wieman, C. (May 2011). Improved learning in a large-enrollment physics class.  Science. Vol. 334, no. 6031, p. 862-864

Hake, R. (1998). Interactive-engagement vs. traditional methods: A six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses. American Journal of Physics. Vol. 66, No. 1, p. 64.

Hartley, J., and Davies, I. (1978). Note taking: A critical review. Programmed Learning and Educational Technology. Vol. 15. p. 207–224.

Millis, B. Promoting deep learning. IDEA Paper No. 47. The Idea Center. Retrieved from: http://www.theideacenter.org/sites/default/files/IDEA_Paper_47.pdf

Pascarella, E.T. & Terenzini, P.T. (2005). How College Affects Students: A Third Decade of Research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Prince, M. (2004). Does active learning work? A review of the research.  p. 1-9. Journal of Engineering Education.

Ruhl, K., C. Hughes, and P. Schloss (1987). Using the pause procedure to enhance lecture recall. Teacher Education and Special Education. Vol. 10, Winter. p. 14–18.

Springer, L., Stanne, M.E., & Donovan, S. (1999). Effects of small-group learning on undergraduates in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research. 69, 21-51.

Talbert, R. (2016). How much research has been done on flipped learning? Casting Out Nines blog post. Available online at: http://rtalbert.org/blog/2016/how-much-research Wankat, P. (2002). The Effective Efficient Professor: Teaching, Scholarship and Service, Allyn and Bacon: Boston, MA.

(If the pop-up box doesn't work for you, contact me to get the article)

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