Does ‘Flipped Learning’ Work? A New Analysis Dives Into the Research

This article is written in EdSurge by By Jeffrey R. Young

Flipped learning is a pedagogical approach that reverses the traditional order of teaching and learning. Instead of receiving direct instruction from the teacher in class, students watch lectures or read materials at home or outside of class. Then, they use the class time to apply concepts and engage in interactive activities with the teacher’s guidance12.

Since the pandemic, more instructors at schools and colleges appear to have embraced “flipped learning,” the approach of asking students to watch lecture videos before class so that class time can be used for active learning.

Proponents say the model improves student outcomes by encouraging more interaction among students and professors, and many studies have been conducted to measure the efficacy of the approach. So a group of professors recently performed a meta-analysis to try to assess how well flipped learning is working.

The study considered 173 studies of flipped learning, as well as 46 previous meta-analyses of the approach. And while many of the studies showed gains for learners in some cases, the researchers concluded that flipped learning isn’t living up to its promise.

“The current levels of enthusiasm for flipped learning are not commensurate with and far exceed the vast variability of scientific evidence in its favor,” the paper argues.

The article highlights some of the main findings of this analysis, which suggest that flipped learning has a small but positive effect on student achievement compared to traditional instruction; that this effect varies depending on how flipped learning is designed and delivered; and that flipped learning may have other benefits such as improving student attitudes, behaviors and self-efficacy.

It concludes by offering some implications and recommendations for practice and policy based on this analysis, such as providing clear guidance and support for teachers who want to adopt flipped learning; ensuring alignment between pre-class activities and in-class activities; using technology effectively to enhance student interaction and feedback; considering students’ preferences, needs and readiness for flipped learning; and conducting more rigorous and comprehensive research on flipped learning.

The biggest surprise to the researchers as they coded each research project was realizing how many different versions of flipped learning exist, said John Hattie, an emeritus professor at the University of Melbourne who co-authored the study. “The hype is convincing — it’s seductive — but the implementation of the hype is not,” he said. “It has been implemented so variably.”

Another surprise, Hattie said, was that the more active learning done in a flipped classroom, the worse the outcome. He chalks that up to the fact that many professors using the model don’t test whether students are actually learning the material presented in lecture videos, and so some students who skip the videos or watch them on double-speed arrive in class unprepared for the activities.

The researchers do think that flipped learning has merit — if it is done carefully. They end their paper by presenting a model of flipped learning they refer to as “fail, flip, fix and feed,” which they say applies the most effective aspects they learned from their analysis. Basically they argue that students should be challenged with a problem even if they can’t properly solve it because they haven’t learned the material yet, and then the failure to solve it will motivate them to watch the lecture looking for the necessary information. Then classroom time can be used to fix student misconceptions, with a mix of a short lecture and student activities. Finally, instructors assess the student work and give feedback.

“I hope our paper does not dismiss the ideas underlying [flipped learning] because they’re very powerful ideas,” Hattie said.

Flipped learning: What is it, and when is it effective?

Another study about Flipped learning summarizes the lessons from over 300 published studies on flipped learning. The findings suggest that, for many of us who work with students, flipped learning might be worth a try.

Flipped learning is not simply a fad. There is theoretical support that it should promote student learning. According to constructivist theory, active learning enables students to create their own knowledge by building upon pre-existing cognitive frameworks, resulting in a deeper level of learning than occurs in more passive learning settings. Another theoretical advantage of flipped learning is that it allows students to incorporate foundational information into their long-term memory prior to class. This lightens the cognitive load during class, so that students can form new and deeper connections and develop more complex ideas. Finally, classroom activities in the flipped model can be intentionally designed to teach students valuable intra- and interpersonal skills.

To address this issue, we conducted a comprehensive meta-analysis of flipped pedagogies; this review focused specifically on higher education contexts. For our meta-analysis, we combined data from 317 studies (51,437 participants) that compared the effectiveness of flipped and lecture-based courses taught by the same instructor.

Importantly, we also found that flipped learning is superior to lecture-based learning for fostering all intra-/interpersonal outcomes examined, including enhancing students’ interpersonal skills, improving their engagement with the content, and developing their metacognitive abilities like time management and learning strategies.

Flipped learning was shown to be more effective than lecture-based learning across most disciplines. However, we found that flipped pedagogies produced the greatest academic and intra-/interpersonal benefits in language, technology, and health-science courses. Flipped learning may be a particularly good fit for these skills-based courses, because class time can be spent practicing and mastering these skills.


Another reason to consider flipped learning is student satisfaction. We found that students in flipped classrooms reported greater course satisfaction than those in lecture-based courses. The size of this overall effect was fairly small, so flipping the classroom is not a silver bullet for instantly boosting course evaluations. But in no context did flipping the classroom hurt course ratings, and in some settings, including mathematics courses and courses taught in Asia and Europe, we observed more pronounced increases in student satisfaction.

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