Do flipped classrooms improve academic performance?

Pharmacy academics explore what determines success in this progressive learning environment.

A team of researchers from Monash University has presented evidence to show what types of student demographics, baseline factors, behaviours and engagement in a ‘flipped classroom’ setting is associated with overall greater academic performance amongst pharmacy students.

The study found that the distinct elements which make up the flipped classrWDCoom model - which focuses on student engagement and active learning – leads to greater performance in examinations and assessments and, for one cohort, it also showed that whilst Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) scores may predict students’ course grades, in a flipped classroom setting ATAR has no impact on oral communication or problem-solving outcomes.

Classroom

The flipped classroom inverts the traditional teaching model by incorporating direct instruction into students' pre-class learning, meaning that class time can be used to deepen the students’ understanding of the material, enabling them to apply their emerging understanding to new situations.

Published in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, the study was led by academics from Monash University’s Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and focused on a cohort of 159 pharmacy students enrolled in a five-year combined Bachelors and Masters of Pharmacy degree program.

Driven by a vested interest in understanding the factors that predict academic performance and student success outcomes, key findings from the study include: participation in flipped classroom style workshops leads to greater performance in exams and skills assessments; ATAR predicts unit grades but not oral communication or problem-solving performance; and completion of pre-class activities prior to lectures influences performance outcomes in a flipped classroom setting.

Lead author and Monash University Research Fellow, Dr Kayley Lyons, says the team was guided by the Faculty’s ‘Discover, Explore, Apply and Reflect’ (DEAR) model to explore what is most influential in a curriculum.

“A fundamental underpinning of our degree program is an evidence-based, curriculum-wide flipped classroom approach, with every course following the same flipped classroom DEAR model,” says Dr Lyons.

“Following this approach, we examined factors including student demographics, language and situational judgment test scores, ATAR scores, course engagement and student time management of pre-class online activities to understand how these elements impact student performance in course examinations and skill assessments for communication and problem solving.”

Importantly, the study also provided evidence that students who struggle with oral communication can be detected early using the Diagnostic English Language Assessment (DELA) test. The DELA writing test challenges students to write an argument piece in support or against a provided statement, helping to determine which students are ‘at risk’ when it comes to their communication skills and providing an opportunity for early intervention.

Monash University’s combined Bachelors and Masters of Pharmacy degree program was launched in 2017, making this paper the first in a trajectory of studies which will explore early results of the new format on exams and skill assessments; how this will lend itself to performance on experiential placements; the students’ perspective (via survey); perceived preparation for the transition to internship and, finally, how this line of learning will ultimately improve patient care.

Senior author and Associate Dean of Education, Professor Paul White, says “The goal is to get to the point in the not too distant future where we can assess every step in this cohort’s journey and say they liked, they learned, they can do and, most importantly, it improved the standard of care for patients.”

Contact: Kate Carthew

Phone: 61 438 674814