2015 - Flipping the Classroom

The inaugural cohort of the CTL Fellows for Innovative Teaching focused on "Flipping the Classroom".  The activities for this program began in December 2014 and concluded in December 2015.  Goals, Program Activities and Attributes, and other details can be found below.  


The goals of the 2015 CTL Fellows for Innovative Teaching included the following:

  • To provide faculty who teach challenging and/or high-demand courses with support and collaboration to institute robust “flipped” pedagogical approaches in their courses;
  • To provide faculty with opportunities for the sharing of ideas with other dedicated, highly-motivated, and innovative teachers from a variety of disciplines who have similar interests and who face similar teaching challenges;
  • To provide funding for a “flipped” instructional project designed to strengthen courses and teaching methods in each participant's academic department;
  • To further integrate what research tells us about how people learn into key courses at the University; and
  • To reinforce an instructional environment that honors and recognizes dedicated teaching scholars and promotes a learning-community spirit on a large campus.

Best Practices and Lessons Learned

Following the implementation semester of the Fellows for Innovative Teaching program, faculty members shared their experiences and offered the lessons they learned from flipping their courses. 

Scroll to the bottom of the page to read the Fellows’ best practices and lessons learned.  In addition, visit Flipping the Classroom to learn more about flipping.

Program Activities and Attributes

The following activities comprise the program:

  • The CTL Fellows for Innovative Teaching program occurs during the calendar year. Activities for the "Flipping the Classroom" cohort began in December 2014 and concluded in December 2015.
  • A half-day, morning retreat was held on Reading Day, December 10, 2014, from 8:00 a.m to Noon (breakfast and registration begin at 7:30 a.m.).  This event highlighted the core instructional challenges presented by “flipping the classroom.”  Dr. Peter Doolittle, Assistant Provost for Teaching and Learning and Professor of Educational Psychology at Virginia Tech, was the keynote speaker at this event.  He is likely best known for his viral TED Talk regarding working memory, but his recent research and focus has been on flipping the classroom.  The video recording of this keynote is available in the Teaching Library.
  • The fellows met as a cohort once a month throughout the calendar year in a large group workshop setting.  Meetings were conducted as a combination of round table discussions and workshop activities and included outside speakers. Core topics  included pre-class activities and delivery methods, motivating students to engage before class, and active learning approaches during class time.  Dee Fink's Creating Significant Learning Experiences was used as a workshop textbook.  To accommodate  schedules of such a large group, each of these monthly meetings was offered twice.  Below is the spring 2015 meeting schedule:

2015 CTL Fellows for Innovative Teaching

Norris Armstrong, Genetics
Nicholas Berente, Management Information Systems (co-participant with Mark Huber)
Charles Byrd, Germanic and Slavic Studies
Joel Caughran, Chemistry
Kara A. Dyckman, Psychology
Janet Frick, Psychology
Connie Marie Frigo, Music
April K. Galyardt, Educational Psychology
Andreas Handel, Epidemiology & Biostatistics
Mark Huber, Management Information Systems (co-participant with Nicholas Berente)
Rodney Mauricio, Genetics
Cory Momany, Pharmacy
Julie M. Moore, Infectious Diseases
Patricia Moore, Entomology
Diann Moorman, FHCE
Michele A Monteil, GRU-UGA Medical Partnership
Gregg Thomas Nagle, Cellular Biology
Maria Navarro,  Agriculture Leadership (ALEC)
Siddharth Savadatti, Engineering
Scott A. Shamp, New Media Institute / Journalism
Ajay Sharma, Veterinary Biosciences
Bjorn F. Stillon Southard, Communication Studies
Martina Sumner, Chemistry
Kacy Welsh, Psychology
Anne Marie Zimeri, Environmental Health


Best Practices and Lessons Learned - 2015 CTL Fellows for Innovative Teaching

During the 2015 calendar year, 24  faculty engaged in a process of exploration, course design, and course delivery that focused on flipping the classroom.  At the end of the year, the Fellows gathered to share their thoughts on the experience.  What follows are highlights from their experiences, highlighting the successes, best practices, challenges and solutions, and final take aways from their respective experiences.  


This program was designed to provide faculty with support and resources to experiment with flipping the classroom structures and strategies. In general, the CTL Fellows found that flipping pushed students to engage in higher-level thinking and deeper processing than traditional, more lecture-based, models.  They found that flipping

  • Created “[a] culture of collaboration in the classroom—students felt supported in their learning”
    --Trish Moore, Entomology
  • “[Broke] ingrained patterns of student thinking, such as the belief that mathematics is a set of procedures and facts.”
    --April Galyardt, Educational Psychology
  • Provided a good framework to use “eLC quizzing and dropbox grading with rubric.”  Both tools worked well.
    --Cory Momany, Pharmacy

Best Practices:

A range of best practices emerged from this learning community, and many are shared below:

  • Students need to be reminded why the new approaches are being used.  “Explain it once, then explain it ten more times.”
    --Kacy Welsh, Psychology
  • You must be repeatedly explicit about how assignments align with both learning objectives (skills) and assessment, emphasizing the importance of completing homework in order to be prepared for learning activities in class.
    --Norris Armstrong, Biology; Trish Moore, Entomology
  • Students are not as tech-savvy as you would expect, finding e-books and video assignments difficult.  Use eLC quizzes to provide incentives and accountability for learning content out of class. Provide a few minutes at the beginning of class for student-initiated questions.
    --Joel Caughran, Chemistry
  • “Focus on deep learning; what do you really want them to remember in 2026? 2036? 2046?”
    --Gregg Nagle, Cellular Biology
  • Attendance matters: group activities require regular attendance of group members.  Absences affected the quality of debates and made it clear if a student was free load
    --Diann Moorman, Consumer Economics
  • Flipping assignments can evolve over the course of the semester and in stages toward an ultimate project.  For instances, by starting with a “pledge assignment,” followed by a “fact-sheet assignment” and “reading circles,” students then completed a “wiki assignment.” This provides the students with a structure from easy to complex and provides the professor with ample opportunity to assess student progress along the way.
    --Anne Marie Zimeri, Environmental Health
  • Four fun ways for students to voluntarily engage in active and creative learning in a 100+ student class that requires topical research and active engagement:  limerick, art, children’s book, and music video contests.
    --Rodney Mauricio, Genetics
  • Combining “Reacting to the Past” with flipping “rejuvenates and motivates students” and “fosters creativity and independent thinking,” even in science!
    --Julie Moore, Infectious Diseases
  • Using small- and large-group analysis of case studies led to improved “student-student [and] faculty-student interactions.”
    --Maria Navarro, Agriculture Leadership

Challenges and Solutions:

The Fellows encouraged unexpected challenges as they flipped their classes.  What follows are some of those challenges along with proposed solutions to those challenges.

In general, the Fellows found that students were not accustomed to the responsibility for learning that flipping requires. By having students initially encounter course material outside of class, making them responsible for it, and applying their new knowledge to activities in class, the flipping model countered students’ educational experiences and were sometime in conflict with their expectations for the course, requiring them to adjust and adapt to their more active roles in learning.  Students sometimes negatively viewed the activities as busy-work and resisted attending class to “work through problems.”

The Fellows realized that unless students were held accountable for the material learned and the assignments done outside of class, the majority of students would not come to class prepared for in-class activities.  It is also important to explain the learning benefits of the flipped method repeatedly as students are required to learn material outside of class and to work with course material in class. 

  • Students were “Initially frustrated but by the end were more confident in ability to work through a problem and in their knowledge.”  Likewise, they were “"initially frustrated but understood why the instructor did what I did.”
    --Ajay Sharma, Veterinary Biosciences

Video content was often a strategy employed by faculty to deliver content outside of class; however, several challenges were noted regarding the creation of video.  They included the following:

  • Creating videos was time-consuming, especially when closed-captioning was included in the process.
  • The quality of the videos seemed to correlate with student satisfaction with the videos.
  • Some faculty noted that students often did not watch the videos.
  • General strategies for successful videos include the following:
  • Like a great movie, videos should tell an interesting story in your own words.
    --Gregg Nagle, Cellular Biology
  • Video lectures should provide a focus on content that students will find helpful and familiar.
    --Trish Moore, Entomology

Recommendations for using videos in flipped courses include the following:

  • Use pre-existing videos when possible (e.g. TED Talks, quality YouTube videos, audio podcasts).
  • Create one or two videos each semester and continue to assign reading for other topics. Replace reading with video over time.
  • Make students accountable for viewing (e.g. outside assignment based on video, in-class activity, short in-class comprehension quiz)
  • “Quiz students at the beginning of class on pre-lecture assignment.”
    --Martina Summer, Chemistry

Interesting observations regarding grades emerged as part of these course redesigns as well:

  • The class as a whole earned grades that averaged the same as those from a traditional course.  However, different groups of students performed differently and the extremes—very high grades and very low grades—were also evident.
    --Siddharth Savadatti, Engineering
  • Students performed above expectation throughout the semester until the cumulative final exam, where they scored 10-15% lower compared to students in unflipped courses on final “barometer” questions.
    --Cory Momany, Pharmacy

Strategies for ensuring learning improves as intended include the following:

  • Make sure that learning goals, assessments, and learning activities are integrated (see Fink).
  • Allow for some degree of recovery for students who perform poorly on summative evaluations.
  • Perform frequent, low-stakes, formative evaluations of student learning to check on learning before high stakes tests.  Re-teach material that students are not understanding as indicated by formative assessments.

Class size impacts approaches to flipping:

  • With large classes, scaling is a factor, especially in terms of grading and data management.
    --Janet Frick, Psychology
  • “Assigned groups with assigned seats make group work doable with 300 students.”  And “notecards double as group icebreaker and accountability tool.”
    --Kacy Welsh, Psychology
  • Solutions include peer grading, eLC rubrics, lower stakes [formative] assessments made management of student work in large enrollment classes more feasible.
    --Julie Moore, Infectious Diseases

Final Take Aways:

Ultimately, the elements that comprise successful flipping are also the elements of good teaching:  it is about using class time for active learning, which should happen in any class regardless of size and which some Fellows have been doing all along.

  • Frequent quizzing and incorporating active learning are valuable regardless of whether a class is flipped or not.
    --Janet Frick, Psychology
  • "Students still expect exams to be fact-based, recall questions,” but “continual assessment appeared to lead to good performances on exams.”
    --Trish Moore, Entomology
  • “Flipping is more than having students read/watch material outside of class. Going slow and bit by bit is ok.”
    --Andreas Handel, Epidemiology & Biostatistics


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