The Office of Faculty Development

Flipping a STEM Course - (A Low Barrier Approach)

This Teaching guide was designed as a STEM specific add on to a more general teaching guide. Please read through the Teaching Guide “Flipped Classes” first.

As explained in the “Flipped Classes” study guide, the idea behind the flipped classroom is to have your students come to class with some pre-existing knowledge of the topic(s) being discussed so that they can begin to actively work with the material at a deeper level in class. This can be an ideal course design in STEM with our long list of challenging learning objectives and our students' needs for repetitive practice with the material. Instead of introducing a new topic and/or showing an entry level example problem during class, students complete an assignment exposing them to the topic at a basic level prior to coming to class. Class time is then open for diving deeper into the theory and/or gaining more practice with their classmates, student assistants/Supplemental Instruction Leaders, and instructors are available to help answer questions and correct misunderstandings. 

Studies show the success of flipped STEM course designs by increasing course success rates, student engagement and motivation and exam scores, but they also point out the largest barriers for STEM teachers. The largest barriers reported are (1) time available to dedicate to a course redesign and (2) feeling comfortable and confident with making pedagogical changes. Therefore, this teaching guide aims at addressing those two barriers specifically.

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    Examine selected research on Flipping STEM Courses: 

    In General/SCED: Chen, C. K., Huang, N. T. N., & Hwang, G. J. (2022). Findings and implications of flipped science learning research: A review of journal publications. Interactive Learning Environments30(5), 949-966. in new window)

    In General/SCED: Tomory, A., & Watson, S. L. (2015). Flipped Classrooms for Advanced Science Courses. Journal of Science Education and Technology24(6), 875–887. in new window)

    BIOL: Riedl, A., Yeung, F., & Burke, T. (2021). Implementation of a Flipped Active-Learning Approach in a Community College General Biology Course Improves Student Performance in Subsequent Biology Courses and Increases Graduation Rate. CBE Life Sciences Education20(2), ar30–ar30. in new window)

    CHEM: Seery, M. K. (2015). Flipped learning in higher education chemistry: emerging trends and potential directions. Chemistry Education Research and Practice16(4), 758-768. DOI in new window)

    ERTH: McConnell, D. A., Steer, D. N., & Owens, K. D. (2003). Assessment and active learning strategies for introductory geology courses. Journal of Geoscience Education51(2), 205-216. in new window)

    MATH: Fernández-Martín, F. D., Romero-Rodríguez, J. M., Gómez-García, G., & Ramos Navas-Parejo, M. (2020). Impact of the flipped classroom method in the mathematical area: A systematic review. Mathematics8(12), 2162. in new window)

    NFSC: Burkhart, S. J., Taylor, J. A., Kynn, M., Craven, D. L., & Swanepoel, L. C. (2020). Undergraduate students experience of nutrition education using the flipped classroom approach: A descriptive cohort study. Journal of nutrition education and behavior52(4), 394-400. in new window)

    NURS: Tan, C., Yue, W. G., & Fu, Y. (2017). Effectiveness of flipped classrooms in nursing education: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Chinese Nursing Research4(4), 192-200. in new window)

    PHYS: Amanah, S. S., Wibowo, F. C., & Astra, I. M. (2021). Trends of Flipped Classroom Studies for Physics Learning: A Systematic Review. Journal of Physics. Conference Series2019(1), 12044-. in new window)


    Ready to apply active learning via a flipped classroom? Here are some ideas and strategies to get you started, especially if your time is limited:

    1. Pre-class assignment: assign the material you would normally cover in class
      1. A small section of the textbook that covers the material (a few paragraphs or pages only since it is broken up over days/weeks) and/or give links to YouTube/Khan Academy videos that explain and visualize the same concept(s). You can also record your own over time.
      2. Give a “quiz” through Canvas so students can check their understanding after reviewing the material provided but prior to coming to class. 
        1. These are typically worth just enough points to be worth the student’s time and effort and are due at the start of class
        2. The questions are key for communicating expectations to the student prior to class. 
          1. What do you want them to walk into class knowing or being able to do? 
          2. To what level do you expect them to understand it?
        3. This is meant to be a way for them to regulate themselves, not a test, so autograding with unlimited attempts and time is a great format (but depending on the topic that might not be possible)
    2. In-class assignment: have them do the homework you normally assign 
      1. Do a warm up question that has them recall something they did before class that is needed for the work they will do today (do not lecture or summarize otherwise you are making the pre-class work a waste of their time)
      2. Start working on the assignment for the day:
        1. A problem based example: start with a basic problem similar to the pre-class assignment. After sufficient time, walk them through the process to solve. Next, progress into more challenging problems, giving them time to work before showing them the process (hints and examples are fine).
        2. A non-problem based example: Have them discuss a topic and write a short essay response as a pair/group. Have them read a case study and answer questions as a pair/group. Have them diagram concepts from the pre-class assignment into flow charts. 
    3. Post-class assignment
      1. If the topic is concluded, consider a summative assessment (a quiz, write up, etc.) on the topic
      2. In classes where the material builds, this can simply be the next pre-class assignment