The “Flipped Classroom” is Not The Solution For Crappy Teaching [Opinion]

Nicole Barbaro, Ph.D.
9 min readOct 29, 2019

by Nicole Barbaro [~2,000 words]

If you pay even the slightest attention to college teaching news, you’re familiar with the term “flipped classroom”. The “flipped classroom,” aside from being the latest teaching trend in higher education, is a teaching strategy in which the ‘content’ part of college classes is moved to outside formal class time, whereas the ‘homework’ part of the college classes is moved to the formal class time — hence “flipping” the classroom. The idea being, that, students get the basic content knowledge that was traditionally delivered via lectures on their own time outside of class, and the in-class time is devoted exclusively to activities, group work, and interactive discussion.

Whereas a “traditional” college class may include long-winded lectures, some over-crowded powerpoint slides, and a youtube video link that may or may not work, the “flipped” classroom may include recorded lectures to be viewed at the students leisure (outside of class), in-class jeopardy, and group activities where you make life-long friends and learning is awesome. In other words, “sage on the stage” is out, and “edutainment” and “active-learning” are in.

The flipped classroom strategy is not without good intention, and there are aspects of the flipped classroom that I use myself and encourage others to use as well. Most importantly, there is good empirical evidence that active, engaged classrooms are indeed more effective for promoting student learning and positive student outcomes than lecture only classes. Why? Because students all learn the same way: by doing things.

Because students learn best by doing, class time should be focused on doing things, often in groups, with the opportunity for the instructor to assist when needed. Students can then ask questions, get clarification, and engage with the material more deeply during class time. Gaining the content knowledge via reading or recorded lectures can be done on the student’s own time outside the classroom. If students learn best by doing, then instructors should be teaching students how to do things in the classroom.

Although each discipline is going to “do” things differently, across the sciences at least, active learning classrooms appear to show increases in student performance. Students, on average, score nearly half a standard deviation higher in active classrooms, as compared to passive lecture…

Nicole Barbaro, Ph.D.

I hold a Ph.D. in psychology and work in various professional roles in Higher Education. I now write on Substack. Learn more at