US researchers urge caution on 'flipped learning'

Study finds only short-term improvement in maths performance, none in economics and a continued attainment gap

Mark Smulian

A US study has urged teachers to exercise caution over using flipped learning

Teachers should be cautious about adopting "flipped learning" as it delivers no long-term gains, American researchers have warned.

A team from the school effectiveness and inequality initiative at Massachusetts Institute of Technology looked at the performance of students using flipped learning at West Point military academy.

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Researchers found that it made no long-term difference to maths results, produced no change in economics and that achievement gaps persisted.

Flipped learning involves students watching a video lecture at home then discussing and working on it in the classroom.

The researchers noted in their report: “Advocates of the flipped classroom claim the practice not only improves student achievement but also ameliorates the achievement gap.”

Warning about flipped learning

However, they only found short-term gains in maths performance, no change in economics and that “the flipped model broadened the achievement gap”.

Those gains in performance that were identified were “driven by white, male and higher-achieving students".

“We find no long-term average effects on student learning, but the widened achievement gap persists,” the reseachers said.

They warned: “Educators should exercise caution when considering the [flipped learning] model.”

Researchers suggested the difference found in maths performance could be caused by the teachers who preferred the flipped classroom also being more effective instructors, or it could be that there were higher levels of student engagement in maths relative to economics:

Schools might, however, wish to use flipped learning if it “maintains average levels of learning, but at lower costs”, or if they can reduce costs by hiring lower-skilled instructors to teach the flipped classroom and pay a one-off cost to produce good enough videos.

In the UK the Education Endowment Foundation in 2017 issued research that showed that flipped learning intervention for Year 5 and Year 6 pupils resulted in one month of additional progress in maths.

But critics argued then that the technique was of questionable value because it cost about £150 per pupil, plus hardware.

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Mark Smulian

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