A Flipped Classroom Approach to Teaching Lab-Based Techniques Leads to Greater Learning Gains

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Active learning promotes student engagement, increases learning gains, enhances long-term retention, and enables development of higher-order thinking skills. This study examined the efficacy of active learning in graduate and medical school classroom-based (lacking a lab) courses. It stemmed from a prior observation that students perform poorly on exam questions requiring an understanding of lab based techniques, a topic previously taught by didactic lecture. To investigate the hypothesis that active learning leads to greater learning gains than lecture, a flipped-classroom approach was implemented for this topic since these courses lack a lab component. Students wrote and performed skits based on clinical scenarios for which techniques are used for diagnosis and treatment. This approach was selected to demonstrate real-world relevance and applications. Student learning was quantitatively assessed by multiple-choice questions (MCQs). Data were analyzed using paired t-test; differences were significant. Masters student performance on multiple choice questions (MCQs) for this topic ranged from 77% to 100% and averaged 86% versus a 72% average for MCQs based on material taught by lecture. Medical student performance on MCQs for this topic ranged from 74% to 99% and averaged 90% versus a 76% average for MCQs based on material taught by lecture. Student attitudes toward active learning were assessed by an optional, anonymous survey and a required reflection. Masters students’ survey responses and free-response reflections supported their positive attitudes toward engagement in active learning. Medical students’ survey responses and free-response reflections were mixed, ranging from strongly positive to strongly negative, indicating their perceptions of learning strategy efficacy are not necessarily aligned with empirical data. From these data, I conclude that, within this context, active learning is more effective than lecture-based approaches. These data contribute to the research indicating that active learning leads to increased learning gains and support active learning approaches as effective, empirically validated teaching practices.

Publication Title

Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education


Abstract of a presentation at the 22nd Annual ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators, May 2015.

Published version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/jmbe.v16i1.932

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