‘Flipped’ classroom yields improved student performance, pharmacy study shows

UNC pharmacy professor Russ Mumper “flipped” his Basic Pharmaceutics II classroom, then conducted a study that shows a significant improvement in learning outcomes.

The results are described in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education article, which includes a link to the study results to be published in February 2014 in Academic Medicine, the journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The flipped classroom is a teaching method designed to stimulate higher-level thinking and meaningful interactions in the classroom. Flipped classrooms move the traditional lecture outside of class and free up class time for faculty-student engagement and active learning. Instructors record and digitally publish lectures, and students view them before class. Class time is used for critical thinking, discussion, and active learning exercises.

“Step into any lecture hall and it’s obvious: Students are just not engaged,” said Mumper, vice dean and John McNeill Distinguished Professor in UNC’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

Innovative solution: flipped classroom

“Instructors in today’s academic setting are losing the battle for our student’s attention, and we need to make a change. With innovative solutions like the flipped classroom, we have a real shot at improving our students’ engagement and performance, and our study proves it.”

Photo: UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt talks with students in the satellite pharmacy education program, another innovative approach.

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt talks with students in the satellite pharmacy education program, another innovative approach.

Carolina Chancellor Carol Folt saw some of the school’s innovative work in September 2013 when she visited UNC Asheville to talk with Eshelman School of Pharmacy students in the satellite pharmacy education program.  Students taught in Asheville are enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill and receive classroom instructions from faculty at the Chapel Hill site via interactive, real-time video-teleconferencing technology, as well as from faculty based at Asheville.  The program, which began in 2011, now enrolls about 60 students among three classes.

Mumper’s study received a $10,000 grant from Echo360, funding a team led by Mumper that demonstrated how students in the flipped-classroom achieved better grades, were more engaged in class, and improved their application — rather than just recitation — of the course material.

The study tracked and compared data sets from three consecutive semesters of the first-year course Basic Pharmaceutics II, which covers the science of delivering drugs to the body. The first cohort experienced the traditional lecture method in 2011, while the 2012 and 2013 cohorts experienced the flipped model. The three cohorts comprised entirely different students.

Enhanced student performance and learning

The study revealed that prerecorded, offline course material paired with interactive, in-class activities enhanced student performance and learning.

  • Cumulative final exam performance rose five points from 80 percent in 2011 to 85.1 percent in 2013.
  • Ninety-three percent of students agreed that the flipped course improved their understanding and application of the course’s key concepts.
  • Ninety-one percent of students agreed that the flipped classroom format greatly enhanced their learning.
  • Ninety-eight percent of students felt the knowledge and skills developed in the flipped course will be useful in real-world scenarios.
  • Ninety-six percent felt confident in their ability to apply the skills developed in the flipped course.
  • Attendance was noticeably higher.

Another paper from the team published online by the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education showed that almost 90 percent of students at satellite campuses preferred the flipped classroom format.

“One of the most notable outcomes of the new format was how engaged students were,” he says. “And this was only reinforced when they felt that their learning and ability to apply the new knowledge had improved.

“More important to me than their performance in the semester-long course was how the students perceived that I helped them prepare to become life-long learners and problem solvers in the subject matter of the course,” he says.

Mumper’s coauthors on both papers are lead author Jacqui McLaughlin, PhD; Mary Roth-McClurg, PharmD, MHS; Dylan Glatt; Nastaran Gharkholonarehe, PharmD; Chris Davidson, ME; LaToya Griffin, PhD; and Denise Esserman, PhD.

Published December 5, 2013.