I have been adopting flipped classroom strategies (in upper-level chemistry classes ~20-30 students), but I often get feedback from students that they want me to "just go back to regular lectures" and that they perceive the flipped classes as more work.

I think the results are positive for student learning in my classes, although I haven't done formal assessments. I also personally appreciate the change of pace and style. Previously students might have felt that I wasn't giving enough concrete examples and this definitely solves the issue, as well as making me more responsive to a particular class's needs.

I am wondering about strategies to overcome student apprehension about active learning styles.

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    With a large class, I doubt that there is any action a faculty member can take, including changing the font on a handout, that will not engender at least a few student complaints.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 22:10
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    Compared with what they're used to (lectures that they can sleep through plus rote homework assignments that are easy to cheat on), a flipped version of your course may well entail more work on their part. Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 22:35
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    I think I read an article once (maybe by Daniel Dennet) asserting a finding that students always prefer classroom strategies which lead to less learning (i.e., work). Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 22:50
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    Not about flipped classrooms per se, but about the irrationality of (some) student responses: I've often had students complain (=object) that I repeated certain things so many times that they couldn't avoid remembering them... :) Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 0:53
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    Could you tell us which topics you are teaching and what you mean exactly by "flipped classroom"? Without further information it's hard to tell, but your students may have a point. For example, in my years as a math student I had two kinds of flipped lectures: those in which students presented and discussed their solutions to some homework problems, and those where students gave lectures/presentations on some of the course's material. While I enjoyed both kinds, I feel I have learned much from the former, but previous little from the latter.
    – A.P.
    Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 1:10

6 Answers 6


Here are some ideas from Linda Kober, author of a publication by the National Research Council's Board on Science Education, Reaching Students: What Research Says About Effective Instruction in Undergraduate Science and Engineering. This comes from Chapter 6, "Overcoming Challenges", in the section "Helping Students Embrace New Ways of Learning and Teaching":

  • Make clear from the first day why these teaching strategies are effective, and be explicit about how they benefit students, and what is expected of students.
  • Show students evidence of how research-based strategies will help them learn and prepare for their future life.
  • Use a variety of interesting learning activities.
  • Encourage word-of-mouth among upper-level students who have already taken the course.
  • Listen to students’ concerns and make changes to address legitimate ones.
  • Make sure that grading and other policies are fair [e.g., group work].

For details you can get a free PDF download here (note blue button in top right).


As a student who has experienced a flipped learning method and especially one which was done horribly, I'll throw my two cents in. The way the flipped classroom was executed at my school was to have the students read an interactive textbook online before classes (this course was finance 1) and come to class to do some practice problems. The strategy that my professor used, whatever that was, failed horribly. There was petition at the end of the semester to remove the format signed by over 1000 661 students and the idea was pretty much scraped for the second semester.

The following points are ones that I feel are important to having this work successfully.

  1. Classroom size
  2. Lecture material
  3. Difficulty of quizzes and tests related to the amount of lecture material
  4. Make it worth their money

Firstly, it is incredibly important that you are present at all times especially if the classroom size is big. The students are hoping to come to your lecture to learn from you and to learn from your experiences in the subject. Therefore, being there and always lending a hand is very important. Furthermore, if the size of the classroom is too big then consider getting many TAs. The consequence of not always being present or not being helpful usually means that students stop coming to class because they feel it is not worth their time. I believe the classroom attendance steadily dropped to less than 15 - 20 people per class out of 100+ students across all sections.

Secondly, if you don't want students to object to this teaching style then make sure the teaching material provided to students is sufficient to study from. If the course is technical then a couple of handouts will not be enough. Students need a concept to be explained a number of times in numerous ways using multiple examples. This is how they will study for quizzes, tests and exams. Furthermore, embed your personal experiences and neat tricks/tips into handouts. If you are going to ask students to learn from just Khan Academy videos or something similar then I can guarantee that students will hate it.

A follow up point to this is the difficulty of the quizzes, tests and exams. If you don't want your students to grovel over the course then make sure your quizzes, tests and exams are representative of the material that you have handed out. One of the main reasons a petition was signed at our school was because of the results. Whether the fault was with the teaching style or the students, that is difficult to say. However, most if not all of the students blamed the teaching method. At the end of the day, most students care about their grades and they will blame the most recent change which in our case was the change in teaching style.

Lastly, make it worth their money (time). It is important that you explain to students either via hardcore stats or some other method that this is worth the money they have paid for the course. In our case, most students felt that the professor was being simply lazy by not teaching and felt they were losing their money.

I hope this was helpful! Good luck!


@JessicaB suggested that I didn't say explicitly where the professor went wrong so I would like to elaborate here.

  1. The professor did not provide adequate learning materials. Finance 1 is heavily quantitative and therefore, most students require lots of examples and in-depth reasoning as to why things work. The strictly online textbook the professor used was not thorough enough to explain some of the problems students were having. Furthermore, the practice problems were not at all indicative of the midterm which was given. To draw an analogy, picture learning only how to solve equations of the form ax+b and then being on the midterm to solve equations of the form ax^2 + bx + c.

  2. The professor made no effort to provide students assistance even in class (which is the entire point to the flipped classroom concept). The professor usually had one TA which he would, literally, point to whenever we had a question. He made no effort to help students and would simply stand in front of the class. This pretty much made most people believe (and no evidence to the contrary was seen) that he was lazy.

  3. He did not have office hours. If the student was not comfortable asking questions during class then tough luck. He refused to answer questions via email or during office hours.

Hopefully that is explicit enough on top of the points already provided before.

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    Great comment; very useful to get feedback from a student who's seen what to avoid. Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 5:03
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    @SSimon I love Khan Academy! I think the main concern I have with it is its usage in university classrooms for actual lectures. Personally, when I come to class I want to hear what my expert professor says and not Sal, who is very experienced no doubt but doesn't have a Phd in the specific field. I think they are a great supplement but shouldn't be the lectures themselves.
    – Jeel Shah
    Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 16:47
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    I can't work out from this answer what actually went wrong, other than the students being lazy. Saying 'this is how students study for the exams' doesn't achieve much, because what students choose to do is not the right measure of what should be done.
    – Jessica B
    Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 21:24
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    @JeelShah You still haven't told me what the professor did to 'mess up'. It may well be that they did - whether through laziness on their own part or for other reasons - but you have just asserted that it was bad, as far as I can see.
    – Jessica B
    Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 22:10
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    Contrary example: one of my professors loved this approach. He gave us lectures and videos etc. and we discussed the lectures and work in class. This meant that most of what we needed to do outside class was read at our own pace... (For me this translated to far less time investment to learn better. I still remember the bulk of that course, some 15 yrs later.) Therefore, I agree that it's critical to support the outside lectures with the class time. That seems utterly obvious, to me.
    – The Nate
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 6:11

they perceive the flipped classes as more work.

It might actually be more work. Rather than passively sit in class and listen to lectures, and then fill out some papers as homework, they need to actively engage in learning material at home, and then actively accomplish a goal in class. Also, skipping out a night doesn't just result in missing a homework assignment isn't just some lost points from homework. It means that they will have an unpleasant experience in a classroom as they accomplish nothing that they want to desire, and they get a bad grade. It will feel like a double-whammy, so they feel extra obligated to do the homework so that they are prepared.

However, the point of the flipped class style wasn't necessarily to reduce work. If they spend more time on the material, and get hands-on experience, they may actually be learning more. And that, after all, is the real goal, isn't it?

  • Indeed, the real goal is for students to learn more effectively. Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 15:06
  • I thought "more work" for the students was the mechanism by which flipped learning, etc. work. Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 1:15

I have taught a flipped graduate engineering class for two semesters. The average number of students is usually about 30. Based on my own informal questionnaire as well as the official end-of-semester student evaluations, I can say that not all but a significant majority of the students liked the flipped class.

If you flip your class, three things are important:

  1. Make sure you explain to your students what a flipped class is and why you flipped your class.
  2. Make clear to your students what your expectations are.
  3. Make sure that the student workload does not increase compared to a conventional class. That means that all the work they are expected to do prior to coming to a flipped class must be compensated by reduced or no work after a flipped class.

What I did was post slides well before each week's lectures and explain to them that I expect them to have studied the material before coming to class and that I would not go over the material in class. I would spend the first 5 minutes answering focused, but not general, questions. (By general questions, I mean questions that clearly indicated that the student did not study the material.) The rest of the lecture was spent on me working through examples on the blackboard and/or by the students in groups and me checking up on them.

  • I think #3 might be the key - student perception that work done before the class is offset later. (The workload might be higher or lower, but the perception it remains about the same is critical.) Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 15:05

As a student who is currently enrolled in two flipped classrooms, here's my input.

Your students may require extra motivation to complete the flipped classroom work, whether that motivation comes from tests or quizzes is up to you. Flipped classrooms are much more difficult in the sciences due to the fact that many examples may be needed and there may be exceptions to some rules (like the exceptions to the octet rule, which I was never taught),but with enough class time to do shortened lectures it should be fine.

Some students just passively absorb information while others have to work for it, and from experience, those who passively learn have the hardest time adjusting.

Good luck!


I have taught a course on computability and complexity theory in our undergraduate programme in computer science several times since 1991. In 2013 I decided to stop lecturing and to "flip" the course with podcasts instead of lectures. I co-authored a paper in 2014 about my experiences with this new strategy.

Many students appreciated the flipped structure but a few reacted negatively for various reasons. One should never expect to not get such reactions from students; some students will probably never be satisfied. The real concern lies elsewhere: that by replacing lectures with podcasts, you spend less time with the students. The importance of the flipped classroom is that you can devote your time together with students to active learning. It is tempting to devote a lot of effort to creating polished presentations that are to replace lectures but the real challenge is that of thinking about how to encourage active learning.

Overall, it is extremely important that students feel that they do not lose anything in this format – or rather, they should feel that this is a better way of learning. Therefore you will always have to explain why you have structured your teaching activities the way you have and how these activities are meant to help each student achieve the learning goals of the course.


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