In Class Lecture or Flip?

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What is the best way to get students to learn? A rather loaded question I know.

This unedited survey of high school students’ responses to how they learn best, mirrors much of what see in the evaluation forms I collect after the workshops I teach for adults in healthcare; a desire for:

  • hands on learning
  • a respectful and enthusiastic teacher

For the adult learners I teach, an equally common request is for group discussions and problem solving.

Now comes the balancing act. As an instructor I have learning objectives that I want/need students to meet. How instructional material is delivered depends on the learning objectives. Even if students want hands on activities over lecture and discussion, it may not be suitable i.e., students need to know what risk factors may impact maternal and fetal well being at the time of birth and the signs of an imminent birth as well as how to perform an emergency birth.

Identify Appropriate Instructional Strategies from Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation, Carnegie Mellon University  (2008, 2015) has a table that outlines what instructional strategy is best suited to the learning objective.The learning objectives for the workshops I teach includes: “Transmit information which supplements or enhances reading; promote understanding via explanations; respond to student misconceptions or difficulties” directly under the “Suitable Objectives” heading. The instructional strategy that links up with it is “Lecture” (Identify Appropriate Instructional Strategies, Table).

So lecture it is.

This video from a past PIDP student gives some great tips on how to give a good lecture.



The lecture as an instructional strategy has been used,  well forever, but how effective is it? In this article by Gibbs (2013) it is stated that:

“More than 700 studies have confirmed that lectures are less effective than a wide range of methods for achieving almost every educational goal you can think of. Even for the straightforward objective of transmitting factual information, they are no better than a host of alternatives, including private reading. Moreover, lectures inspire students less than other methods, and lead to less study afterwards” (para 6).

Looks like if I have any hope of having my students learn anything, I need to pull in the tips from the video – mix it with other instructional strategies, be enthusiastic, limit the length to 30 min with a 15 minute Q&A time and provide opportunities for self-reflection.

To make the lecture work better for my students, I could provide a 30 minute lecture using audio visuals aids like power points mixed with YouTube videos, class discussion and then break out for hands on skills like an emergency birth station. I could also add in case studies and have the group pair up and discuss how they would manage the situation or what they might do differently to change the outcome of the case.

Another option might be for me to have the students watch a tape of the lecture prior to coming to class and then spend the time in class doing skills stations and case studies independently or in small groups. My function during the class would be to “continually observe (the) students, providing them with feedback relevant in the moment, and assessing their work” (Sams et al, 2014 The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P para 4).

This is what is known as a flipped classroom. Here is a definition of flipped learning from Sams et al (2014):

“Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter” (Definition of Flipped Learning).

Here is a short video that explains the flipped classroom.



Research results investigating the impact of the flipped classroom on learning, however, are mixed.

Sigh, looks like the magic bullet for teaching and learning still needs to be discovered. Until that time, I’ll keep mixing as many instructional strategies as I can to meet learning objectives and deliver them with enthusiasm.


Gibbs, G. (2013) Lectures don’t work, but we keep using them. Can a demonstrably ineffective pedagogic form still be put to good use? Times Higher Education. Retrieved from :

Identify Appropriate Instructional Strategies (2008, 2015) Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation, Carnegie Mellon University. Retrieved from

Sams, A., Bergmann, J., Daniels, K., Bennett, B., Marshall, H.W., Arfstrom, K.M., (2014) What Is Flipped Learning? FLIP Learning. Retrieved from:

Sams, A., Bergmann, J., Daniels, K., Bennett, B., Marshall, H.W., Arfstrom, K.M., (2014) The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P FLIP Learning. Retrieved from:

Wiggins, G. (2014) Students Learn Best When You Do This teachthought We Grow Teachers. Retrieved from


One thought on “In Class Lecture or Flip?

  1. Pingback: The Teaching Perspectives Inventory – teachingadventuressite

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