Flipping the Classroom

What is “flipping the classroom”?

Flipping the classroom refers to using in-class time for students to work together to solve problems and grapple with material, tasks traditionally done outside of class. The “flipped” part is that students master basic content before they come to class, and solve problems and work with their new knowledge in class. This is the reverse of the lecture model, where the professor lectures on basic material, and then students struggle with homework on their own. In flipped classrooms, the professor helps students when they need help, as they apply their new knowledge, rather than spending time lecturing on basic concepts students can learn on their own.

The idea of a flipped classroom is not new; many innovative teachers have been holding students responsible for learning basic content outside of class so they can use active learning in class. Eric Mazur has been teaching in this model for years, as described in his article, Farewell, Lecture?

The flipped classroom is about using the in-class time with your students to explore and expand on the course content they were exposed to before class. This can be a way to restructure your entire course or allow you to replace individual lectures with more relevant projects, activities, or discussions.

Learn more about flipping the classroom

Examples of flipping the classroom at Duke

Given Duke’s emphasis on small courses, many Duke students are accustomed to coming to class prepared to work with professors on complex problems. For example, in the Focus program, small groups of first year students take related courses to address complex ideas and problems from interdisciplinary approaches.

Students in Steve Craig’s Honors Chemistry course spend class time learning from each other. Professor Craig described the top 5 reasons why team learning is greater than the lecture to Duke Today. There’s more information on his course, and an evaluation of his approach.

In Statistics, Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel uses extensive active learning in her classroom, and is helping transform statistics education at Duke.

In Biology, Emily Bernhardt expects that students can read basic information on their own, and come to class prepared for active learning.

Many faculty are interested in learning more about team-based learning, which is a structured mechanism for “flipping the classroom”. About 70 faculty and staff attended a workshop, and some faculty are redesigning their courses for team-based learning to be taught in the upcoming academic year.


Dr. Len White, Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, uses team-based learning to engage his students. He describes the spread of team-based learning at Duke in this brief video.


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