In a flipped classroom, students watch video lectures before class and use class time to work on assignments and group projects. It’s “flipped” because it’s the opposite of the traditional structure in which students first learn from a teacher’s in-class instruction.

Advocates believe that students learn more when class time is spent actively learning instead of passively listening. Flipped classrooms also free up class time for teachers to help students individually, as a tutor does.

Over the past decade, flipping has spread across U.S. classrooms, from city college campuses to suburban elementary schools. But like many trends in education, the novelty took hold before the evidence mounted.

Now there is a significant body of research to answer the question of whether students learn more. The underwhelming answer from more than 100 studies of flipped classrooms is yes, but only slightly.

“My takeaway message is that it could be better,” said researcher David C.D. van Alten, referring to a flipped classroom, in an email interview. “But only when it is appropriately designed.” Van Alten, a doctoral student, led the research team at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, which conducted the largest meta-analysis to date of flipped classrooms in the world.

Most evaluations of flipped classrooms have looked at math and science courses in U.S. colleges. There’s less rigorous research in high schools and lower grades. In the research that exists, some studies have found that students learned a lot more in a flipped classroom than in the traditional way, by listening to lectures in class and completing homework afterward. Yet other studies have concluded that students were harmed and learned less in a flipped classroom. And many studies have found no difference between the two approaches. The University of Utrecht analysis of all the mixed results of 114 studies from 2006 through 2016 found that flipped classrooms tended to increase student learning by a small amount.

Flipped classrooms show some promise but clearly need a lot of planning to work effectively.

Read the full article about flipped classrooms by Jill Barshay at The Hechinger Report.