Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Brian White

Second Advisor

Kristen Wendell

Third Advisor

Adán Colon-Carmona


A traditional lecture in a large introductory science classroom often emphasizes content rather than process. A vast amount of science education research has focused on enhancing the traditional method of teaching to improve student performance and embrace active learning. The novel technique known as "flipping the classroom" is one that is well received by students and has shown to increase performance. Typically in a flipped classroom, students learn the majority of the content outside the classroom on their own and class sessions are focused on activities that enhance the learned material.

Our research focuses on the efficacy of a flipped classroom on undergraduate biology students' performance when compared to the traditional method of instruction. Our study design also allowed us to examine students' perceptions of the flipped classroom. Student performance was evaluated by comparing exam scores between a traditionally taught (Fall 2012) and a flipped introductory biology course (Fall 2013). Student perceptions of the flipped course were determined by examining student responses to an open-ended course survey distributed at the end of the Fall 2013 semester. We found that students in the flipped classroom (Fall 2013) performed significantly better on term exams, but did not exhibit a difference in scores on the final exam when compared to the traditional course (Fall 2012). When comparing areas of conceptual understanding on the final exam, the students in the flipped classroom performed better in areas such as decoding an abbreviated chemical structure and determining the complete molecular formula, applying their knowledge of non-covalent bonds and identifying an amino acid that can form a hydrophobic interaction with a particular molecule, and identifying the consequential change in an amino acid switch and its effect on the subsequent protein. Students in the traditionally taught course performed significantly better in applying their knowledge of gene structure and function in the intron and the effect of a mutation on amino acids and proteins. We also found that students exposed to flipped instruction request significantly less tutoring compared to students in the traditionally taught sections of the course. Students in the flipped classroom demonstrated a strong preference for flipped instruction over traditional instruction for reasons such as the ability to re-watch videos, the ability to learn at one's own pace, the ease of studying for exams, and the helpfulness of practice problems when learning new concepts.

We conclude our study with an exploration of why students exposed to a semester of flipped instruction demonstrated performance consistent with students in a traditional classroom as well as suggestions for improving the flipped classroom. This study contributes to the growing research on student performance and perceptions of a flipped classroom and improvements in science education.


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