Flipping Survey

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In a post last May, "What's Your Style". I invited members of this community to answer questions about their flipping style with the promise that I would summarize the results at a later date. About the same time, I sent an email to everyone who had requested a password for my worksheets (available free here) and included a questionnaire that could be filled out and returned. I sent out about one hundred fifty questionnaires and got four replies. In this post I summarize the results of five responses (the aforementioned four plus me).

Questionnaire for Your Flipped Chemistry Class or Program

Which chemistry classes are you flipping?

Four of the respondents were flipping General Chemistry, one was also flipping a high school honors class and one was flipping a one-semester GOB (General, Organic, and Biochemistry) class for pre-nursing students.

What got you interested in flipping?

All respondents cited improving student success and student engagement.

What is your typical class room size?

The responses ranged from 15 (high school) to 200-250 (the pre-nursing GOB course). The average class section size for the college students was 47 with a range from 23 to 90.

If your institution has multiple sections of chemistry what percentage of the students overall are in flipped sections?

The high school class was taught in a situation were all the classes were online, so 100% of the sections were flipped. The pre-nursing GOB class was a single section, so also 100%.  In the General Chemistry classes 11-30% of the sections were flipped. In my case, I choose to flip while the remain professors teaching the General chemistry sections did not. I am assuming that this situation applies to the other professors in this survey.

Are you using videos?

Three respondents reported using videos in their classes.

Please describe videos.

One respondent inherited videos from a predecessor which were 45-60 minutes each. The respondents two sections made their own videos. In one case the videos were 5-10 minutes in length and in the other the videos were mostly in the 4-6 minute range.

If you are requiring the students to view videos, how do you enforce this requirement?

Of the three respondents that used videos, two had no way to enforce their viewing, instead relying on the principle that without the videos, the next day's in-class activities would be difficult. In one case, the respondent used PlayPosit software to overlay questions during the videos that the student had to answer in order to proceed through the video. Those questions amounted to 5% of the course grade.

What do you ask the students to do before coming to class?

Two respondents required reading and videos. One required videos and taking notes. One required reading and online homework then gave a quiz the next morning. One required only the reading and gave a quiz in the morning.

Are you using online homework? If so, which system are you using?

All five respondents report using online homework. Interestingly, five different systems were used: McGraw-Hill Connect, Pearson Mastering Chemistry, MacMillan Sapling, Norton SmartWork, and self-written homework delivered as a .pdf file through Canvas.

Please describe the nature of the homework exercises.

In three cases the respondents use homework in the traditional way, at the end of weeks, chapters or sections. The reported homework exercises vary from 10 to 30 question. I give homework daily, before the students come to class, to encourage engagement with the material. The professor of the nursing class, who is dealing with 200+ students in a section, uses Sapling to provide the in-class exercises. The exercises are 20-35 questions and any unworked problems become homework due the following Monday.  

What do you typically do in class?

Three respondents do worksheets in class, but use different approached: One does worksheets in groups. One does a short quiz and a "mini-lecture" before the worksheet and did not report whether the students are working in groups. I give a group quiz before the students do their worksheet in groups. The online class uses Adobe Connect to engage in an online synchronous discussion. The large pre-nursing class uses Sapling to provide in-class exercises with unworked problems becoming homework.

It was an oversight that I did not ask explicitly about group work. I'll modify the flipping survey to include such a question.

Do you have any data comparing before and after flipping?

Four respondents say no or not yet. The fifth reports seeing a shift in grades toward more As and fewer DFWs.

What is your personal impression of how flipping is working?

Respondents: 1) "...students have commented that they like being "active" during class rather than listening to me drone on... and on... and on." 2) Online: "We have limited face-to-face time (even that is video conferenced) so this is the  most effective way to engage with students, correct misconceptions, demonstrate value, and guide applications." 3) "It seems to be working very well, the one section I’ve flipped is doing significantly better than the other sections." 4) I like it and won’t go back to traditional lecture.  There was an initial resistance among students who thought “teaching = lecturing = learning” but showing the grade changes has helped. Students expect my class to be flipped due to increased institutional memory. 5) "I am the only professor using a flipped classroom. My sections almost always have the highest averages on the common exams and the American Chemical Society final."

Any special insights about flipping your class?

Two respondents answered this question: 1) With large classes and no TA support, a colleague and I started an intern program where students get credit for serving as interns in the class to help with questions. It’s a win-win-win situation.  The students get extra help in the classroom from near peers and often share things with them that they wouldn’t with me, the interns get experience in communicating with many different people and reinforcing their own knowledge, and I get much-needed help in the classroom as well as feedback from the interns.  My class is 99% pre-nursing students and most of my interns are as well.  Students have to earn high grades in the course to serve as interns so it’s a recognition of their work. Additionally, the interns that are already in nursing school can share their experiences with the pre-nursing students. 2) The better students thrive in the flipped classroom. The less-motivated students are immediately out of their comfort zone. It is easy for them to fall into the "lecture equals teaching" trap and conclude that I don't teach. I combat this by explaining early on about increased learning and better long-term results using the method. I also emphasize how much help is available and how much that I, personally, will provide.

Is there anything else you want to share about your flipping effort?

Three respondents answered this question: 1) One challenge seem to be getting the students to watch the videos and take notes ahead of time (at this point they all seem to be doing that).  Another is the disparate levels of ability coming in. However, this seems to be taking care of itself as the better prepared are being very generous in helping the less prepared students. 2) So much work and ongoing effort but so worth it! 3) Flipping isn't a magic bullet, but it works better than the alternatives.


There isn't one path to flipping your classroom. Here are my takeaways:

  • Be kind. Be supportive. Be sure your students know that you are on their side and that there is lots of help available.
  • Before the students come to class put some class credit on the line to encourage them to engage the material.
  • In class, also have class credit on the line to encourage engagement. I have quizzes at the beginning of class every day. This encourages the students to pay attention to the reading assignments and homework from the day before.
  • *Have the student work in groups, but give them credit individually.
  • Have an exercise such as additional homework or worksheet questions from the previous worksheet to reinforce learning.
  • Don't wait. Flip your class now!

Big thanks to the respondents: Kyle Beran, then at The University of Texas at the Permian Basin, now at Angelo State University, Nick DeMello, Joe Caddell, Yosemite Community College District, and Allison Soult, University of Kentucky. May your students thrive.

If you would like to participate, download the questionnaire here, fill it out, and email it back to me at

johnosterhout<at>johnosterhout<dot>com. If I get 10-20 more responses, I'll consider updating this post.

About the Author
John Osterhout received his B.S. in Biochemistry from Rice University and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Texas at Austin. John was a member of the Rowland Institute for Science in Cambridge Massachusetts for thirteen years before moving to the University of Arizona. Since 2008 John has been Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas. John's research interests are in protein folding, Trojan horse inhibitors for HIV and snake venom proteins. He teaches general chemistry and biophysical chemistry. John uses flipped classrooms for both courses.