64th ISI World Statistics Congress - Ottawa, Canada

64th ISI World Statistics Congress - Ottawa, Canada

Beauty or the Beast? Flipped Classroom for Statistics Education


Elinor Mair Jones



64th ISI World Statistics Congress - Ottawa, Canada

Format: CPS Abstract

Session: CPS 47 - Statistics and education

Tuesday 18 July 4 p.m. - 5:25 p.m. (Canada/Eastern)


COVID-19 presented an opportunity in Higher Education to rethink the delivery of statistics courses. Many instructors turned to a ‘flipped learning’ approach, where students study discipline content through pre-recorded lectures before attending discussion classes which can be centered around student questions. This flexible mode of teaching has long been lauded as superior to lecture-based instruction by promoting motivation and self-efficacy among students and freeing classroom time to practice new skills and consolidate learning (Kintu et al., 2017; Vo et al., 2017; Dziuban, et al., 2018). However, the effectiveness of flipped learning relies on students engaging with the provided materials before attending class.

Now that we are returning to ‘normality’, many educators are considering which teaching strategies to keep from the COVID-19 era and which to abandon. For statistics education in particular, have the purported benefits of flipped learning lived up to the hype? Are students benefitting from learning statistics in flipped classrooms? Are flipped classrooms for statistics education “the beauty” or “the beast”?

We take two cases of statistics courses taught over the pandemic in flipped mode: the first had more than 1000 students studying towards a Bachelor of Commerce degree at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, while the second was taught to 170 statistical science students at University College London in the UK. Of interest is student engagement with the course “flipped” materials, which consisted mainly of bespoke videos created by the course leaders in both cases. We also look at attendance at live discussion classes and the impact of the flipped classroom on students’ grades.

Results from both courses reveal unexpectedly low student engagement with the flipped resources prior to attending discussion classes. This engagement was poor from the start. For example, in the UK course, approximately 10-25% of students never engaged with materials from the beginning of term, with engagement declining rapidly as the course progressed. As a consequence, the unstudied resources accumulate and students quickly fall behind on their learning. This disengagement filters through to declining attendance and participation in discussion classes. Unsurprisingly, failure rates in both cases are higher in comparison to pre-pandemic levels.

With such evidence at hand, is the flipped classroom an appropriate method of instruction, and what can we learn from this experience about best practice in teaching statistics? We also bring in evidence from student surveys which points to overwhelming enthusiasm for flipped learning, as has been observed by other researchers (e.g. Kintu et al., 2017; Alsalhi et al., 2021). Student reasoning for choosing flipped learning over traditional lectures provides insights into how the pandemic has changed the outlook of students toward learning, favouring its flexibility despite its drawbacks. We consider how best to engage students in learning statistics, bearing in mind that the Higher Education landscape has changed considerably since 2020, as have student preferences. Moving forward we consider whether students really know what flipped learning is and why it can enhance their learning, and whether we need to educate students (and ourselves) on learning approaches and underlying pedagogical rationale.