Case Studies for a Flipped Classroom

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Joan Sharp, Department of Biological Sciences

Project team: Shayan Dullemond, research assistant, Suraaj Aulakh, Videographer, Allison Cornell, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Kevin Lam and Erin Barley, Department of Biological Sciences, and research assistant (TBD)

Timeframe: February 2015 to February 2017

Funding: $5000

Course addressed: BISC 102 – General Biology

Final report: View Joan Sharp's final report (PDF)

Video link:

Description: Flipped classrooms involve two changes, typically combined. Students learn the basic content for a topic before attending class. This is done either by completing readings and taking a multiple-choice quiz, or by viewing a video and answering questions about the material covered. Students engage with course material by active learning in the classroom, receiving guidance and feedback from instructors. Research has suggested that active learning, high structure classrooms improve student learning (Freeman et al, 2007; Haak et al, 2011).        

With the Teaching and Learning Development Grant, I plan to develop three case studies for use in General Biology 101 or 102, taught in a flipped classroom format. I will work with two SFU colleagues and with videographer and recent SFU MSc graduate Suraaj Aulakh to develop case studies with videos that present preliminary material that students are required to master before engaging in the active learning case study in class. Each case study and associated video will use a pre and post-test or concept inventory to assess student learning gain.

For this project, my co-authors and I have chosen three case studies that can be introduced with two videos. One video, introducing students to key concepts about speciation, will be assigned prior to a case on allopatric speciation in species pairs of threespine sticklebacks that have recently evolved on islands in the Salish Sea. The second video, introducing students to key concepts about phylogeny and ‘tree-thinking’ will introduce two case studies on the phylogeny of bears and the phylogeny of whales.


Freeman S, Haak D, Wenderoth MP. 2007. Increased Course Structure Improves Performance in Introductory Biology. CBE—Life Sciences Education. 10: 175–186

Haak DC, HilleRisLambers J, Pitre E, Freeman S. 2011. Increased Structure and Active Learning Reduce the Achievement Gap in Introductory Biology. Science. 332(6034): 1213–1216.

Questions addressed:

  • What is the student learning gain following presentation of a case study in a general biology course taught in a flipped classroom format?
  • What feedback can students offer about the effectiveness of the videos and case materials in supporting their learning? What suggestions do students have for improving the videos and case materials?
  • How do instructors assess success of the preliminary videos and accompanying case studies in supporting student learning?

Knowledge sharing: I plan to publish successful case studies, with introductory videos and teaching notes, at the peer-reviewed National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (NCCSTS). They will be available as an open source resource for other instructors teaching in a flipped classroom format.

I have six other case studies that I plan to develop and publish either on my own or in collaboration with my colleagues at SFU and other institutions, including Langara College, UBC, University of Toronto, and Quest University. Some may also benefit from video introductions, making them suitable for a flipped classroom.

Sharp, J. (2017, May). Teaching students to argue with the Dialectical Map.  Presentation at BC Bio 2017: Supporting Student Growth, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC.