Back to resources

How Flipped Classrooms Could Change Medical (and Pre-Medical) Education


In June 2023, National Public Radio (NPR) published an op-ed by two medical educators expressing concern about record-low student attendance at lectures during the first two years of medical school coursework. In the article, Drs. Alexander P. Philips and Philip Gruppuso propose replacing traditional lectures with extensive use of the “flipped” classroom model to encourage more engagement and improve attendance. In a flipped classroom, students learn theoretical material that an instructor would usually present in a lecture online before class, and then take part in active learning activities which apply that knowledge during class.

The flipped classroom model is already in use in some pre-medical post-bacc programs and shows promise as a strategy for reshaping medical school, too. In this article, we’ll look at what the flipped classroom offers—and how a special master’s degree program developed by Tiber Health Innovations has used it to help equip graduates for success in medical school.

What Is a Flipped Classroom and How Does it Work?

First, let’s go into more detail about how flipped classrooms work. In traditional educational models, students passively receive information from instructors during class time. Outside the classroom, they independently complete assignments that reinforce the knowledge absorbed during class.

The flipped classroom, on the other hand, reverses this conventional approach. It involves students engaging with pre-recorded lectures or educational materials online before the class session. Students can stop, rewind, and replay lectures, and take part in post-lecture quizzes or short learning activities that help them gauge how well they understood the material. Classroom time is then dedicated to active learning experiences facilitated by instructors. In a medical or pre-medical setting, active learning may include:

  • Discussion of issues raised by the pre-class readings and lectures
  • Working through patient case studies
  • Mock patient examinations
  • Dissections (including virtual dissections)

This dynamic, more hands-on learning environment is intended to encourage critical thinking and practical application of knowledge to deepen a student’s understanding of complex medical concepts. Instead of standing at a podium clicking through PowerPoint slides, instructors are able to act as mentors, guide students through challenging topics, and address questions or concerns. Instead of watching their instructor click through PowerPoint slides, students can collaborate with their classmates and get hands-on with ideas raised in the lectures they viewed online.

Are Flipped Classrooms Effective?

Flipped classrooms are not in widespread use yet, although there are indications that the pandemic has accelerated the trend toward adopting them. In spite of this, there is some research indicating that they may promote better retention of material and performance on tests compared to traditional lecture-based learning. In 2022, researchers at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands conducted a meta-analysis of 88 studies into the use of flipped classrooms in medical or pre-medical education.

Several studies covered by the meta-analysis showed that students in flipped classrooms performed better on tests than those in lecture classes. In addition, students in flipped classrooms reported feeling more confident in their knowledge, engaged during class, and motivated to learn compared to lecture-only students. Finally, some of the studies included in the meta-analysis showed an improvement in students’ self-directed study skills.

Flipped Classrooms Plus Predictive Analytics: One Post-Bacc Program’s Approach

Tiber Health Innovations (THI) has a network of campuses and university partners across the U.S. Since 2015, these partners have offered a special master’s degree program based on a flipped-classroom model piloted at Ponce Health Sciences Univeristy (PHSU), THI’s own university with campuses in Puerto Rico and St. Louis, Missouri. The Master of Science in Medical Sciences (MSMS) is a one-year pre-med program that mirrors the first year of MD coursework at PHSU’s LCME-accredited School of Medicine.

In addition to offering the coursework in a flipped format, Tiber Health’s university partners leverage the technology used to facilitate learning activities to generate thousands of data points about student performance. These data points can be compared to the performance of past MD students at PHSU—students who also learn in flipped classrooms—to determine whether the student is likely to pass or at risk of failing the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) Step 1. The USMLE Step 1 is taken at the end of the second year of medical school.

In June 2023, a team from THI published a report describing the development of their MSMS program. This report included an analysis of outcomes for students who graduated from the MSMS program. The analysis compared the actual USMLE Step 1 scores of medical students who had completed the MSMS before entering PHSU’s MD program with those of medical students who had been admitted directly.

When they entered medical school, the MSMS-first MD students had lower MCAT scores and undergraduate GPAs than the directly admitted MD students. However, their USMLE scores at the end of their second year of medical school were not statistically different from their directly admitted peers. MSMS graduates had a mean score of 217.4 on the test, while directly admitted students had a mean score of 217.8—a statistically insignificant difference (p. 11).

THI is enthusiastic about the potential of the MSMS program to help students in need of record enhancement achieve their goal of admission to medical school—especially those from traditionally underrepresented racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. You can learn more about their MSMS program at the St. Louis campus here, or read more detail about how the MSMS works here.

Find the best post-bacc program for you

{{ description_text }}

We'll only share your information with a trusted advisory from your matched programs.

Privacy Policy

You may also be interested in these programs:

{{ p.instName }}

{{ + ', ' + p.state }}

{{ }}

  • GPA: {{ p.gpa }}
  • Tuition: {{ p.tuition || 'N/A' }}
No, thank you