Context: Medical students are faced with the challenge of synthesizing large volumes of information quickly. With the increasing accessibility of technology, a “flipped classroom” allows students to learn foundational material independently. Class time is instead devoted to in-depth skill building with instructors, promoting an active learning environment. This method of content delivery is also relevant given the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Objectives: To comprehensively evaluate the benefit of adopting a flipped classroom approach in teaching physical exam skills (PES) to first-year osteopathic medical students.
Methods: A cohort study was conducted comparing first-year osteopathic students in the class of 2022 (n=201), who had taken the PES course traditionally, with the class of 2023 (n=203), who experienced the flipped classroom approach. Objective metrics such as cumulative grades, objective structural clinical examination performance (OSCE), and practical exam performance were compared using nonparametric Mann–Whitney U rank sum tests. Subjective measures such as student course evaluations were used to analyze course perceptions using independent sample t-tests assuming unequal variances. A faculty survey was administered to faculty who taught both cohorts to assess instructor attitudes toward the flipped classroom approach. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Spring 2020 quarter data was not included, given the transition of all classes to an online learning environment.
Results: The flipped classroom approach significantly improved objective student performance for the Fall (p=0.009) and Winter (p<0.001) student cumulative grades and the History-Taking OSCE (p=0.010). Performance on Fall and Winter practical exam scores had no significant association with the flipped classroom. General student perceptions of the course remained unchanged between both cohorts. Faculty survey results from 10 faculty members showed that six (60%) faculty members preferred the traditional classroom, while four (40%) preferred the flipped classroom.
Conclusions: The flipped classroom approach showed some statistically significant improvement in student PES. Further studies are needed to evaluate the benefits of a flipped classroom approach using skills-based assessments styles to measure student performance, with a focus on standardization of in-classroom groupwork.