Physiology “Flipped Classroom”

Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Columbus, OH

Program Director: Beth Allen, MD
Type of Program: Pediatric Pulmonary
Abstract Authors: Lisa M. Sarzynski, MD, and Beth Allen, MD

Pulmonary physiology is an essential component of pulmonary fellowship education; however, finding ways to keep fellows engaged (and to retain covered concepts) is challenging. We’ve previously utilized a variety of approaches to try to improve our fellows’ mastery of the topic. These have included didactic lectures by faculty, by the fellows themselves, or by viewing lecture videos of the master physiologist, John B. West, himself. With the exception of occasional use of short post-lecture quizzes, these approaches required minimal audience participation. An independent study approach was then trialed, which required reading assigned chapters and answering related questions online. Often, deadlines for online quiz completion were missed, indicating poor engagement in this activity as well. In training physiology scores remained suboptimal. Given these relative failures, we elected to trial a “flipped classroom” approach.

Our physiology flipped classroom occurs at monthly intervals during the academic year. Prior to each session, fellows are required to independently study the assigned physiology chapter. Each session begins with a closed-book test taken independently by everyone in attendance. Test questions are derived from a variety of resources, including the chapter review questions in Respiratory Physiology: The Essentials by John B. West, pulmonary prep questions, and questions created by the program director. One pre-assigned fellow must then provide explanations for the correct answers and review key teaching points. This format promotes an interactive environment that engages every fellow and attending present in the session. After initially trialing this method, we surveyed the fellows for their opinions regarding the new format.

A recent survey indicates fellows are more likely to review physiology in advance with the flipped classroom model than with any previously trialed methods. The majority indicated that this method is an effective teaching model that kept them engaged. We plan to compare previous years’ scores of the physiology section on the In-Training Exam to future scores. This will allow us to objectively see if our new approach impacts academic outcomes.

Pulmonary physiology involves many complex concepts that are essential for every pulmonary fellow to master. Our flipped classroom model has improved fellow participation and encouraged studying of material (as opposed to passive absorption), which we hope will lead to improved understanding of these concepts.


Last Reviewed: December 2016