Using a Flipped Classroom Approach to Teach Research

Case Examples From a BSW and a MSW Course




Social Work Research, Experiential Learning, Flipped Classroom Approach, Evidence-Based Practice, Second Language Learners


Challenges abound in assisting social work students to comprehend the value of scientific inquiry and to use research to inform their practice. Student research anxiety and low levels of research confidence are often at the heart of this reluctance. This article offers a conceptual rationale and strategies for developing a flipped classroom approach in teaching research. Kolb’s experiential learning cycle provides a theoretical lens to understand the importance of hands-on experiences for student learning and how these experiences can assist student development of research-related competencies. The authors propose a conceptual model and application of Kolb’s cycle through case examples at both the BSW and MSW levels. The authors recommend application of a flipped classroom approach to increase opportunities for self-paced learning and as a useful strategy for students who are second language learners.


Adam, N., Zosky, D., & Unrau, Y. (2004). Improving the research climate in social work curricula. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 24(3-4), 1-18.

Arnold-Garza, S. (2014). The flipped classroom model and its use for information literacy instruction. Communications in Information Literacy, 8(1), 7-22.

Bergmann, J., & Sams, A. (2012). Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class everyday. International Society for Technology in Education.

Bishop, J., & Verleger, M. (2013). The flipped classroom: A survey of research. Proceedings from the American Society for Engineering Education, Atlanta, GA, 120, 1-18.

Blazquez, B., Masluk, B., Gascon, S., Diaz, R., Aguilar-Latorre, A., & Magallon, I. (2019). The use of a flipped classroom as an active learning approach improves academic performance in social work: A randomized trial in a university. Public Library of Science, 14(4), 1-15.

Brookfield, S. (2017). Becoming a critically reflective teacher (2nd ed.). Josey-Bass-Wiley.

Cheung, M., & Delavega, E. (2014). Five way experiential learning model for social work education. Social Work Education, 33(8), 1070-1087.

Council on Social Work Education [CSWE]. (2015). 2015 Educational policy and accreditation standards for Baccalaureate and Masters Social Work Programs.

Doi, C. (2016). Applying the flipped classroom methodology in a first-year undergraduate music research methods course. Music Reference Services Quarterly, 19(2), 114-135.

Findlay-Thompson, S., & Mombourquette, P. (2014). Evaluation of a flipped classroom in an undergraduate business course. Business Education and Accreditation, 6(1), 63-71.

Green, R, Bretzin, A., Leninger, C., & Stauffer, R. (2001). Research learning attributes of graduate students in social work, psychology and business. Journal of Social Work Education, 37(2), 333-341.

Han, Y. J. (2015). Successfully flipping the ESL classroom for learner autonomy. New York State Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Journal, 2(1), 98-109.

Healey, M., & Jenkins, A. (2000). Kolb’s experiential learning theory and its application in geography in higher education. Journal of Geography, 99, 185-195.

Hoffman, E. S. (2014). Beyond the flipped classroom: Redesigning a research methods course for e3 instruction. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 7(1), 51-62.

Holmes, M., Tracy, E., Painter, L., Oestrich, T., & Park, H. (2015). Moving from flipped charts to flipped classroom: Using technology-driven teaching methods to promote active learning in foundation and advanced masters social work courses. Clinical Social Work Journal, 43, 215-224.

Kim, M. K., Kim, S. M., Khera, O., & Getman, J. (2014). The experience of three flipped classrooms in an urban university: An exploration of design principals. Internet and Higher Education, 22, 37¬-50.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning as the source of learning and development. Prentice-Hall.

Maschi, T., Bradley, C., Youdin, R., Killian, M., Cleaveland, C., & Barbera, R. (2007). Social work students and the research process: Exploring the thinking, feeling, and doing of research. Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work Education, 13(1), 8-12.

Maschi, T., Wells, M., Yoder Slater, G., MacMillan, T., & Ristow, J. (2013). Social work students’ research related anxiety and self-efficacy: Research instructors’ perceptions and teaching innovations. Social Work Education, 32(6), 800-817.

Matich-Maroney, J., & Moore, P. (2016). Flipping the class in an undergraduate social work research course. Council on Undergraduate Research, 37(2), 24-29.

Natland, S., Weissingerb, E., Graaf, G., & Carnochan, S. (2016). Learning practice-based research methods: Capturing the experiences of MSW students. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 36(1), 33-51.

Nouri, J. (2016). The flipped classroom: for active, effective and increased learning - especially for low achievers. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 13(3), 1-10.

Okypych, N. J., & Yu, J. L-H. (2014). A historical analysis of evidence-based practice in social work: The unfinished journey towards an empirically grounded profession. Social Service Review, 88(1), 3-58.

OpenLearn. (2022). 3.3 the experiential model of learning.

Robbins, S., Coe-Regan, J., Williams, J. H., Smyth, N., & Bob, M. (2016). From the editor—The future of social work education. Journal of Social Work Education, 52(4), 387-397.

Sage, M., & Sele, P. (2015). Reflective journaling as a flipped classroom technique to increase reading and participation with social work students. Journal of Social Work Education, 51(4), 668-681.

Svinicki, M., & Dixon, N. (1987). The Kolb Model modified for classroom activities. College Teaching, 35(4), 141-146.

Thuente, L., & Batteson, T. (2016). Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory as a theoretical underpinning for interprofessional education. Associations of Schools of Allied Health Professionals.

Unrau, Y., & Grinnell, R. (2005). The impact of social work research courses on research self-efficacy for social work students. Social Work Education, 24(6), 639-651.

Van der Zwan, N., & Afonso, A. (2019). Activating the research methods curriculum: A blended flipped classroom. PS: Political Science and Politics, 52(4), 749-753.

Venema, R., Meerman, J., & Hossnik, K. (2015). Experiential, team-based learning in a baccalaureate social work research course. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 35(5), 471-492.

Vinjamuri, M., Warde, B., & Kolb, P. (2017). The reflective diary: An experiential tool for enhancing social work students’ research learning. Social Work Education, 36(8), 933-945.

Wagner, B., & Bogiages, C. (2020). Using culturally responsive teaching to adapt a flipped class for undergraduate, emirati learners, Journal of Teacher Action Research, 7(1), 126-146.

Whipple, E., Hughes, A., & Bowden, S. (2015). Evaluation of a BSW research experience: Improving student research competency. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 35(4), 397-409.

Zeitlin, W. (2018). Teaching note-innovations in teaching research: Learning by doing. Journal of Social Work Education, 54(3), 568-575.