What is the Flipped Classroom?

flipped classroom definition and examples
Contributed By

Elizabeth Trach

Professional Writer and Blogger

What is the Flipped Classroom?

Posted in Pro Tips | October 10, 2018

The Flipped Classroom is a blended learning model in which traditional ideas about classroom activities and homework are reversed, or "flipped." In this model, instructors have students interact with new material for homework first. They then use class time to discuss the new information and put those ideas into practice.

But don't be fooled. Merely flipping your homework and lecture doesn't mean you're unlocking all the benefits of flipped learning. True flipped learning is about opening up class time and transforming it into hands-on, differentiated, and even personalized learning experiences.

This article provides an overview of the flipped classroom, and what you need to know to effectively incorporate into your digital learning strategy. Use the links below to jump right to a section:

Flipped Classroom vs. Flipped Learning: What's the Difference?

A flipped classroom doesn't necessarily provide true flipped learning. It's what happens in the classroom that matters. True flipped learning turns classroom time into a more individualized experience. Instead of an instructor addressing all students as a group, learners move at their own pace or in small groups to apply their knowledge in hands-on ways; this allows for a more differentiated experience overall.

Flipped Classroom Data – How it Compares to Other Instructional Approaches

Our Global State of Digital Learning research study revealed some interesting insights about instructional approaches. 

When we look at instructional approaches most frequently used, the top ones are differentiated instruction (75%), blended learning (54%), and individualized learning (45%). And while flipped learning, personalized learning, and gamification command the most press, they aren’t being practiced as much as one might think. In many ways, this makes a lot of sense. These approaches require more time and resources than many of the others.


The Pros and Cons of a Flipped Classroom

At its best, a flipped classroom offers students the benefit of greater control over their learning. They steer class discussion to ask instructors for clarification, so their needs guide class time. When conducting hands-on experiments and practicing new skills in class, students can have more autonomy. They can explore new concepts in their own way, at their own pace, in a controlled and supportive environment. 

When done well, this makes flipped learning highly efficient, since differentiation occurs naturally and students are more likely to remain engaged.

Another benefit is the fact that instructors don't have to flip their entire class to benefit from this pedagogy. You can instead flip a single lesson to introduce your students to the concept, see how it works out, and go from there.

The downside to flipped learning is that it relies heavily on technology, with students needing to access the internet for at-home learning. This can make the digital divide between wealthy students and their poorer peers very obvious, and students without access to technology will struggle.

The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P

To make sure you're getting the most out of a flipped learning model, keep in mind the four pillars of F-L-I-P as you plan your curriculum and lessons.

F: Flexible Learning Environment

When you eliminate traditional lecture, you also lose the static rows of seating in favor of flexible arrangements. Furniture should be modular and allow for a variety of group and individual work. Likewise, the timing of lessons needs to be flexible to allow for students to fully explore a topic and understand it at their own pace.

L: Learning Culture

Instead of traditional teacher-centric learning, the flipped classroom puts students at the center of the lesson. Students guide the pace and style of learning, and instructors play the role of the "guide on the side." Instructors will help students through an experiment or guide them through a practice set when they need assistance applying new information.

I: Intentional Content

Instructors who embraced the flipped learning model are always on the lookout for ways to maximize their classroom time so that students are actively engaged in learning and hands-on practice. This approach requires prioritizing lessons that work in such a model and figuring out ways to encourage learners to work independently.

P: Professional Educator

The flipped model requires instructors to constantly monitor their students in order to identify who needs help with what and why. Instructors need to be responsive and flexible, and they must understand that this highly active style of teaching takes great pedagogical skill. Despite being less visible, instructors need to be at the top of their game to nurture students in a flipped classroom.

How to Flip Your Classroom

Wondering how to flip your classroom? If you're ready to get started using the flipped teaching model, follow these steps:

1. Determine Your Technology

Since flipped teaching relies so heavily on technology to create and share videos of lectures, choosing the technology that can best help you film, edit, and share your videos is a crucial first step. You'll also need to choose a hosting service and determine how your students will access all of your content. Additionally, you'll need to track progress. An LMS will help you keep everything streamlined in one place as you launch your program.

2. Create Your Videos and Content

When it's time to film, keep it short and sweet. You'll be pleasantly surprised to learn that what used to take 15 minutes to cover in a lecture can usually fit into a five-minute video, since you won't have to worry about classroom management. Don't be afraid to be entertaining!

You can also seek out videos and other interactive content from quality open educational resource (OER) providers such as CK-12 and MERLOT.

3. Be Transparent With Students and Parents

Before you launch, clearly explain what flipped learning is and why you are doing it. Making a major change in your classroom culture is hard work, and flipping the mindset is not easy. Be prepared to address concerns and to revisit the "how" and the "why" often.

4. Make Your Students Accountable

Don't forget that your flipped learning model depends on student participation. If they're not keeping up with the at-home learning, your whole class will grind to a halt because students won't be prepared to engage with your hands-on activities. Be sure to devise a system that tracks and holds students accountable for watching your videos.

One way to do this is by using entry tickets, or short formative quizzes at the beginning of a lesson. These will help you determine which students did their homework, which didn't, and who needs help. If you are using an LMS, then you can get these results in real time, enabling you to differentiate instruction accordingly.

5. Keep It Up

Find a schedule and system that works for you so that filming, lesson planning and assessment all become routine. Once you have a system in place, leverage it so you can focus on your students instead of on the nuts and bolts of developing your units.

Flipped Classroom Video

Flipped Classroom Research and Resources

Considering flipping your classroom? There are many ways to get started. We suggest developing a flipped classroom strategy that you can build upon over time. Experimentation with different methods and ideas will be key for you to learn quickly and iterate.

If you're looking for more foundational knowledge, we suggest seeking out additional flipped classroom research and resources. In 1993, Alison King published "From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side." This is not directly about flipping the classroom but it is considered important early work in this field.

Look for more research on this topic from people like Eric Mazur from Harvard and Salman Khan. 

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