In traditional learning, students acquire first-exposure knowledge on the subject matter in the classroom. They’re then sent away to analyze, process, and synthesize the learning with homework.

In a flipped classroom, also known as an inverted classroom, this happens the other way around. Students review lecture materials before class at home, often via technology. They then use their time in the classroom to apply concepts and ideas through interaction with their peers and teachers.

What does a flipped classroom look like?

This learning approach offers a combination of face-to-face interaction with independent study.

At home

Students review materials prior to attending the class. The behaviors they might carry out include:

  • Watching pre-recorded lectures
  • Watching curated external videos
  • Watching live video streams
  • Performing research
  • Reading physical texts
  • Reading digital texts
  • Participating in online discussion
  • Engaging with other online course material

A prominent aspect of the home study is usually watching pre-recorded lectures, either created by the teacher or an open education resource. The student gains background knowledge on the subject before they spend any time with the teacher.

In class

Once the student is in class, time is devoted to more interactive and hands-on exercises with their peers. These are designed to test the students' skills in applying the knowledge, and ultimately cement their learning. Activities can include:

  • Face-to-face discussions with peers
  • Debate
  • Presentations
  • Station learning
  • Workshops
  • Skill practice
  • Lab experiments
  • Peer assessment and review

The teacher is available to set activities, guide, and answer any questions.

After class

The student can reflect on the feedback they were given during class, and use it to fill in any gaps in their learning.

What are the benefits of a flipped classroom?

There can be many benefits to a flipped classroom when the model is implemented successfully, such as:

  • Students apply new knowledge whilst having a teacher on hand. When they're completing homework, students often don't have the relevant resources on-hand to answer their questions. With a teacher available during the evaluation stage, students can iron out any gaps in their understanding more easily.
  • Students can consume lecture materials at their own pace. This includes rewinding and re-watching video lectures, and pausing them to look up terms they don't understand.
  • Teachers can identify common problem areas in understanding. When homework is turned in incorrectly, teachers often don't have insight into what went wrong. When knowledge is applied in class, however, teachers can identify common problem areas and adjust material accordingly.
  • It maximizes the teacher as an interactive resource. Students passively consume lecture content independently of the teacher. The time the teacher traditionally spends simply conveying information is now freed up for more meaningful and purposeful engagement with students.
  • Active learning takes center stage. When the passive element of learning is taken out of the classroom, that time can now be utilized for active learning, such as debates, workshops, and experiments.
  • Students are more accountable for their learning. When homework isn't completed after a lesson, this often doesn't have consequences. But in a flipped learning model, students must learn about the subject matter beforehand to be able to participate in the class. Students can also no longer sit complacently whilst a teacher speaks at the front, as sessions now consist of hands-on activities. These elements make students more accountable for taking control of their own learning.

What are the disadvantages of a flipped classroom?

Of course, there are flipsides to the flipped classroom approach:

  • Students don't practice independent problem-solving. When the practical application of new knowledge all takes place amongst others, it removes the onus from the individual to carry out self-directed critical thinking.
  • Students who cannot learn independently are disadvantaged. For students who cannot acquire knowledge without in-person support, such as some ESL learners and some students with learning disabilities, a flipped classroom has the potential to be disruptive. It can also put immense pressure on students who aren't as technologically adept as their peers.
  • The flipped classroom approach assumes equal access to technological devices. The technology (laptop, reliable internet access) required to succeed with independent learning is not always equally available to all students, often due to socioeconomic disadvantages.
  • Students can easily fail if they don't carry out the right amount of preparation. The teacher can only convey expectations to the student and loses input over their learning until they see them in class. It's logistically difficult to provision for a student who turns up to the classroom and hasn't independently carried out their own learning beforehand.
  • The additional technology resource needed can be a huge undertaking. Most flipped classrooms rely heavily on video recordings. Often, a teacher or librarian must spend many additional hours creating all of the content for students to use at home. Videos can also suffer unavoidable technical glitches or difficulties. A contingency plan is needed for the technology that will be used to record and share videos. And the content creator has to potentially master new technical skills in a short space of time.

How to flip your classroom

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to do a flipped classroom for the first time:

1. Decide on your technological approach

You'll be relying heavily on technology to determine the success of your flipped lesson. Choose the software that will best help you film, edit, and share videos. Figure out the best way for your students to access all the content you'll be sharing, and how you're going to track who has viewed what. A learning management system (LMS) may be the best place to start for this, as it can streamline your content output. This resource also suggests some great tools for creating resources.

2. Create your video lectures

If you've chosen to film videos of yourself lecturing, get started. Stick to short videos (7 minutes or under) on different topics rather than a drawn-out 45-minute lecture, as students will become disengaged. Splitting videos down into specific subjects also makes it easier for students to find and revisit parts of the learning in the future. You may be pleasantly surprised how quickly you can teach a subject when you're not also managing a classroom!

3. Supplement with additional content

You'll probably want to accompany your video lectures with other resources. Khan AcademyTEDEdCK-12, and BBC Bitesize are all useful sources for free video and interactive lessons. Just make sure you thoroughly review that each material is appropriate and relevant before you pass it onto your students.

4. Ensure you can monitor and assess learning outcomes

Consider how you'll hold students accountable when they don't complete the learning to prepare for your lesson. Come up with a system to incentivize students to watch your videos, with entry tickets, or short quizzes at the beginning of the lesson. You'll then need to use the data to assess who needs additional help in the lesson.

5. Plan for the classroom

Choose some short activities for your class that will suit the subject matter best. Make sure you combine individual activities and others in pairs or groups. Include activities for the students who perfectly understood what they learned at home, and for those who will need this time now to do so. The University of Waterloo has compiled some excellent lesson activity ideas. What will your role in the classroom be? Do you plan to move around the classroom, helping students as they need it, or will you select groups of students to work closely with at a time?

6. Be prepared to convey the details

Students and parents may be skeptical about the switch to a flipped learning approach. Make sure you can address concerns and accurately communicate the reasons you've chosen to try this. Design and distribute to your students a document that outlines clear instructions, links to the materials for pre-learning, and a summary of the activities that will take place in class.

7. Evaluate your efforts

After you've held your flipped classroom, it's time to assess it for future use. Make a list of questions that incorporate the students' participation, feedback, engagement, and performance, along with proposed solutions to problems. Remember that not every class will respond well to a flipped classroom. But this evaluation will allow you to reflect on whether it was a success this time, and how to move forward.

Frequently Asked Questions about the flipped classroom

🌟 What is the difference between flipped classroom and flipped learning?

You might think that flipped classroom and flipped learning are the same, but in fact, they are not. Flipping your classroom is the first step to flipped learning, but in addition to the flipped classroom, flipped learning allows teachers to implement methodologies in their classroom.

🏅 Does the flipped classroom really work?

The answer here is it depends. There are numerous papers reporting that students obtain higher grades in a flipped classroom, but there are also reports finding that there are no long-term benefits to it and that poor implementation can disadvantage vulnerable students. In the end it always comes down to the implementation strategy.

🍔 How do you succeed in a flipped classroom?

To succeed with the project of flipping your classroom, follow these steps:

  • Decide on your technological approach
  • Create your video lectures and supplement them with additional content
  • Ensure you can properly monitor and assess learning outcomes
  • Plan for activities for the classroom and be prepared to address concerns
  • Evaluate your efforts on a regular basis
🏖️ Do students like the flipped classroom?

According to this survey in the Flipped Learning Network, most students prefer the flipped classroom and feel that they understand the content better in that context. But as always, this depends on how the project is executed, and every student is different and requires different attention. In general, students are benefitting from new and innovative approaches to learning.

🤔 What is the most important idea in a flipped classroom?

In a flipped classroom, the traditional model of teaching is reversed and students are encouraged to learn independently and apply new knowledge in the classroom whilst having a teacher on hand. The flipped classroom aims at enhancing student learning and achievement.


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