In traditional learning, students first learn about a topic in the classroom from a teacher. Then, they’re sent away to analyze, process, and synthesize what they’ve learned through homework.
In a flipped classroom (also known as an inverted classroom), the traditional method is reversed. Instead, students review lecture materials before class, often via technology. Then, they use their time in the classroom to apply concepts and ideas through interactions with their peers and teachers.
What does a flipped classroom look like?
This learning approach features a combination of face-to-face interaction with independent study.
Students review materials prior to attending class. The activities that 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
Through these types of activities, students gain background knowledge on the subject before they spend any time with the teacher.
Once the students are in class, they might participate in more interactive and hands-on exercises with their peers. These are designed to test the students' skills in applying the knowledge learned through homework and, ultimately, to prompt mastery. Activities may include:
- Face-to-face discussions with peers
- Learning stations
- Skill practice
- Lab experiments
- Peer assessment and review
The teacher serves as a facilitator and sets activities, guides participation, and answers any questions that the students may have.
The student can reflect on the feedback they were given during class and use it to fill in any gaps in their learning. Reflection exercises might include writing assignments that stimulate metacognition or more informal activities that get students thinking about what they’ve learned.
What are the benefits of a flipped classroom?
There are many benefits to a flipped classroom when the model is implemented successfully:
- Students apply new knowledge while 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 traditionally spent 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 through activities 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 while a teacher speaks at the front, as sessions now consist of hands-on activities. These elements make students more accountable for 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 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 students 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 completed the independent work prior to class.
- Mastering additional technologies 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 may have technical glitches. A contingency plan is needed for the technology that will be used to record and share videos.
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.
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 may become disengaged.
Splitting videos down into specific subjects also makes it easier for students to find and revisit them 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 Academy, TEDEd, CK-12, and BBC Bitesize are all useful sources for free video and interactive lessons. Just make sure you thoroughly review each video to ensure that it is appropriate and relevant before you pass it onto your students.
4. Ensure that you can monitor and assess learning outcomes
Consider how you'll hold students accountable when they don't complete the preparation 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.
5. Plan for the classroom
Choose some short activities for your class that will suit the subject matter best. Make sure you combine individual and group activities. Include tasks for the students who perfectly understood what they learned at home and something for those who will need in-class time to catch up.
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 that you've chosen to try this approach. Distribute a document that outlines clear instructions, provides links to the materials for pre-learning, and includes a summary of the activities that will take place in class.
7. Evaluate your efforts
After you've held your flipped lesson, it's time to assess it for future use. Make a list of questions that incorporate 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.
⭐️ For more teacher-friendly materials, visit our Educator Hub. There, you’ll find quizzes, worksheets, and other materials that can help you teach academic writing and citation.
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 the latter allows teachers to implement methodologies in their classroom.
🏅 Does the flipped classroom really work?
That depends. Numerous studies report that students achieve higher grades in a flipped classroom, but other findings suggest 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 classroom dynamics and how you choose to implement the new approach.
🍔 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 classroom activities and be prepared to address concerns
- Evaluate your efforts on a regular basis
🏖️ Do students like the flipped classroom?
According to this survey from 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 approach is executed. In general, students benefit 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. The flipped classroom aims to enhance student learning and achievement.