The flipped classroom is a teaching approach where students get their first exposure to course content before coming to class. As the term suggests, a flipped classroom upends the traditional formula for delivering course content. Instead of listening to a lecture during a class period, students work on applying knowledge gleaned from previously shared material, such as a recorded lecture, a video, or written document. A goal of the flipped classroom is to engage students in active learning, wherein they can work on pertinent, well-designed exercises, participate in group work, and/or explore the implications of concepts raised in the lecture in order to promote a deeper understanding of a concept.
At its heart, a flipped classroom might be best understood as an alternative or supplement to traditional lectures, as class periods become devoted to practicing ideas or applying knowledge first experienced as lecture material outside of class. Harvard has a “Flipping Kit” for faculty that helps explain this concept.
The rationale for the flipped format follows from the premise that a lecture can sometimes promote inactivity in students, who merely perform the role of passive recipients of knowledge. Lectures also seemingly operate in a single-mode in which a faculty member expertly transmits the content of a course to an audience of students. By contrast, the flipped format encourages multiple modes of educational inquiry, communication, and exchange.
An advantage of the flipped format is the variability of pacing, as engagement with course content can be slowed down or sped up in accord with student comprehension. On a corresponding note, there are ample opportunities within the flipped classroom to gauge students' understanding of course material and intervene accordingly. For example, when a small-group exercise illustrates that a particular concept has proven difficult to understand for multiple students within the class, a faculty member can adjust the pacing so that this "stickier" issue or puzzling concept can be directly addressed.
Record lectures and digital content.
Recorded video lectures allow instructors to create structured video lectures that can be used multiple times and in different courses. When introducing a new concept, students can watch and review lectures at home. Try to keep videos short in length and cover only one concept. If you cannot cover one topic in less than ten minutes, break your content into multiple videos. For example, take a single module (or lesson), and look at the learning objectives. The lower thinking order learning objectives that students should master before coming to class is the content that you will record and provide to students outside of class. Refer to Bloom’s Taxonomy Action Verbs to help you order your objectives.
If faculty don’t want to record video lectures, students can receive digital content that might typically be delivered in a lecture such as readings, presentations, podcasts, or videos/animations that others have recorded.
Facilitate engaging learning activities during class time.
Think about how students will go deeper into the topic through active learning. Planning in-class activities guides students in the acquisition of the most complex objectives for that particular module or lesson. Activities can include: Think-Pair-Share, group work, Jig Saw, and/or problem based learning. More active learning strategies can be found via the Active Learning Continuum chart. Depending on the complexity of the problem, students may not be able to complete the activity in one session.
Additional resources for active learning :
Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. Jossey-Bass.
Create assessments that frequently check for understanding.
Assessments can come in all shapes and sizes. While assessments provide a layer of accountability that students are preparing for class by reading the assigned text and watching videos, they also provide indicators for understanding. Short quizzes, 1 minute papers, or past student performance can help you determine where students are struggling and what concepts you will need to provide clarification at the beginning of class.
- The efficiency of recorded lectures and students can go back and review multiple times
- The ability to make class time more interactive and collaborative
- More opportunities to collect and utilize data
- The ability to offer more personalized learning
- The upfront work to redesign course or create content such as video lectures and assignments
- The need to make sure that technology is used to increase, not decrease, interactions with students
- Can be challenging to make sure students complete assignments before coming to class and to get immediate feedback from students on the material presented online.
- Tell students why you are using the flipped classroom. Explain that discussion and active learning techniques are being used to enhance learning beyond the passive reception of information.
- Flipped learning doesn’t have to be used for the entire course, faculty can start small on one topic or module to see how students respond.
Further Reading & Resources:
Bain, Ken, Super Courses: The Future of Teaching and Learning. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2021.
Bruff, Derek. “Helping Students Learn: the Flipped Classroom and Peer Instruction.” Licensed Image CC-BY-2.0.
Farmer, Robert. “What Is the Flipped Classroom.” Learning Technology Blog, University of Northampton, 2015, blogs.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/2015/01/16/what-is-the-flipped-classroom. Accessed 11 June 2021.
Lang, James. Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2016.
Active Learning (CTL Resource)
Talbert, R., & Bergmann, J. 2017. Flipped learning: A guide for faculty teaching face-to-face, online, and hybrid courses. Stylus Publishing, LLC.