"Learning is a two-step process...First, you must have some transfer of information;
second, you must make sense of that information by connecting it to your own experiences
and organizing the information in your brain."
- Eric Mazur, professor of physics at Harvard University
Graphics adapted from Flipping the Classroom, Center for Teaching and Learning, University of Washington
The Flipped Classroom is a pedagogical model where the typical elements of lecture and homework are reversed. Course materials are prepared for students to learn outside of class leaving in-person class time to participate in active learning exercises, interactive projects, and deliberate practice. The flipped classroom approach allows students a structure to learn at their own pace and gives instructors a way to create applied learning opportunities during in-person class time.
There are two main types of flipped classroom design; student-led and instructor-led models. In a student-led model, students have more control and freedom to access and navigate course content. The Instructor serves as a low-touch course facilitator. Instructors offer feedback on student work, provide nudges to stay motivated, host discussions, and identify students who may be struggling.
In an instructor-led model, the instructor is more involved with the coordination of the course. Outside of class, students still learn more passive elements of the course; however, in-person class time is devoted to more active learning exercises coordinated by the instructor. Activities may include instructor-led case students, groups discussions, role-playing games, or team projects.
Pre-recorded lessons are the heart of a flipped course design. Lessons can be a video or audio-based recording; narrated PowerPoint; screencasts; or some other type of audio/video format. When considering how to create and distribute course content, consider the following questions:
- What do you want students to learn?
- What materials will best support their learning outside of the classroom?
- How much time do you expect students to spend learning outside of the classroom?
- How can you best support students’ learning of the material outside of in-person class time? What resources are available to students?
- How can students practice what they have learned during in-person class time? What exercises, activities, or assessments will you utilize to help students practice?
- How will you incentivize students for learning course material outside of class? Will you offer a short quiz before the start of the in-person class?
- How might you provide ways for getting student feedback?
- How will students demonstrate learning?
Research in flipped classroom design suggests the following rules can significantly improve student learning outcomes.
- The in-class activities involve a significant amount of quizzing, problem-solving, and other active learning activities, forcing students to retrieve, apply, and/or extend the material learned outside of class. These activities are often slightly easier than those tackled outside of class and are directly relevant to out-of-class work.
- Students are heavily incentivized through grading, in-class activities, and instructor expectations to complete out-of-class work and attend in-person meetings.
- The in-class learning environments are highly structured (often planned down to the minute).
* Excerpt from Flipped Classroom Field Guide. (2013)
An instructor must have some technical knowledge of how to deliver course material online - typically through a University’s learning management system. Experience with video/audio capture software and other multimedia tools is also recommended. Instructors must also be able to plan and facilitate active learning and application-based learning exercises for in-class meetings. They must have considerable time management skills and should have experience administering a variety of formative and summative assessment activities.
As with every teaching modality, there are a number of basic considerations that can greatly improve ones’ chances at success with designing flipped courses. Below are just a few suggestions to keep in mind:
- Starting small: A successful flipped approach can take several semesters to complete. Learning to flip course content takes time. Start with one lesson or section of your course and build as your comfort with flipped instruction grows.
- Create need to know content: Ask yourself, how is a flipping approach helping students learn your course content? Successful flipped lessons must be paired with explicit and transparent reasons why students must use flipped content to learn.
- Use existing technology: Using technology that is both University supported and familiar to students limits some of the learning curves associated with creating and accessing course content. Using familiar tools will also help students focus on learning course content over learning new technology. Try narrated PowerPoints, Screencasts, Panopto recordings, or recorded Zoom lectures.
- Walkthrough the first lesson with students: Every new learning modality is an adjustment for both the instructor and students. Resist telling students you are “trying out” a new approach. Instead, retain teaching authority through careful guidance and explicit instruction. Spend a few minutes walking through with students how to access course content. Provide explicit instructions on what is expected from the outside of the class and inside of the class. Finally, consider practicing in-class what students should be doing with recorded material.
- Keep a journal: Flipping a course for the first time is a learning experience. Keep track of what worked (and what can be improved) by journaling your experiences.
When designing a flipped approach, consider the following effective practices in active learning and multimedia instruction:
- Keep it short: Try to keep recordings around 15 minutes. If you have longer content to deliver, try breaking it down into smaller videos. Breaking course content into smaller chunks makes it easier to create and helps students sort through the dense course material.
- Give students the opportunity to gain first exposure before class: Transparency in course design allows students to feel a sense of ownership and agency over their learning. Consider being less of a gatekeeper of course content by giving students access to materials before class. Post recordings and sessions early to help students see the sequence of the course.
- Prioritize audio: Studies show poor audio quality is the biggest inhibitor to learning in a flipped setting. Make sure you have a decent microphone. Limit extraneous noises (pets, family members, air conditioners).
- Give proper incentives - “Pay Students” for their Time: Hold students accountable by having in-class activities that build upon flipped material. Plan an active learning activity, an entrance quiz, or embed in-class activities within flipped classroom materials. Resist the temptation to review flipped lessons during in-class time.
- Facilitate active learning activities in the classroom: There are many types of active learning activities ranging from small-group discussions, problem-based learning activities, and case studies. The Reinert Center has a quick guide of activities you may be able to incorporate into your classroom titled, Active Learning While Physically Distancing.
- Assessment is central to flipped learning: Developing an assessment strategy that monitors student learning is an essential aspect of the flipped classroom approach. Consider creating a formative assessment plan to help determine what content areas students know or need to know. For example, offer a short quiz before in-class activities to evaluate whether students have learned out-of-class material. Or, include a reflection or discussion exercise to help assess whether students are connecting out-of-class course material with in-class application activities.
- Create opportunities for student feedback: Consider offering multiple opportunities for students to provide feedback about the flipped classroom design. Poll students about the online recordings, in-class activities, or their ability to participate in a flipped class format. Polling students prioritize student agency and participation.
Learning Resources for Flipping Your Class
Google Doc by Dan Spencer - Educational Technology Consultant - Jackson (MI) County ISD
The Flipped Classroom Guide for Teachers
The Center for Teaching Excellence at Cornell University
Explains the basic concepts behind flipping, including how to structure the flipped
If you would like to explore utilizing a flipped approach for your course, please feel free to schedule a confidential teaching consultation with someone at the Reinert Center.