George Lucas Educational Foundation Celebrating our 25th Anniversary!
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

Editor's Note:This post was co-authored by Aaron Sams, CEO of Sams Learning Designs, LLC and founding member of the Flipped Learning Network.

Let's face it. We teachers spend far too much time and energy trying to keep students quiet so that they can listen to us. We have taken countless courses and workshops on classroom management in our careers, and it seems that the underpinning goal of classroom management is for teachers to keep kids quiet so that they can learn. Is there a better way to think about classroom management?

What if the goal of class was for the students to actively engage in the content and participate in tangible ways in the learning process? Our experience before we flipped our class was that we spent the majority of class time at the front of the room. Students sat in nice neat rows as we taught them stuff. Our view of teaching had us in the front of the room "teaching."

Noise Is Good

As we pioneered the flipped class, we got away from the front of the room and got a whole different perspective on what classroom management could look like. Instead of us being the sage on the stage, we were in and among our students, working with them, helping them, and guiding them to deeper learning.

As we did this, the dynamics of the classroom dramatically changed. Instead of having to keep students quiet, we were spending time interacting with them individually and in small groups. Amazingly, most of our classroom management issues just vaporized. Our goal wasn't to keep students quiet, but rather to have them engaged in the learning process. The class became noisier -- and it was good. The amount of energy we'd been expending to keep kids quiet hadn't been used for getting students to take responsibility for their own learning.

But, as with any change, we found some new challenges. We found that the key to classroom management in a flipped class was how we spent our time and with whom. Additionally, we realized that we needed some tried and true strategies to compliment our classroom management toolbox.

4 New Management Issues

Who Gets My Time?

Since the teacher is not delivering direct instruction each day, they are spending their time interacting with, challenging, and directing individuals or groups. But the teacher needs to determine with whom they will spend the bulk of their time. We were able to talk to every student in every class every day, but it wasn't always an equal amount of time. One of the most important decisions you make, especially in a flipped classroom, is who gets the bulk of your time. Do you assist the struggling students? Do you challenge the advanced students? In hindsight, we made many mistakes in this area, but as time went on, we realized just how important it was to work not just with the students who asked, but to make sure the "right" students got the help they needed.

Redirecting Off-Task Kids Becomes More Important

The flipped class gives time back to students, but some students don't know how to handle the freedom well. Some took the freedom as a license to do whatever they wanted, which often was not a very productive use of their time. This, of course, is not acceptable. Thus, in a flipped classroom, the teacher still needs to monitor off-task behavior, but it looks different than in a traditional classroom.

The key here is to know where your students are in the content. If they are falling behind, it's often because they are not using the freedom very well. Situations like this were dealt with through the appropriate intervention techniques that we'd always used in our classrooms. For some, we called home and visited with their parents. For others we didn't allow them to work with students who constantly got them off task. And in some cases, we made sure they were the first ones we visited with each day so that they would start on a good note and not get distracted.

Freedom for Some and Control for Others

Some students can handle the freedom that is part of a flipped classroom, and some students struggle with choice. For those who needed more structure, we provided that, while at the same time allowing for more freedom for those that used class time wisely.

The Question Changed

Before we flipped our classroom, the question we often got from parents during parent-teacher conferences was: "How is my son or daughter behaving in your class?" After we flipped, we struggled to answer this question because behavior became a non-issue. Instead, the question we wanted to hear from them was: "Is my son or daughter learning in your class?" In fact, we steered the conversation to be about student learning instead of behavior.

New Rules of Engagement

One reason we believe that the flipped classroom has fewer management issues than a traditional classroom is that students are more engaged. They are not sitting and listening to their teacher, and the teacher isn't trying to keep them quiet. Instead, the classroom is filled with activity, engagement, inquiry, and learning.

What do you think? If you've flipped your class, have you seen a difference in classroom management? And if so, what are the new management struggles you faced as you moved to the flipped model?

Was this useful? (4)

Comments (19) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Matt Burns's picture

Hi 'Always Learning',

I'm a year 5 teacher as well, who has been experimenting with the flipped, or blended model. I have found it to be fairly transformative - for the better. If you are interested, details of my journey (including some fairly interesting surveys and student results) can be found here:

Many thanks,

@theEdTechSchool's picture

Just following on from the discussion about monitoring how much students have gotten from the video, and whether students have watched it. Have you tried EdPuzzle? It allows flipped classroom teaching but it also has an AfL component that allows you to assess how much each student has learnt from the video before they even enter the classroom. It's a really useful move forward in terms of flipped classroom teaching. It's free too!

Alfredo Tifi's picture
Alfredo Tifi
teacher of chemistry experienced in innovating

As Akanksha and Always Learning are pointing to, the question is about "approach to learning" and responsibility.
If you try flipped education within a single subject while the context is completely traditional elsewhere in the whole learning environment, you can obviously experiment the drawbacks that Jon was talking about:

"they are not using the freedom very well" ... "appropriate intervention techniques that we'd always used in our [traditional] classrooms": "we called home and visited with their parents ... we didn't allow them to work with students who constantly got them off task ...we made sure they were the first ones we visited with each day ..."

All These confirm my perception that the strategy is failing, and you should consider that it is easier to make a whole class in front of you quiet and still, rather than to manage five different students in five different teams going out of task, if you are alone.

I am arrived to three conclusions after my trials with flipping.

1) families and headteacher should be informed, agreed and engaged of the experiment and the reasons of a different "Approach to Learning" must be made clear to all of them after a strong criticism to the traditional, regular one (whereas all students and parents believe that you can learn only thanks to someone that lectures well)

2) the sense of responsibility deriving after such a "promise" of effectiveness and usefulness on the long time, for longlife, can be understood and taken as a driving impulse to "be on the task" ONLY with older students (grades 11-13 in Italy). The younger (pre-adolescent) are, psychologically speaking, in the "wrong age" to understand something metacognitive about empowering the awareness of learning. This is hard even with adolescents that have been structured by years of traditional education (but not so hard as with colleagues, most of headteachers and parents)

3) the evaluation criteria and purposes must be entirely changed accordingly with these long time developmental criteria. What has to be evaluated on semester frequency is the change in the approach to learning, and on the daily or weekly scale, of the engagement and dedication to the activities, NOT the performance assessment, because the interindividual difference must be respected, and because there can be differences of YEARS in the time of development of higher order thinking skills, but everyone can improve his/her only by engaging and dedicating.

I am sure that if you respect thes three conditions flipped education will be better than regular education.
To try all that, your educating system should be free as your Nation and Constitution declares.

Mr. Davis's picture

I love a lot the ideas presented here. I think education as it stands can stifle the creative mind and the methods laid out there seem to foster them. However, I teach in a low-income community and the students come to me years behind and have never been in a structured environment. It takes a good amount of time to teach them how to 'do' school so they can access the content and be set free in a less structured environment like you've mentioned here. But again, I love the ideas and think you're spot on with flipping the classroom. I talk about some the fundamental strategies and methods teaching in tough situations can use on my blog at

lmp1123's picture

I've used this model in my class and it has been very successful! I think you made a good point of visiting students that have a tendency to be off task first so they start off doing what they are supposed to and stay focused.

Michelle's picture

This article brings up positive classroom management techniques that I am excited to try. Whenever I have tried to assign a video for homework, most of the students do not view it, whether by choice or by lack of technology. I have seen students who think they do not need to watch it and know the subject already, so they play games on their computer in class instead of doing their assignment--very frustrating! Offering technology definitely does not promise student engagement!

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.