Edutopia on Facebook
Edutopia on Twitter
Edutopia on Google+
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
Subscribe to RSS

Five Best Practices for the Flipped Classroom

Ok, I'll be honest. I get very nervous when I hear education reformists and politicians tout how "incredible" the flipped-classroom model, or how it will "solve" many of the problems of education. It doesn't solve anything. It is a great first step in reframing the role of the teacher in the classroom.

It fosters the "guide on the side" mentality and role, rather than that of the "sage of the stage." It helps move a classroom culture towards student construction of knowledge rather than the teacher having to tell the knowledge to students. Even Salman Khan says that the teacher is now "liberated to communicate with [their students]."

It also creates the opportunity for differentiated roles to meet the needs of students through a variety of instructional activities. But again, just because I "free" someone, doesn't mean that he/she will know what to do next, nor how to do it effectively. This is where the work must occur as the conversation of the flipped classroom moves forward and becomes more mainstream in public and private education. We must first focus on creating the engagement and then look at structures, like the flipped classroom, that can support. So educators, here are some things to think about and consider if you are thinking about or already using the flipped-classroom model.

1) Need to Know

How are you creating a need to know the content that is recorded? Just because I record something, or use a recorded material, does not mean that my students will want to watch, nor see the relevance in watching it. I mean, it is still a lecture. Also, this "need to know" is not "because it is on the test," or "because it will help you when you graduate." While that may be a reality, these reasons do not engage the students who are already struggling to find meaning and relevance in school. If the flipped classroom is truly to become innovative, then it must be paired with transparent and/or embedded reason to know the content.

2) Engaging Models

One of the best way to create the "need to know" is to use a pedagogical model that demands this. Whether project-based learning (PBL), game-based learning (GBL), Understanding by Design (UbD), or authentic literacy, find an effective model to institute in your classroom. Become a master of those models first, and then use the flipped classroom to support the learning. Example: Master design, assessment, and management of PBL; and then look at how you can use the flipped classroom to support the process. Perhaps it is a great way to differentiate instruction, or support students who need another lesson in a different mode. Perhaps students present you with a "need to know," and you answer with a recorded piece to support them. This will help you master your role as "guide on the side."

3) Technology

What technology do you have to support the flipped classroom? What technology gaps exist that might hinder it? Since the flipped classroom is about recorded video, then obviously students would need the technology to do this. There are many things to consider here. Will you demand that all students watch the video, or is it a way to differentiate and allow choice? Will you allow or rely on mobile learning for students to watch it? Again, these are just some of the questions to consider in terms of technology. Lack of technology doesn't necessarily close the door to the flipped-classroom model, but it might require some intentional planning and differentiation.

4) Reflection

Every time you have students watch a video, just like you would with any instructional activity, you must build in reflective activities to have students think about what they learned, how it will help them, its relevance, and more. If reflection is not a regular part of your classroom culture, then implementing the flipped classroom will not be as effective. Students need metacognition to connect content to objectives, whether that is progress in a GBL unit, or work towards an authentic product in at PBL project.

5) Time and Place

Do you have structures to support this? When and where will the learning occur? I believe it unfair to demand that students watch the video outside of the class time for various reasons. If you have a blended learning environment, that of course provides a natural time and place to watch the videos, but it will be difficult to ensure all students watch a video as homework. In addition, do not make epic videos that last hours. Keep the learning within the videos manageable for students. This will help you formatively assess to ensure learning, and it will feel doable to students.

I know I may have "upset the apple cart" for those who love the flipped classroom. My intent is not to say that the flipped classroom is bad. Rather, it is only a start. The focus should be on teacher practice, then tools and structures. The flipped classroom is one way to help move teachers toward better teaching but does not ensure it. Like the ideas above, focus on ways to improve your instruction before choosing to use the "flipped classroom."

Comments (32)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Jean Dore's picture
Jean Dore
Highschool teacher in the province of Quebec (french)


I teach french in a small town near Montreal.

The key words here, are differentiation and metacognition

Flipping your class will NOT solve all your problems...Techno is a TOOL among others...

TimL's picture
Post-secondary educational developer

Truly appreciate the one line, "We must first focus on creating the engagement and then look at structures, like the flipped classroom, that can support." Very much aligns with a 2005 article by Smith, Sheppard, Johnson and Johnson: "Pedagogies of engagement: Classroom-based practices." See http://www.ce.umn.edu/~smith/docs/Smith-Pedagogies_of_Engagement.pdf

Andrew, you said, " Since the flipped classroom is about recorded video..." I would argue that this assumes the flipped classroom is about recorded video ONLY whereas other approaches to a flipped classroom exist. For example, see Team-Based Learning (http://www.teambasedlearning.org/).

Bob Amses's picture

I love the idea of the flipped classroom, and in a perfect world we would have unlimited content for differentiated and individualized learning for every student. But in the meantime, I really think that it is important to explore all options. I attended a planning meeting last week in which we were tasked to determine long-term technology implementation goals. But one of the things we realized is that it is important to pursue interim technologies because they lead us to places that we don't even know exist yet. As we continue to build our skills, we gain the advantage of learning new schemes and gaining a foothold on that elusive next step. I feel like new developments are coming too quickly to just "wait for the right one." Take risks, reap the rewards.

Tom Stanley's picture
Tom Stanley
School Based Technology Specialist / Fairfax County Public Schools

You are so off base. The model you described worked in the era where schools were social sorting tools to separate the college bound from the factory worker.

I love learning and was an excellent student. We had a teacher in my children's high school who was brilliant and a wonderful lecturer. I could listen to him for hours. The majority of the students in the class were bored out of their minds. This is not their fault. The idea that students should change the way they learn so they could be successful in that class is non-sense. What is real world about setting to a man talking on and on about a subject for an hour and a half.

I was a government teacher in a previous position. You teach how a bill becomes a law by role play, inquiry, etc. One of our current classes does this by the students participating in a virtual congress. They have had bills passed in a simulation that has national participation. Learning does not get much better than that.

Joy O.'s picture

I love the suggestion to have students frame The Need to Know component. To take it a step further, a group of students could generate that podcast or lecture as a way to set the stage for a new unit or collaborative project.

Harry Keller's picture
Harry Keller
President, Smart Science Education Inc.

I have to disagree with Marshall Barnes, at least on the details.

Having more self-study requires a better teacher, not a less-qualified one. In order to answer questions well about material, you must have a deep understanding of the subject to deal with material beyond that presented in the videos.

I also maintain that videos are just as outdated as textbooks and will not be the online learning mode of the future. Text and video material will be supplementary but not central to learning. instead, learning will be through highly interactive online activities. Videos are much easier to make and so will fill in until the interactive materials can take over.

newteacherhelp.com's picture
Adjunct Instructor at Missouri State University

As I watch the debate about Flipped Teaching, it seems that many people still do not know what Flipping is - and that is leading them to make uninformed posts. You can take an online class for free that explains what Flipped Teaching is, and also trains you how to be a Digital Teacher (complete with certificate). Here is a preview link for you to determine if you are interested in the course:

Susan Weikel Morrison's picture
Susan Weikel Morrison
Science Education Program Developer, Sci-Q Systems

This is another meaning for "differentiated instruction." Not only does a teacher need to take students' differences into account, but administrators also need to allow for different teaching styles as long as the teachers are effective. One size does not fit all in either case.

Marshall Barnes's picture
Marshall Barnes
Founder, Director of SuperScience for High School Physics

I found this article http://www.mail.com/scitech/news/1849928-teachers-flip-flipped-learning-... this morning on flipped classrooms. As I expected, review the 14th paragraph down and you will find a reference to some of the criticism that the flipped classroom "smacks of teachers abandoning their primary responsibility of instructing".

If you look at my earlier posts, I noted that the flipped model is a way to eventually phase out full time teachers under certain conditions. The sentiment expressed in that paragraph that I cited is exactly what will lead to this happening - "if teachers aren't instructing as much, we don't need to pay them for when they aren't".

I'm not a classroom teacher, I'm not on a school board, I have no kids in school and I don't belong to a union. I don't sell products to teachers (yet) so I have no personal dog in this fight. If teachers in certain districts lose jobs or are cut back to part time, it has no effect on me, one way of the other. But I am a professional analyst and a darn good one, and I'm simply pointing out what to me is obvious - this flipped classroom model has the potential of flipping on the teachers that embrace it and flipping them into cut backs in their hours and pay. The sentiment expressed in that paragraph is exactly what I would expect out of smaller school districts facing budget issues, and that's exactly where I expect the implementation of flipped classrooms to be used to cut back on teaching costs.

I experienced this so-called flipped classroom model in the 70s where it was used during massive snow emergencies as a way to continue school when we were out of snow days. I've been there, done that and still have the T-shirt. For the students, it works. For the teachers, it works. And when the bean counters realize that it means teachers not teaching as much but instead doing what so-called "guides or aides" can do for less money, it's going to work for them too - as a cost cutting tool. So, you teachers that are embracing this model so happily, in school districts with serious budget issues, you might not want to see this as some great new tool so much and perhaps take some time to review your ancient history.

You see, there was once this thing called the Trojan Horse...

Wowzers's picture
Wowzers offers online Game-based Math curriculum for Grades 3-8

Love how the author noted that flipped classrooms open the doors for teachers to communicate and guide their student's learning instead of being the end-all-be-all of the content.

When students are given the opportunity to self-drive their basic learning, they can create stronger connections to the information. Then, as noted in the article, the teacher can use these connections (and enhance them) to build some serious higher-order thinking, analysis, and application skills within the students. That's to educator's ears!

The teacher can help foster these students to become continuous creators or 'producers' of knowledge, instead of consumers of knowledge. To learn more about how flipped classrooms promote knowledge production, check out this blog post - http://blog.wowzers.com/bid/272758/Flipped-Classrooms-Promote-Knowledge-...

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.