Five Best Practices for the Flipped Classroom | Edutopia
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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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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 (36)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

awinchester's picture
Instructional Technology Educator

Great Points Andrew! One of the biggest challenges we face in education is having enough fiscal resources to accommodate the need and desire for technology integration. The flipped model of teaching assumes that schools will have the resources and students will have adequate background knowledge to make this a successful approach. We need to teach our students that technology is not the main vessel for educational excellence, but a tool we can utilize to enhance our understanding of skills and processes.

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

Let's be really clear about the fact that you're using incredible powerful technology to deliver a lecture. Yes, it may be a first step. It's a rather small first step in terms of pedagogy but large, as Andrew Miller says, in terms of teacher effort. I'm interested in where it will lead.

What if we could have much, much more than a recorded lecture for the out-of-class work? For example, what about a "flipped" science lab where students do real experiments online with interactive data collection. Now, students are engaged in interactive work on a computer. Reflection is built in if you have an online lab report and decent post-lab (summative) questions. You can improve the experience more by having pre-lab questions that expose mistaken ideas and check on knowledge that should be known before starting -- or at least jogging memories. You can provide narrated videos of the procedure leading up to the measurements. You might also add a hyper-linked glossary of words for the specific lab and more support and background information.

In class the next day, a discussion moderated by the teacher allows students to talk about what they discovered and about the experimental errors they ran into with "prerecorded real experiments." Now, that's good use of class time, much better than doing the same old cookbook labs, verification labs, and procedural practice labs.

Sam Patterson's picture
Sam Patterson
K-5 Technology integration Specialist

tools available to us. The key is finding the right fit, scaffolding the kids up to success. Teachers need to be willing to change what has to change. Reach the students by any means necessary.

Sue Boudreau's picture
Sue Boudreau
Seventh Grade science teacher from Orinda, California

Some of the best magic is when I'll key of a question a student has, or a situation I know they were in recently as a way to tell a story illustrating the concept we are studying. We gather around and there is a sense of community. This couldn't be captured in a recorded lecture or demo in a science class. I'm sort of shocked that this would seem like a good idea as the main model of instruction. I do agree that too much direct instruction/lecture is bad. Of course. And that making time to coach students is a good thing. But for heaven's sake, let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.

Sue Boudreau's picture
Sue Boudreau
Seventh Grade science teacher from Orinda, California

Just attended a lecture by Diane Ravitch, where she outlined the many ways that public schools are being undermined. This seems like a clever way to marginalize teachers - buy the pre-recorded lectures off of some organization and use teachers as homework tutors.

Vivian Sawicki's picture
Vivian Sawicki
High School English teacher, private school in Michigan

Marshall has good points. I also wonder whether this will lead to a homogenization of education. Is that a problem? If say, "Tom Smith" posts good lessons will teachers need to create their own material or just use what already exists. And will we leave behind students without resources? Many of my students are hard pressed for time as it is because of sports and jobs. How will they find time to view, or the motivation to view lessons presented on line on "their time." Perhaps one class being "flipped" might work, but are there any results available for multiple classes being flipped?

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

(sorry for the mistakes i'll make in writing, I'm french (Canadian))

For me, the keyword is differentiation...NOT TRUE that you will get all your students to listen to your vids...

NOT TRUE that you will cure eveybody and everything...

The flipped classroom should be a TOOL among others...

Merci! :))

Julie Bredy's picture
Julie Bredy
Seventh grade humanities teacher, working in Tunis, Tunisia

The goal for me is to increase student ownership of their understanding. Students have to meet any type of instructional delivery with an intent to understand. When they realize they don't, they then have to access strategies that help them get there and that might be listening to something I have recorded or getting instruction from a different voice or presentation from me.
I don't want to overlook the value of other students as part of the flip. I use a lot of "turn and talk" and have students break into groups to work through some learning. This is another way that I can get off of the stage and put the responsibility on them to verbalize their understanding with each other. I get so much formative information from listening in on the various conversations and then I can refocus the class and acknowledge excellent thinking I witnessed and also correct misinformation or procedure.
It's back to that gradual release of control we always practice with students.

Shelby's picture
Science Teacher

This is the first I've heard of a Flipped Classroom. I am interested. It seems to me like a Flipped Classroom could work for an honors science class. I do agree with you that the videos must not be any longer than a lecture would be. In the video I could do short demos or experiments to make it interesting and to show examples of the content being delivered. Then the next day the students could do hands on experiments that enforce the content. They could work together and I could help them with concepts they do not understand. I do not see a Flipped Classroom working with co-taught or merit classes.

Glenn Platt's picture

Excellent article. I wanted to provide some background, as it also has insights into best practices for the flipped classroom. I have been using the inverted classroom for 13 years. I wanted to make sure that you were aware of the origin and citation of the term "inverted classroom" and where it first began. There have been a number of folks taking credit for the concept. My colleagues and I authored an article in the Journal of Economic Education in 2000 titled "Inverting the Classroom" that is both the first time that term had been used and also outlines the model for what later has been called the flipped classroom.

A PDF of the article can be found here:
Or you can read this blog post about it here:

We have since lectured and led workshop on this for years. It has gained quite a bit of attention since Khan Academy has advanced the model, but it was first articulated in 2000.

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