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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

So. You've tried flipping your class, and it didn't go well. Or you've heard about flipping and want to try the approach, but you're pretty sure it won't work in your school. Don't give up yet -- with a slight twist, flipping might be possible for you after all.

Flipped classrooms -- where direct instruction happens via video at home, and "homework" takes place in class -- are all the rage right now, and for good reason. Early research on flipped learning looks promising. In its 2013 Executive Summary, the Flipped Learning Network reported that teachers who practice flipping have seen "higher student achievement, increased student engagement, and better attitudes toward learning and school."

But successful flipping has one big catch -- if it's going to work, the at-home learning absolutely must happen. And teachers have zero control over what happens at home. For one example, we can't guarantee reliable, consistent Internet access in every household -- not yet, anyway. Those committed to flipping have found creative fixes:

  • Arranging access before and after school
  • Lending out devices
  • Sending recorded lectures home on flash drives or DVDs

These are all workable solutions. Still, the extra work may dissuade some teachers from making the leap. And even if the technology issue is resolved, that doesn't help with chaotic home environments or students who have a tendency to let homework slide.

Modifying the Flipped Classroom Concept

None of these problems should stop us from trying, but there's another way to apply the flipped model without the problems associated with sending the work home. I'm calling it the "In-Class Flip."

The teacher records a lecture.

Credit: Jennifer Gonzalez

An In-Class Flip works like this. Just like with a traditional flip, the teacher pre-records direct instruction, say, in a video lecture. But instead of having students view the content at home, that video becomes a station in class that small groups rotate through. The rest of their time is spent on other activities -- independent work and group work, with some activities related to the lesson and others focusing on different course content. As with a traditional flip, the direct instruction runs on its own, which frees the teacher for more one-on-one time with students.

This video shows you how to do it:


Besides the fact that it avoids the home-related problems of a traditional flip, the In-Class Flip has other advantages as well:

  1. The teacher can observe whether students are really watching. When attention starts to stray, the instructor can get students back on track right away. To boost accountability even more, try a platform like Educanon, which allows you to embed any video into an online multiple-choice assessment that you create yourself.
  2. The initial exposure to the video content has a better chance to sink in. The teacher can answer questions with more immediacy. And for students who struggle, the instructor can send them directly back to the video for a refresher.
  3. Hardware is (presumably) safer. There's less risk of a device getting broken or lost if it remains in the classroom.

Students go to a station for the lecture.

Credit: Jennifer Gonzalez


In-Class Flipping is not without its own challenges:

  1. It doesn't make for tidy one-period lesson plans. With short daily class periods, you won't be able to do a single-day flip. You need enough stations to provide work for students who haven't seen the video and some for those who have. That kind of rotation takes time. Instead of individual days, plan in bigger chunks of time where students have weekly goals and can reach them at their own pace, in any order. Traditional flips pose similar management challenges, but experienced flippers have figured out how to make it work. The discussion forums on the Flipped Learning Network offer great ideas and advice.
  2. More preparation is required at the beginning. Setting up and fine-tuning stations -- not to mention recording videos -- takes time, so start slow. Once you've been flipping for a few years, you'll have stations and videos that can be recycled.
  3. Technically, you don’t "gain" more class time. Because the traditional flip moves the direct instruction outside of school hours, there is more time for classwork. The In-Class Flip can't do this. But think about those cases where traditional flipping results in unevenly prepared classes -- in these scenarios, the teacher has to catch up students who didn't do the home viewing, so the net gain may ultimately be pretty low.

Top-down view of stations within a classroom.

Credit: Jennifer Gonzalez

Flipping is a great way to take advantage of new technologies, and it's still in its infancy. If it hasn't worked for you yet, don't throw that baby out with the bathwater. Try an In-Class Flip.


Comments (38)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Roslyn Wikoff's picture

I have been learning about all the different kinds of online learning. I believe what you explained is also called a station rotation model. Our school district is just beginning this journey into blended learning and I believe most of my teachers will begin by using the Station Rotation model. I really enjoyed your video with the rotations animated. It gave me a good idea of how I can help the teachers I coach to visualize what this might look like in their classroom. I especially liked the idea of the types of stations that might be included. While I coach around math, I can easily see how these stations could be more math based. The rotation between 5 and 6 seems to be critical for the students and their understanding. I also like how in your video you showed what the teacher was doing during the first rotation and also the subsequent rotations. Thank you for sharing all of your great ideas.

Beth Makowski's picture

Thank you Jennifer!

The difference I see between the Station Rotation Model and the In-Class Flip is that students are watching the lecture in the classroom, instead of doing other research, lessons, publishing, or assessments on-line. Our student population is such that most kids do not have access to the internet at home, or have a computer. They do have their phones, but this can become frustrating. The other half will not do any work at home. It is a problem with the established culture in our school, and we are trying to change the behavior. Our expectations are high, yet the kids do not want to rise to the occasion. I feel that using the In Class Flip in our classrooms, would benefit both teachers and students. As our school is in its infancy with blended learning (i.e. we are starting it the first day of school), I think this concept would be the perfect fit for our students' and teachers' needs!

jgray1's picture

I have been thinking a lot about a flipped model but as you state in the video, it can be difficult to implement due to factors beyond a teacher's control. I was happy to come across your video and explanation of an in-class flip! My district is embracing blended learning and although it won't immediately be fully implemented at the first grade level that I teach, I can see so many ways to use an in-class flip. I can record short lectures using realia and vocabulary and create stations that practice the concept we are working on. I want to try doing this with science and social studies lessons. There are many concepts that I want the students to truly own so I think implementing my videos with opportunities to view them multiple times will benefit my first graders. I can even record how a science station is done step-by-step so when small groups or partners are ready for their hands-on experiments they will better understand what to do.

acline's picture

Reading the article "Modifying the Flipped Class flip: The in Class Version" excited me. This school year we will be working towards becoming more of a Blended Learning environment. As I was setting up my classroom I kept this in mind. I found it comforting that the way I set up my classroom is highly conducive to the "in class flip model. I will not have student iPads, but I have 3 computers and a promethean board. So, I set up two of the computers to be used as stations and one computer to run the promethean board. I like the idea of one open station and a silent reading for those who have finished. As stated in the video, this model works better with a self contained classroom. I will need to work on how my students will move from station to station over a week. Overall, it looks promising.

Tiffany McCall's picture

I love this idea! I teach 4th grade and although I like the idea of a traditional flipped classroom, there are some challenges with younger students and I think this option would be even more effective. I also see it as a great option for differentiation. One of the challenges of the station rotation is who gets to which station first, or in other words, who gets the "instruction" before the practice and who gets it after. Using this model the teacher can support the practice and apply rather than technology being the practice and apply. Exciting!

Kristin N's picture

I was very excited to see this because this is my exact vision as my school moves into the blended learning classroom. I do not believe that the flipped classroom will be the most effective learning method for my students, especially since many do not have access to technology or the parent support needed at home to make this worth the effort. I really like the idea behind the flipped classroom because it maximizes teacher time with students one-on-one and in small groups. Therefore, I have decided to try it in addition to the station rotation model. Seeing this only confirmed my decision and I am excited to slowly work the change into my teaching. Looking forward to more 21st century learning to come!

Christine's picture

I really like this article about the modified flipped classroom. Like some of the others have said, this is more like what we are trying this year at our school, and I like that it gives more information about how to do this. It combines the rotation model with the modified flipped classroom to make it possible to do in class. While the challenges are true and we need more plan time to get started, I think that this is a way to successfully implement blended learning into the classroom. We just need to know how to find the data we need to plan instruction, and we need to know how to plan groups accordingly.

Ken Wong's picture

Hey Jennifer, I really enjoyed your article on In Class-Flip and video, well done. As others and yourself have mentioned, the blended or rotation activities lends well with flipped lesson activities incorporated into the lesson. Obviously Nawal had other thoughts which I do not totally agree with, I don't think you were renaming the concept of flipped learning but illustrating how it fits in with some of your teaching strategies. Most readers obviously agree and appreciate your efforts and I think Nawal's overly "wordy" response was missing the point. Keep up the good work.

Ingrid Dillehay's picture

I agree with some that I would just call this what it is, which is station rotation. I appreciate this model, because the teacher knows that the students have seen the instruction. There are also less barriers due to no technology at home.

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