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."

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

I found this article 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 -

Michelle's picture
Kindergarten teacher

I had this same thought. Since it has been almost 2 years since you wrote this response, I am wondering if you still feel the same way.

Michelle's picture
Kindergarten teacher

Well said. Our state is investigating using on line learning for snow days in the future. I worry that its successful implementation will lead the "bean counters" down the path which you illuminate in your post.

Ragavi Roy's picture

Nice posting. The points suggested for best practice for the new concept are really informative and interesting. Thank you for sharing.

Ragavi Roy

crissy531's picture

Can flipped learning be beneficial to the online K-12 learning environment?

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

Hi Crissy531- I have a complicated relationship with flipped classrooms. :-) In a purely online environment, I think there're already a different set of expectations about how teaching and learning is going to happen. On the other hand, I don't love that the traditional flipped model reinforces a lecture model (though I can see how the video watching could be something *other* than a lecture, in the hands of the right teacher. It's certainly something we do in our online classes at AUNE). On the other hand (I have a lot of hands where this topic is concerned), I think there are some complex social justice issues that have to be addressed around online learning and flipped classrooms. How do homeless students access this kind of learning? Students who doesn't have reliable internet access- or any access (a real concern in rural and urban areas)? Does online learning and flipping just widen the accessibility gap? Like I said- I have a complicated relationship with this. What do you think?

MT's picture

Thanks for sharing. Insights and strategies that we can use to start up a "flipped" classroom. Need to start reversing our thinking on how it is best to educate our students.

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