Flipped Classrooms

How to better use your time with students.

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What Is flipped learning?

Flipped learning refers to flipping what your students traditionally do in class with what they do outside of class. Students engage with course materials (i.e., readings, lecture videos) by themselves prior to class and then use class time to work on activities (e.g., homework, problem solving, group work). Outside of class students engage in lower order cognitive processes such as memorizing and understanding (see Bloom's Taxonomy) and inside the classroom they work on more difficult processes such as application (Brame, 2013.) Some in-class activities might consist of discussions or debates, problem-based learning, group work or peer instruction.

Moving from traditional classroom learning to flipped classroom learning involves a transition from faculty-centered to student-centered learning. Designing a flipped classroom, therefore, focuses on what your students will do in class, rather than what you will tell them.

  Before Class During Class After Class
Traditional Students read materials. Students listen to the lecture. Students complete homework.
Flipped Students complete learning modules. Students practice applying key concepts with feedback. Students check understanding and extend learning to more complex tasks.

Adapted from University at Austin, Faculty Innovation Center.

Why would I want to flip my class?

There are many strong arguments for why a flipped classroom is a better model for teaching over the traditional lecture-based model. Flipped classrooms allow for:

  • A more productive use of class time. Instructors are able to guide students as they work.
  • Quick identification of struggling students and immediate help. Similarly, instructors can identify material all students are struggling with and adjust or review content.
  • Differentiated instruction.
  • Greater student-instructor interaction and for instructors to get to know their students better.
  • More time for students to develop a deeper level of understanding of course content.
  • A more engaging learning experience than a traditional lecture because students are actively participating.

While these arguments might be compelling on their own, flipping a classroom and changing how one teaches can involve a lot of risk. There is, however, a large amount of research supporting the benefits for this shift in teaching.

Researchers have found that:

  • Flipped classrooms allow for more content coverage and greater knowledge acquisition (Chen, Lui & Martinelli, 2017; Mason et al., 2013).
  • Flipped learning increases student achievement (Ferreri & O’Connor, 2013; Mason et al., 2013; Pierce and Fox, 2012).
  • Flipped classrooms provide more opportunities to hone verbal communication skills and to address any unresolved issues or questions (Ferreri & O’Conner, 2013).
  • Attendance is higher in flipped classrooms (McLaughlin et al., 2014).
  • Teachers who try flipped classrooms feel that they allow their students to move further into Bloom’s Taxonomy of Knowledge (Long et al, 2016).
  • Students tend to favor the flipped classroom over the traditional classroom (Long et al., 2016; McLaughlin et al., 2014; Seery, 2015).
  • Students like that the flipped classroom allows them to receive guidance and support in real-time as they work through class activities (Long et al., 2016). 

Things to consider before you flip your classroom

  • Initially it will be time consuming. You will need to both adapt your normal lecture for outside the class (e.g., recording videos, finding new readings) as well as translate homework activities for the classroom.
  • In-class activities need to be well-planned to ensure a fruitful learning experience and to avoid misusing class-time.
  • Students may be new to the idea of flipped learning and therefore confused. Students may also be resistant, expecting an expert to tell them what they should know. Consider explaining to students what a flipped classroom is, why active learning is important for their understanding, that it will be difficult and the importance of having completed assignments before class.
  • If students don’t complete out-of-class readings or videos before the lecture, facilitating in-class activities may prove to be difficult. Consider incentivizing completing these assignments with short in-class comprehension quizzes or asking students to complete a short assignment to illustrate they did the work. This Faculty Focus article discusses two ways to get students to complete reading assignments

Getting started

While there is no standard procedure for flipping a classroom, nor a setup that works for all classrooms, the following resources show you how you can flip your class, ways to assess a flipped class and examples of what others have done.

How to flip your class

Examples of flipped classrooms