Flipped Classrooms

For some the flipped classroom has become synonymous with active learning. There are many ways to incorporate active learning into your courses, and the flipped classroom is but one of those methods. A flipped classroom is structured around the idea that lecture or direct instruction is not the best use of class time. Instead students encounter information before class, freeing class time for activities that involve higher order thinking.

Although flipping classrooms has long been the practice within certain disciplines (even if it was not given that name), the concept took off as technological changes made it easier to access and create educational materials. This approach assumes that there is no difference between a student listening to a lecture individually and with other students in class. There are plenty of ways these activities differ, and there are benefits that lecture can provide, such as create a social experience, students pick up from other students’ social cues. There are also strategies you can use to make lectures interactive (see our tipsheet on interactive lecture techniques).

Some of the benefits of a flipped classroom are:

  • it's flexible
  • students can learn at their own pace
  • students take responsibility for their learning
  • students learn rather than encounter material in class
  • there are more opportunities for higher level learning
  • it does not waste time transferring information to students when that information is available to them in books or online (Mazur 2009)
  • instructors and TFs work more closely with students, getting to know students better and providing better assistance
  • increased collaboration between students

Many teachers think that creating or finding sources for students to use outside of class is the most difficult part of implementing a flipped classroom. However, most of the benefits of a flipped classroom depend on what happens in the classroom instead of lecture. That makes it necessary to first plan how you will use class time before you begin to look for resources for students to use at home. A flipped classroom model involves a lot of work by students outside of class. Students will resent this work if they do not see how it frees class time to do things that help them learn.

You can chose to use this method in all or some of your classes. Either way, you'll want to follow these steps:

  1. Decide how you will use your class time and design those activities. Again, if you do not have a reason to flip your course, you should consider other active learning strategies or wait until you have an idea for how you could better use your class time.
  2. Find or create resources for students to use at home. These could be readings, audio files, websites, or videos. You do not need to create these sources, but you must make sure that all students have a way to access these materials. If you create the materials for students to use at home, use their feedback to revise it.
  3. Teach students how to use the material at home. Unlike when they are in a lecture, students cannot ask question as they arise, making note taking especially important. Working on their own, students will likely have distractions. Although students engage with media all the time, they may not know how to use educational audio or video clips. Make sure students have an incentive for doing the work on their own.