Authored by Kate Ropchan and Ginelle Stutt - March 2013
The flipped classroom is a blended learning teaching approach in which students obtain first exposure to course content before class through instructional videos or other means. They then spend time in class deepening their understanding of that content through active learning exercises, activities, labs, and other practical applications. This approach is also known as 'flip teaching', the 'inverted classroom', or 'reverse instruction'. In a flipped or inverted model, students experience what would have taken place in a traditional classroom, for example a content-based lecture, at home, using modern technology to assist with self-paced learning (Lage, Platt, & Treglia, 2000). Students attend class having pre-prepared for the daily topic by watching/re-watching instructional videos, or other activities as assigned by the teacher. In class, the primary focus of the lesson is to assist students individually with concept-based questions for parts of the lesson they do not understand or need to master (Bergmann & Sams, 2012). Why would a teacher look to invert the classroom? Why do teachers attempt new approaches in classrooms? These questions will be addressed as the context around the emergence of the flipped teaching becomes clear. Even though research is current and ongoing, the flipped model of teaching and learning offers a unique perspective in regards to academic results and progress. Trials can be run in schools where the same course is taught in multiple sections and by different teachers. Or, the same course can be taught by the same teacher who uses the traditional versus the flipped approach, allowing for qualitative and quantitative comparison of results. One of the early purposes of the flipped model was to help with student achievement; therefore it is important not only to understand the model itself, but also to gauge if the modern inversions have aided academic achievement.
The flipped model: Assisted by technological development
As with new teaching strategies or models, situational factors affect the rise and development of new pedagogical approaches. The flipped model emerged for several key reasons, ranging from basic technological advance, a key aspect in which the model is foregrounded, to having to meet practical needs of modern teaching and learning, to acknowledging change in prevailing attitudes about who is responsible for student learning.
Maureen Lage, Glenn Platt and Michael Treglia pioneered inverted instruction in 2000 at Miami University with their introductory economics courses. They found that flip teaching enabled instructors to accommodate students' distinct learning styles, and the majority of their students preferred this format to the traditional lecture-homework model (Lage et al., 2000).
J. Wesley Baker (2000) famously described the evolution of the classroom teacher from “the sage on the stage” to “the guide on the side”. Baker presented his paper "The classroom flip: Using web course management tools to become the guide by the side" at the 11th International Conference on College Teaching and Learning in which he advocated the use of online programs to present instructional material online as homework, allowing students to spend class time on active learning activities and collaboration with peers (Baker, 2000).
Salman Khan, founder and director of The Khan Academy, explains in his 2011 TED Talk, 'Let's Use Video to Reinvent Education, that his first interaction with creating online videos for teaching purposes was to tutor his distant cousin in 2004. When he began his helpful work, Khan did not plan to revolutionize the traditional instructional model of teaching, only to be more efficient with convenient resources. Khan was a key developer of the movement in video-based education that foregrounded and facilitated the emergence of the flipped model. Khan observed a broad national and international response to the educational videos he placed online, and realized that much free instruction could happen with a willing audience (Khan, 2011). His educational foundation was one of the earliest examples of how learning could easily occur in a private, independent setting.
In 2007, Woodland Park High School chemistry teachers Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams became driving forces in flip teaching at the secondary level when they recorded their lectures and posted them online in order to accommodate students who missed their classes (Bergmann & Sams, 2012). Bergmann and Sams (2012) note that one person cannot be credited with having invented the inverted or flipped classroom; moreover, there is no one 'right' way to flip a classroom as approaches and teaching styles are diverse, as are needs of schools.
In addition, educationalists have acknowledged several important contextual factors that have contributed to the successful emergence and implementation of the flipped model.
- Student-centered approach: teachers demonstrate an increased desire to place responsibility for learning directly with students. In modern education, there is an increased value on developing student-centered approaches (Lents & Cifuentes, 2009; Bergmann & Sams, 2012; Ryback & Sanders, 1980).
- Technological advancement: video-making and recording technology proliferated and became increasingly user-friendly. The reality of teachers creating educational videos became more commonplace with emergent technologies such as ItunesU, Camtasia Studio, and Voice Over Power Point
- Participatory culture on the internet: many students are online at home, and they participate regularly on the internet via chat rooms, discussion forums, and social networking sites. Modern students accept being online and this facilitates success with an approach that is internet based.
- High rates of absenteeism: students who are absent from school due to health, travel, sport involvement and other reasons find video-based learning facilitates catch-up work without placing teachers under extra strain (Alvarez, 2011).
Traditional vs flipped approach: how technology can assist
The traditional model of classroom instruction involves the teacher as the central focus of a classroom setting and lesson. The teacher is the primary disseminator of information, the answerer of questions, and the controller of behaviour. Students defer directly to the teacher for guidance, instruction and feedback. In a classroom that operates within a radically traditional style of instruction, lessons are teacher-centered, and discipline oriented (Ryback & Sanders, 1980). As instructional models and teaching philosophies have evolved, so too have pedagogical methods. In a traditional classroom, class activities involve teacher-driven lessons where content is conveyed in the lesson, and if time allows, students work independently or in small groups on an application task. Discussions are primarily centered on the teacher who controls the flow of discussion. In a traditional model of instruction, a challenge a teacher faces is how to work independently with students, regularly. As the classroom has modernized particularly within the last decade and with the rise of educational technologies, for some teachers, frustration has risen as content delivered in lessons is not always translated into meaningful knowledge at home (Bergmann & Sams, 2012).
In a traditional teaching approach, students are reliant upon the teacher for information. With the advent of helpful technologies, the teaching role is externalized to an extent within the educational videos or home-based activities.
Benefits to a flipped classroom
- Increased teacher-student interaction (Bergmann & Sams, 2012; Koller, 2011; Lage et al., 2000)
- Creates a more learner-centered classroom environment (Brown, 2012)
- Students see the value of cooperation and a collaborative learning approach to completing the course (Frederickson, Reed, & Clifford, 2005; Strayer, 2012)
- Flipping provides a personalized experience similar to individual tutoring (Koller, 2011)
- Flipping helps struggling students by affording them the opportunity to pause and rewind the lecture, and to get more help in class (Bergmann & Sams, 2012; Koller 2011)
- Teachers have more opportunities to pinpoint which students need remediation and with which concepts (Sparks, 2011)
- Students are more willing to ask questions in class (Lage et al., 2000)
- Students who excel at a topic may be able to work ahead, "avoiding boredom and disengagement" (Koller, 2011, p. 2)
- Student absences have less of an impact because lessons are now accessible from home (Alvarez, 2011; Bergmann & Sams, 2012)
- Presenting course content in short segments rather than long lectures is better suited for students' attention spans (Koller, 2011)
- Many classroom management problems disappear as students don't need to sit quietly and listen to their teacher lecture (Bergmann & Sams, 2012) and they are able to get one-on-one help when needed (Alvarez, 2011)
- More assignments are completed and to a much higher quality than when they were assigned as homework (Alvarez, 2011)
- The use of technology integrates the digital language of today's students (Bergmann & Sams, 2012)
- Multi modal learning through animations and videos enhances retention (Sadaghiani, 2012)
- Flipping educates parents and increases transparency in the learning process (Bergmann & Sams, 2012)
- Flipping is an effective technique for absent teachers (Bergmann & Sams, 2012) because when an educator is absent from class, a video can be made for that day and a substitute teacher will have a clearer idea of the topic and how to help students (Alvarez, 2011).
- The flipped model videos can be used for enhanced exam preparations (Strayer, 2012).
Criticisms of a flipped classroom
- Increased preparation: creating high quality videos requires teachers to contribute significant time and effort outside of regular teaching responsibilities (Bergmann & Sams, 2012).
- Additional funding: teachers may need additional training in order to negotiate computerized technologies involved with successfully implementing the inverted model (Sparks, 2011).
- Economic ‘digital divide’: not all families are from the same socio-economic background. Access to computers/video-viewing technology outside of the school environment is not possible for all students, despite accomodations made by willing teachers. This new model of instruction may put some families in awkward situations with trying to gain access to videos outside of school hours (Nielsen, 2012; Toppo, 2011).
- Student irresponsibility: students in a self-directed in-class and home learning environment may not be at the developmental stage required to keep on-task with independent learning (Nielsen, 2012; Strayer, 2012; Toppo, 2011; Lents & Cifuentes, 2009).
- Increased computer time: criticism already exists about adolescents spending too much time in front of computer screens. Inverted models that rely on computerized videos do contribute to this, particularly if videos are long (Nielsen, 2012).
- Watching videos is still homework: many parents and educators believe that students should be given enough time to complete all schoolwork in class (Nielsen, 2012). If students have multiple flipped classes, then they may spend large amounts of time viewing videos outside of school.
- Lecture approach: students don't necessarily learn by watching a teacher talk. Watching instructional videos at home is still representative of a more traditional form of teaching. For many students, a constructivist approach would be more beneficial (Nielsen, 2012).
- The home portion of a flipped lesson does not offer attendance records. Schools cannot track if students have received instruction (Lents & Cifuentes, 2009).
- Teacher charisma and enthusiasm necessary for meaningful learning can be lost in distant education scenarios such as a classroom flip (Lents & Cifuentes, 2009).
Suggestions for Implementation
The logistics of implementing a flipped classroom approach include making or finding high-quality videos and/or appropriate activities to be used during class time. The set-up time for creating an inverted model within a curriculum is significant as teachers must assess if the model is appropriate, gather and build necessary resources, brief students appropriately, deliver the curriculum, and allow important time for reflection and feedback after the flip has occurred. There are many organizational and practical considerations teachers should be aware of before starting the first flip.
Firstly, educators should consider whether a video is the best instructional tool for the desired educational outcome (Bergmann & Sams, 2012). If not, then videos should not be used. If a video is an appropriate instructional tool, then proceed with planning one. If you are comfortable with video-recording technology, then creating your own video is probably the best choice. If not, then it may be best to use videos produced by other teachers. With the explosion of YouTube and other video sharing sites, the number of educational videos available is steadily increasing. It may be possible to find appropriate videos by doing a simple search online. The Khan Academy also provides excellent instructional video segments (Khan, 2011).
Teachers who choose to make their own videos may use any screencasting program that captures what is on their computer screen, such as Screencast-O-Matic. A microphone is required to capture the instructor's audio, and a webcam can capture a small image of the instructor's face as they proceed through the lesson. A digital pen is useful, especially for lessons that involve mathematical problem solving (Bergmann & Sams, 2012). Other features, such as video clips and post-production items can be added after the initial recording is complete to enhance the quality of the videos.
The easiest way to make the videos is to record live direct instruction for one unit, then use this the following year to implement the flipped classroom teaching approach (Bergmann & Sams, 2012; Lage et al., 2000). Alternatively, teachers can record videos in their own time outside of class. It is particularly helpful when two instructors record videos together, as watching a conversation can be more interesting than watching one person talk (Bergmann & Sams, 2012).
Here are some tips for creating high quality educational videos:
- Keep it short (a good guideline is less than 10 minutes)
- Keep to your topic
- Vary the inflection of your voice
- Make the video a conversation between two teachers
- Add humour/sense of teaching 'self' to make videos more engaging to watch
- Digitally write on the screen for active engagement
- Add callouts to draw attention to key elements
- Zoom in or out to emphasize different points
- Follow copyright laws
- Consider making videos available to students whether a flipped model is used, or traditional instructional methods (Lents & Cifuentes, 2009)
- Be aware of student perceptions around the use of videos as part of a new instructional strategy; consider surveying students beforehand to obtain a sense of students' impressions of the inverted methodology
In class activities:
The greatest benefit to any flipped classroom is not the videos. Rather, it is the additional in-class time that can be used for hands-on, authentic learning experiences (Alvarez, 2011; Bergmann & Sams, 2012; Koller, 2011). Students can work collaboratively on problems while the instructor circulates, allowing the teacher to hear and correct misunderstandings on the spot. Learning activities may include the use of differentiated instruction and project-based learning (Alvarez, 2011). More time is spent in class on the upper end of Bloom's taxonomy as students tackle difficult problems, work in groups, research, and construct their own knowledge with the help of their peers and their instructor (Bennett et al., 2011).
How Departments can use the Flipped Model: In-class time can be used for a variety of different activities, depending on the subject matter. In foreign language classes, teachers are recording grammar lessons and using the freed up class time to increase conversation, write stories, and read literature in the target language (Bergmann & Sams, 2012). Math teachers report using the extra class time to actively help their students form a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts, using math manipulatives and emerging technologies (Bergmann & Sams, 2012). Science classes under the flipped model have more time to engage students in inquiry-based activities and conduct in-depth laboratory experiments (Bergmann & Sams, 2012; Sparks, 2011). Humanities instructors find more time for students to delve into original document analysis, debate, give speeches, discuss current events, write, and analyze their peers' writing (Bergmann & Sams, 2012). Physical Education teachers can use the flipped classroom approach to explain the rules of games through instructional videos, freeing up class time for increased physical activity (Bergmann & Sams, 2012). English teachers can use record mini grammar lessons and use class time for active practice; upper level English classes can use instructional videos to demonstrate annotation skills or outlining practice, allowing for increased hands-on practice in lessons. Art teachers could record mini-lectures about skill development and technique, allowing for more time to be spent in the art room in active practice, allowing for the teacher to circulate and help students develop key skills. Music teachers could use the flipped model to have students view or listen to music at home so ideas could be processed in class.
The flipped-mastery classroom
The basic idea behind mastery learning is that students are independently capable of mastering subject content under the appropriate learning conditions (Bloom, 1968). The assumption behind mastery learning is that students should have complete fluency with content and not just a schematic understanding. It is the task of the instructor to determine what is meant by mastery of the topic and to determine how individual differences can be accounted for in order to enable students to attain such mastery (Bloom, 1968). The classroom environment is very important so mastery can occur. Students must be able to work in a setting that is conducive to learning and supportive of individual learning needs.
In the flipped-mastery classroom, students learn a series of objectives at their own pace. Asynchronous activity occurs as students each work on mastering separate learning outcomes. Within a flipped-mastery classroom, some students may be conducting experiments or working on other inquiry activities, some students may be watching instructional videos on class computers or on personal devices, some students may be working collaboratively in groups, some students may be working on online simulations, and some may be taking assessments on a class computer or personal device (Bergmann & Sams, 2012). Instructors move around the room, interacting with students and providing remediation.
The benefit of this instructional model is that learners are able to proceed at the pace that is appropriate for them. Students who struggle with a concept are given more time to work through it and teachers offer necessary remediation, while students that excel are able to work ahead and master other content. Technology is leveraged to make mastery possible as students learn by watching the appropriate instructional video for the outcome they are currently focused on, rather than all students being required to learn the same objective at the same time through a live lecture. Learning becomes more personalized and the classroom can be differentiated for all students (Bergmann & Sams, 2012).
Does using a flipped model aid achievement?
The field of education is populated by those who care about helping students to learn content effectively so progression in learning can occur. It is well known that students have different learning styles thus it is necessary to diversify the teaching approach so various learning styles can be accessed with the ultimate aim that practical skills can develop. Therefore, researchers must conduct qualitative and quantitative research on new pedagogical approaches so educationalists can determine if new methods are useful and conducive to the learning process. Does flipping a classroom aid achievement when compared to traditional methodology? Qualitative research methodologies such as focus groups, interviews, and observations are important for gaining student, teacher and parent impressions, feedback, and suggestions for improvements to the model's implementation. Experimentation is necessary to obtain a statement of statistical significance related to cause and effect: in regards to student achievement, does the inverted method offer higher achievement results than traditional manners of teaching? Flipped model research is ongoing, but here is an summary overview of some results:
Lage, Platt & Treglia (2000): these researchers used the inverted approach with microeconomics classes at Miami University, Florida, USA. The key methodological approach was purely qualitative so cause and effect is not inferred. Students expressed in self-report data that they took more ownership over their work and were more likely to ask questions in a one-to-one scenario with the teacher. Students also indicated that the choice of methods they could use in the class activities was helpful. Students valued in-class activities, and according to teachers, appeared more motivated in the learning process. The majority of students preferred the inverted approach to the traditional lecture/homework model.
Lents & Cifuentes (2009): these researchers conducted experimental research with a majors level Biology course at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, USA. Lectures were delivered to one group in traditional form. The experimental group received Voice-Over PowerPoint video lectures at home, by the same instructor. Using a p=0.05 confidence interval, early results indicated that students who received instruction through video lecture format yielded exam results similar to students taught in the classroom. A statement of statistical significance was not achieved through these results. Researchers note that in this research, video lectures are "as effective as live lectures in the delivery of content in the Bio 104 course" (p. 44).
Strayer (2009): this researcher compared learning environments of an inverted introductory statistics class with a traditional statistics class at Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee, USA. Strayer used quantitative analysis (CUCEI/MANOVA scales, t-tests) and grounded theory approach to analyze qualitative data. Scales under investigation were: personalization, innovation, student cohesion, task orientation, cooperation, individualization, and equity. After quantitative data analysis, students in the flipped model class showed a preference for environments with greater innovation and cooperation when compared with the traditional class.
Sadaghiani (2012): this researcher conducted research experiments with calculus-based physics classes at Cal Poly Pomona University, California, USA. In student self-report data, he noted marked increases in engagement with preparatory activities. Significant increases were also noted with students watching web-based multimedia learning modules (MLMs) compared with students' significantly lower completion of text readings prior to lessons. Experimental data also showed that students showed larger gains in the Concept Survey of Electricity and Magnetism (CSEM)15 diagnostic test compared with sections taught with traditional methods. Students who experienced MLMs performed better with class discussion questions after viewing prelectures. Concurrent results were obtained in the implementation of mechanics modules.
This is a brief snapshot of some results of flipped model research. Results overviewed here are representative of older student populations and do not represent a younger target population. Interesting trends should be noted with student engagement, and to some extent, academic achievement.
Points for further research
How do research results compare for flipped model implementation between public and private school systems?
What are the results from cross-cultural implementation?
Are there certain ages the flipped model approach works best with?
Do males and females work within a flipped model in similar ways?
How can schools best support implementation of a flipped model approach to increase teacher buy-in?
How can a flipped model be used to support inter-departmental projects?
How can students be incorporated into the video-making sequence?
Do class sizes impact results in a flipped model classroom?
Which subjects benefit the most from this approach?
"Some of the students that have struggled in the past (according to their parents) are doing much better because of my ability to work with them ... one-on-one in class, helping with objectives they are having trouble with" - Brett Willie, Dallas, Texas (as cited in Bergmann & Sams, 2012, p. 23).
"I was trying to figure out how to get students from the passive mode - 'you are responsible for teaching me' - to the ownership mode - 'I am responsible for what I learn or refuse to learn'" - Jennifer Douglass, Macon, Georgia (as cited in Bergmann & Sams, 2012, p. 61).
"Immediately, I noticed that this method of teaching was great for my high students and my low students. The high students were able to use time in class to work through many more questions than usual, and also solved more challenging questions. They got it, and really didn’t need to waste their time waiting for other students to get it before starting on their work." - Jennifer, a teacher from an international school in Switzerland, 2013.
"The flipped classroom seems to be a much better use of the teacher's time. It also is less frustrating for the student when they need extra help as the teacher is available during class time ending the necessity of going in before/after school to get needed help" - Parent of a 12th grade Calculus student (as cited in Fulton, 2012, p. 16).
"Prior to the flipped classroom, we had to pay for a math tutor. Now our son is feeling more confident and hasn't needed the tutor because he is able to get his questions answered on a daily basis" - Parent of a 10th grade Geometry student (as cited in Fulton, 2012, p. 16).
"I like that we watched the concept at home, but then mastered the concept in class" - 10th grade Algebra student (as cited in Fulton, 2012, p. 14).
"I liked this approach a lot because when we work on homework in the classroom, [the teacher is] here to help us. Otherwise, I would be lost at home and wouldn't be able to finish my homework because I would have no idea how to do it" - 11th grade Precalculus student (as cited in Fulton, 2012, p. 14).
"I liked how I could rewind and pause the lectures in case I didn't understand something" - 12th grade Calculus student (as cited in Fulton, 2012, p. 14).
"Sometimes the video notes can become a little fast and hard to keep up with, but asking questions the next day helps [me] to understand" - 11th grade Precalculus student (as cited in Fulton, 2012, p. 14).
"Well, I think like what he said. To a large extent it's just acting like an adult and putting value in your own education to be motivated to care and like do it" - first year Biology student, 'Jenny' (as cited in Strayer, 2012, p. 185).
In the video above, Bergmann and Sams’ students discuss their thoughts about learning under the flipped mastery model of education.
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Strayer, J. F. (2012). How learning in an inverted classroom influences cooperation, innovation and task orientation. Learning Environments Research, 15(2), 171-193. doi:10.1007/s10984-012-9108-4