A flipped classroom is a student-centered learning technique where instructors put their lectures and demonstrations on videos and use class time for discussion, questions, and applied learning. Students review and contextualize the course materials out of class, and the instructor uses a variety of active learning techniques to help the student practice and integrate the content during class.
Weekly Ed-Tech Spotlight:
LSA now has access to Playposit, a platform for interactive video! If you’d like to add quizzes, reflections, additional resources, and more to your course video, reach out to the LSA Learning and Teaching Consultants to help you get started.
The figure below contrasts the learning process of traditional lectures with a flipped classroom. The traditional lecture format has a major pedagogical drawback in that students encounter most major concepts only once they’re in class–and introducing those concepts leaves little to no time for instructors to guide students in actually processing or applying the material.
A flipped class introduces the concepts before class, and then assesses their understanding, ensuring that they did view the material and are prepared for the application exercises in class. The benefit of this arrangement is that the instructor is present for the practice segment of the learning process, and can guide students directly. In addition, it becomes far easier for students to actively work together to construct and apply their new knowledge, since they’re all present for that in-class activity.
There are many benefits to flipping a class, but there’s no denying that it takes time and thought to do effectively. Adopting a flipped classroom approach involves much more than simply posting the course content online. Here are some essential steps that have to be included for the best learning to happen.
In contrast to traditional class, students gain the first exposure to concepts through reading articles and course textbooks, by watching recorded videos before class, or by listening to podcasts or an interview with an expert. The first exposure material usually addresses the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, which are well suited to individual study and reflection. This is the first place an instructor needs to invest forethought: the quantity of the materials should be manageable, not simply added on top of the existing homework activities. It may be helpful to use a workload estimator to keep the out of class activities within bounds (only 3 hours for each contact hour per week). Video material can and should be compressed from the in-class version; the LTC and Instructional Video teams can help you with this. IIt will also help to make the course material as engaging as possible. Various tools such as interactive video and annotation tools, can be utilized to increase students’ interest and help them complete the assigned materials. Ask your LTC consultant for recommendations.
To ensure they complete the reading or viewing, and prepare for the in-class activities, use low stakes knowledge-check quizzes, Perusall annotation assignments, or an entrance-ticket assignment that students must complete before coming to the in-person class. Remember that these should be short! These are not final skill or knowledge assessments; rather, they are self-check opportunities to ensure students have the best chance of succeeding in the in-class activities. Explaining this to your students can help increase student buy-in to the learning process.
Class time in a flipped classroom is devoted to engaged learning. These activities should focus on the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy (application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and creation). In most cases, you will not need to create much extra work–students are literally doing their homework in class, so you will usually have at least the bones of the in-class activities already created. Now that students are doing this work in class, though, they can work in collaboration with peers and they can get immediate guidance and help from you. In class activities might be discussion, group projects, case studies, presentations, role playing and simulations. The LSA- LTC Learning Activity Glossary and the CRLT active learning Chart provide additional active learning ideas.
To help students review and firmly settle the content and their understanding of it, you might assign reflective essays or a short test after class. This final step is also a good place to prompt students to make connections between each week’s work and the larger issues or overarching concepts of the course.
Potential challenges of flipping
Trying a new approach for a single class even a few lessons will have its challenges. The following are real but not insurmountable.
Increased work load for the instructor. Time and effort is required to rethink and prepare both pre-class and in-class activities, but activities can often be reused without too much effort the next time the class is offered.
Decreased course content. With more student participation and dialogue, instructors may find that they are not able to “cover” as much material as they have in the past, so rethinking the scope or learning outcomes of the course may be necessary. It’s important to remember that the volume of material covered in a traditional lecture is often not actually fully covered. The concepts that are learned are retained for longer and applied more effectively with the active learning component.
Large classes have limited strategies available. The activities that can be feasibly facilitated in a really large class are fewer than those in a small class, but there are still many ways to engage students in applying concepts and peer learning. A mixture of mini-lectures and think-pair-share and/or the use of clickers can be effective even in really large classes.
Student resistance. For many students, being passive in a lecture is easier and less intimidating than being actively involved in a class. There may even be a false sense of having learned more in a lecture rather than in a potentially-frustrating hands-on activity. However, if asked afterwards, students often acknowledge that active, deeper learning experiences are more valuable and that they prefer meaningful learning in the classroom.
Be prepared for some students not being prepared. Even when instructors have taken the requisite steps to ensure that students are prepared for class, some students do come to class unprepared. If this happens, don’t re-lecture -- move forward anyway. Once students see that you are serious about supporting active learning in the classroom, they will likely be better prepared the next time.
Technology glitches. Who has ever used a new technology without some kind of technical issue? Be prepared for blips along the way and contact LSA Technology Services to help you both before and during class.
Designing a flipped course needs planning and preparation. If you wish to flip your course, it might be helpful to begin preparing the materials at least one semester beforehand, or you might wish to flip one to two class sessions at a time. LSA has many resources and teams to help! Please feel free to contact LSATSLearningTeachingConsultants@umich.edu to schedule a one-on-one meeting to help you start planning. You may also request a consultation here or call 734-615-0100 to schedule an appointment.
Resources and Research
Flipping your class- CRLT- University of Michigan
Flipping a Class: an online resource from the Faculty Innovation Centre, University of Texas at Austin
Flipped classroom strategies from Turn to Your Neighbour: The Official Peer Instruction Blog
7 Things You Should Know About Flipped Classrooms: Educause Learning Initiative white paper
The Flipped Classroom: A Brief, Brief History, by Bates, J. E., Almekdash, H., & Gilchrest-Dunnam, M. J. (2016).
Ryan, M. D., & Reid, S. A. (2016). Impact of the flipped classroom on student performance and retention: A parallel controlled study in general chemistry. Journal of Chemical Education, 93(1), 13-23.
University of Texas at Austin. (2019, October 24). Flipped Classroom.
Seery, M. K. (2015). Flipped learning in higher education chemistry: emerging trends and potential directions. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 16(4), 758-768.