What is a flipped classroom?
The flipped classroom is a pedagogic model where the typical structure of a lecture followed by self-study is reversed or flipped. There is no single model for a flipped classroom with many variations on the generic structure in which preparation precedes in-class work.
Pedagogically, the flipped classroom concept draws on such concepts as active learning, student engagement, collaboration, co-creation and androgogy.
The flipped classroom links in well with Bloom’s Taxonomy where he differentiated lower-order thinking skills (knowledge and comprehension) from higher-order thinking skills (application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation). The preparatory material gives students the opportunity to understand and comprehend the material so that the in-class and seminar time can be spent in the higher-order thinking areas.
How does it work?
Typically, before the lecture, students are asked to watch short videos, read journal articles or engage in other preparatory material. Using a self-study model, students can direct their learning to areas where they have little knowledge and skip over elements that they know well. Videos are often used as preparatory material and seen as a key element of the flipped classroom because students can easily access the material, moving through it at their own pace, rewinding and re-watching portions to ensure understanding or omitting sections they already understand. This approach contrasts with the traditional lecture model where students try to listen, capture and understand new material, all at the same time. The preparatory material could consist of podcasts, TED talks, YouTube videos or any other educational audio or video material. Multiple, short information packages are commonly used.
After the preparation, the in-class time is devoted to activities, exercises and discussion about the material. Tutors can build on the prior learning to introduce new concepts and/or test the understanding, application, evaluation or synthesis of the material already learnt.
What is the value?
The value of the flipped classroom comes from using the in-class time to work at higher cognitive levels which are linked to improved learning outcomes. The prior knowledge gained by students enables the tutor to lead a wide range of activities such as problem solving, case study review, co-creation, group working etc.
As a concept, the flipped classroom particularly helps international students where English is not their first language.
The tutor’s role in a flipped classroom
During the in-class sessions (rather than lectures) the lecturer (to use their traditional title) adopts a new role. "Less a sage on the stage and more a guide on the side" (Mackenzie 1998), the tutor operates as coach or advisor, encouraging and guiding students in individual enquiry and collaborative group work.
What are the challenges?
As with all pedagogic approaches, there are challenges. The challenges involved in flipped classrooms include:
- The digital literacy of the students to access and manipulate the preparatory material
- The tutor’s own skill and experience in this area
- Partial implementation, for example, using a one-hour recorded lecture as the preparatory material and then discussing the content in the lecture
- Student buy-in to complete the preparatory material
- Students may miss the class activities if they feel they have already acquired the necessary knowledge
- Physical space to facilitate and support group work.
Hutchings, M., & Quinney, A. (2015). The flipped classroom, disruptive pedagogies, enabling technologies and wicked problems: responding to 'the bomb in the basement'. Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 13(2), 106-119.