Flipped learning (also called the flipped classroom) is an approach to learning in which technology is used to reverse the traditional role of classroom time. In the past, classroom time was spent teaching to students, but now with a flipped model, this time is used to encourage individualised learning and provide one-on-one help to students. It also improves student-teacher interaction. While the instructional or teachable content is still available in class, this content is mainly designed in such a way to be accessed outside of class time which is a great way for struggling students to learn at their own pace and come into class with more focused questions as they have a better grasp on what they do/don’t know and need assistance with.
Flipped learning could – simplistically (but inaccurately) be called ‘classroom teaching at home’ but it is more than that!
The teaching element may geographically, happen outside of the classroom, but the class time is spent by the teacher showing the full application of the knowledge, or correcting error in learning.
It’s also important to distinguish between a Flipped Classroom and Flipped Learning. These terms are not interchangeable, so we need to be intentional about how we use them. Flipping a class can, but not necessarily, lead to Flipped Learning. Many teachers will already flip their classes by having students read curriculum material outside of class, watch related videos, or solve additional challenges, but to engage in Flipped Learning, teachers must implement the following four pillars of Flipped Learning into their practice.
Pillar One: Flexible Environment
Flipped Learning allows us to make use of a number of different learning strategies; in the classroom, teachers will often physically arrange their learning spaces to accommodate a particular lesson or unit, to support either group work or independent study, depending on the lesson aims. With a flexible enviornment, we can create flexible spaces in which students choose when and where they learn. Furthermore, educators who flip their classes will be more flexible in their expectations of student timelines for learning and in how they assess student learning.
Pillar Two: Learning Culture
In the traditional model of teacher-centred education, the teacher is the main source of information (‘sage on the stage’). But, in contrast, the Flipped Learning model deliberately shifts instruction towards a learner-centred model, where class time is dedicated to exploring subject content in greater depth and creating richer learning opportunities. As a result of this movement, students are actively involved in the knowledge construction process as they actively participate in and can evaluate their learning in a manner that is personally meaningful. The learning experience creates a deeper understanding, a greater level of mastery and a more adept understanding of the curriculum content, which should result in higher levels of achievement and course satisfaction from the student.
Pillar Three: Intentional Content
Teachers who use Flipped Learning will continually think about how they can use the model to help their students to develop greater conceptual understanding, as well as procedural fluency in their subject. These teachers will determine what needs to be taught and what materials the students should explore on their own. Teachers will use Intentional Content to maximise their classroom time in order to adopt methods of student-centered, active learning strategies, depending on the pupil academic level and subject matter.
Pillar Four: Professional Educator
The role of a teacher is becoming even more important, and certainly more demanding. During class time, the teacher will continually observe their students, providing them with relevant feedback in the moment, and assessing their work and showing how progress can be made. Teachers will typically be reflective in their practice, connect with the other teachers in their department (and wider school) to plan how to improve their instruction, accept constructive criticism, and tolerate the level of controlled chaos in their classrooms. While teachers will take on a less visibly prominent role in a flipped classroom, they will still remain to be the essential component that enables Flipped Learning to take place.
What I love about Flipped Learning is the responsibility given to the student. I have written quite a few times here that learning does not and should not only happen when I am present. That means students can only learn for 1-3 hours a week. That’s not enough for me, and probably not enough for them.
Through the planning of learning, I can also guarantee learning will happen. The content will be constructed and explained in a manner that will be clear to the student but also give them control over the pace at which they learn.
Flipped Learning redresses the imbalance of learning. The teacher is still providing the instruction, but in a way that benefits the student and allows the student to make sure they understand what they are learning and achieve a greater level of mastery over the curriculum content.
But of course, there are drawbacks to Flipped Learning.
I know it is largely assumed – tablets and smartphones being widely embedded into society, Smart TVs and games consoles all having the ability to access online content, but there is still a section of our pupils who will not have their own hardware, or will need to share the hardware with a sibling or with parents. This does create access issues and so the teacher (and school) should be aware of this before implementing a flipped classroom model in a subject area or throughout the school.
A large factor in the success of a flipped classroom is based on trust. Can you trust your pupils to access the content and learn it? If they do, then the learning model will have a chance of succeeding; if they don’t, then you may have to spend time in class teaching, or helping pupils to catch up before you can move onto the material planned for that lesson.
The workload is also another element to consider. It is all frontloaded and can create a large amount of work for the teacher, in an already crowded workspace. This cannot be emphasised enough that this can create difficulties in transitioning into a flipped classroom model in light of the sheer amount of work needed to get it going.
Lastly, the flipped model can increase the amount of time pupils spend in front of a computer screen. Given the amount of time we had in lockdown, there has been a general reaction towards being classroom-based and this is understandable in many instances.
More to Come on this Subject
There is much more to this topic than this one post will allow. In the coming weeks and months, I have posts planned to cover topics like: visually explaining the flipped process; resources for the flipped classroom; how to setup a flipped classroom; when the flipped classroom won’t work; apps to create animated lessons for your flipped classroom; a list of apps to use for flipped learning; why flipped learning is important for your students; flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy and maybe a few more after all that!
On the whole, I believe there is much to be gained from flipped learning. On balance, it would be my position that (certainly within post-primary education) there is a place for this style of learning to feature as part of the school curriculum.
There needs to be space made for these skills to be developed in students as they progress towards the senior years of school and learning features as being driven by the individual, not the class teacher. There would also need to be high levels of control within the model, with a clear direction, checks and measures in place, so that the teacher could ensure that the discipline of learning was present so that pupils were not able to opt out and be left behind.
Thanks for visiting the site and spending some time with me as we explore this topic. Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.
See you again soon!