Flipped Learning

What is It?

The adoption of the “flipped” approach to teaching (sometimes called the inverted classroom) has been gaining in popularity in recent years. A group of educators from the Flipped Learning Network have proposed this common definition:

Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.
The definition statement from the Flipped Learning Network [PDF]

Reversing the traditional model of teaching—lecture followed by homework—flipped instruction means that before attending class, students engage in knowledge transfer or “first exposure” activities such as reading, listening to, or viewing a lecture. This may be followed by a short online assessment to ensure that students are engaging with the work. Then, class time is used for more dynamic and participatory activities such as problem-solving clinics, peer instruction, debates, labs, or working on assignments in groups and/or with direct instructor/TA support.

Like the best studio session or lab, the flipped classroom invites students to shift from being a passive presence in the classroom to becoming engaged, active participants in the learning process.

Although, this instructional model has been in practice in some disciplines for many years, its recent surge in adoption is due, in part, because of the availability of new technologies such as easy-to-learn screencasting software for recording lectures and perhaps in part due to high-profile media stories, such as Turning Education Upside Down in The New York Times (Rosenberg, 2013) and How ‘Flipping’ the Classroom Can Improve the Traditional Lecture in the Chronicle of Higher Education (Berrett, 2012).

Why do it?

Produced by Pennsylvania State University Teaching & Learning with Technology

  • Moving content delivery outside the class frees up in-class time for collaboration, inquiry-based learning, peer instruction, and contact time between students and teachers.
  • It encourages students to become responsible and active participants in their own learning.
  • Content is available for review or remediation. While some students may take good notes during a lecture, having the lecture, or highlights of it, available for later review can help students reconnect to that content.
  • It integrates well with the principles of Universal Design for Learning.

How to do it

Keep in mind that there is no single right way to implement the flipped method of instruction. Your students can benefit from even small modifications, such as incorporating more active learning techniques into the classroom and/or moving only some of the information dissemination outside of class. Whether you want to start out slowly or plan a complete course redesign, the Center for Teaching & Learning can consult with you on how to proceed. To start, we suggest that you consider points of the course where students typically need review or clarification, or where the class dynamic seems “flat“ e.g., having poor attendance, low engagement, or evidence of decreased learning. A few approaches are to:

  • move some of your introductory or review content out of the classroom. Create videos of your lectures, or parts of them, going into more detail on concepts that you know your students struggle with, historically. This allow students to “rewind the teacher” and review the content at their own pace.
  • try implementing some active learning techniques into your classroom teaching, such as:
    Question Box / Muddiest Point
    Ask students to anonymously write down on a piece of paper something from the lesson that’s unclear to them, a question they have about the content, or a problem they need help with. They can drop their questions into the box as they enter class (or at the end of class). Spend some time during each class time drawing from the box and answering the questions.
    Jigsaw Exercise
    There are many versions of this exercise, so this is an example of one of them. This activity has two parts.

    Part 1 Jigsaw

    The instructor identifies a list of topics (that are complex enough to be sufficiently challenging, while simple and focused enough to be manageable for this exercise). The students are organized into “expert groups” and are assigned one of the topics from the list. The goal is that they will become experts in that topic by researching, discussing, and preparing themselves to teach what they’ve learned to other students in the class.

    Part 2 Jigsaw:

    After the expert groups have had time to develop some expertise and prepare a lesson on their topic, they split up and the class forms into new “jigsaw groups” which consist of one member from each expert group. This allows each student in the jigsaw group to teach the others what they learned in their expert group.

    For example, the instructor of an 18th C. English Lit class chooses five poets: Percy, Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth, and Coleridge. This means there will be five “expert groups,” each studying one of these poets, instructed to focus on biographical information as well as looking into their work for themes of nature, idealism, and revolution.

    Because there were five expert topic groups, there will be only five students in each jigsaw group. (Therefore, depending on the size of the overall class, there may be many jigsaw groups. Having only five students in each jigsaw group ensures that every student gets a chance to teach what they’ve learned.) The faculty/TAs move around the room listening and ensuring accuracy. Members of the jigsaw groups may be asked to complete brief evaluations of one another’s lessons.

    This technique is one in which students are given a question or problem to quietly think (or write) about. Then they turn to a neighbor and discuss their responses. Pairs can then volunteer or be randomly called upon to share their ideas or demonstrate their problem solutions to the whole class. This can work well with clickers (read about clickers here) if a question is posed before and after to track how the pair/share process changes understanding or perspective.
    Classroom Debates
    Classroom debates require students to learn about a subject from more than one perspective, to be able to think critically about it, and to be able to formulate and express persuasive arguments and counter-arguments. Tips for conducting a classroom debate can be found at eHow: How to Conduct a Classroom Debate. and Hold a Class Debate. A sample debate rubric can be found here.

How to get help

Please check the CTL calendar of events because we offer workshops each semester on both the flipped classroom and screencasting. To consult with an individual member of the CTL staff on how to implement flipped instruction, see our contact page. For general requests, write to ctl@uvm.edu (email link).

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