What is a Flipped Classroom Anyways?
Have you heard of, participated in, or facilitated a “flipped classroom”? A flipped classroom, sometimes called an “inverted classroom”, is a relatively new instructional model that has been gaining traction. In a flipped classroom, we flip the traditional “sage on the stage” model on its head. Traditionally, the common model of instruction saw a professor/teacher/instructor at the front of the class lecturing to a classroom/amphitheater full of students listening and taking notes. This model can often yield a passive type of learning and there is a good chance that students’ minds will wander and there may be very little interaction between the teacher and the students, and between student peers. We’ve all experienced this type of class.
In the traditional model, students most often listen to a lecture and then leave class to complete problems, practice skills, and do various types of projects on their own. In the flipped classroom, focus is shifted from the instructor to the students during the classroom time. Students do their homework up front, prior to class, with this pre-work focusing on what would have traditionally been the lecture. The lecture content is presented to the students prior to coming to the classroom. Students normally watch a video of the lecture and/or interact with other digital content. All students must complete this work to be prepared for what will take place in the classroom afterwards.
The classroom time is then devoted to active learning, most often targeting the higher cognitive levels of learning objectives such as applying, analyzing or synthesizing. Activities can include collaborative group work based on the new content learned, instructors mentoring students working through problems or scenarios together, group discussions, and hands-on practice for skills. In short, instructors/professors turn into facilitators and, for the students, passive listeners turn into active learners during the scheduled class time.
Research Related to the Flipped Classroom Model
There has been much research done on the effectiveness of this model, across many subject domains. Beyond effectiveness, research has also looked into aspects such as student and teacher satisfaction with this model, the advantages and challenges of this model, and the variety of activities and digital tools being used to support this model.
A meta-analysis of 71 research articles, dated from 2000 to 2016, related to the flipped classroom was completed by Akçayır & Akçayır (2018). In their overview of the findings of this meta-analysis, they found that “In general, the flipped model in education yields positive results” (p. 343) and that the most frequently reported advantage was an improvement in student learning performance.
Common advantages and challenges reviewed in their 71 research studies were listed. In terms of advantages, the areas highlighted included: 1) learner outcomes e.g., improved performance, satisfaction, engagement, and motivation; 2) pedagogical contributions e.g., flexible learning, individualized learning, enhanced enjoyment, better preparation, and fostered autonomy; 3) time efficiency e.g., more efficient class time & more time for practice; 4) dispositions (i.e. attitudes towards) e.g., positive feedback, attitudes, perceptions from students and teachers; and 5) interactions e.g., student to instructor & student to peers.
In terms of challenges, the areas highlighted included: 1) pedagogical e.g., limited student preparation prior to class, students need guidelines while at home, students were unable to get help while on their own, & the inability of teachers to know if the students completed their pre-class work; 2) students’ perspectives e.g., time-consuming & increased workload; 3) teachers’ perspectives e.g., time consuming, higher workload; and 4) technological e.g., quality of videos, inequality of technological accessibility/competency, the requirement for infrastructure such as Internet in remote areas.
They also listed the main activities that they saw being used prior to class and in-class in the flipped classroom model. Some of the most common activities prior to class included: videos, readings, quizzes, asynchronous discussions, and PowerPoint presentations. Some of the most common activities in-class included: group discussions, small group activities, feedback, problem solving, questions & answers, case studies, hands-on experiments, and learning games.
In a more recent meta-analysis, completed by Roehling & Bredow (2021), they found that students in flipped classrooms reported greater satisfaction than those in lecture-based courses. They also found that flipped classrooms produced the greatest academic benefits in courses such as language, technology, and health-science, over, for example, mathematics and engineering courses. Their research also suggested that partially flipped courses can be more effective if, for example, the instructor/developer considers which content/activities lend themselves well to the flipped model and which don’t.
One particle study (Nouri, 2016), noted some additional interesting findings. The study (n = 240 students) showed that 75% of the students left the course with a positive attitude towards flipped classrooms. The research also showed that there was a general appreciation by students on the use of video lectures prior to class. On a Likert scale of 1-5, students found it useful to be able to: 1) pause the video lectures (mean of 4.52); 2) rewind the video lectures (mean of 4.48), 3) fast-forward the video lectures (mean of 4.04); and 4) watch video lectures in a mobile way (mean of 3.98) such as on the bus. All of this facilitates the student’s ability to reflect and learn at their own pace. The study also showed that there was a perceived increased learning greater amongst the lower achieving students than the higher achieving students. Nouri posited that lower achievers may appreciate more the ability to learn at their own pace through the use of lecture videos, rather than keeping up with a fast-paced classroom lecture.
Since COVID lock-downs, we have seen schoolhouse closings and the many benefits of distance learning. Could you imagine integrating the flipped classroom solely at a distance. Students, for example, could complete their pre-class work of watching video lectures and interacting with digital content prior to attending a virtual classroom for group discussions, break-out group work, working through scenarios together, and playing group online quizzes such as Kahoot. Assuming all students and the instructor have the required technology, reliable Internet, and sufficient technological competencies, this could increase distance learning student engagement, improve interpersonal & collaborative skills amongst students, and also make effective use of the instructor and student’s time during the scheduled virtual class.
As an instructor or learning developer, could you imagine giving this model of delivery a try? Although there is work up-front (e.g., to develop video lectures), there could be a big pay-off in terms of student learning performance and satisfaction. As a student, how would you feel about participating in this model? I would be happy to hear your thoughts and experiences related to the flipped classroom.
Akçayır, G., & Akçayır, M. (2018). The flipped classroom: A review of its advantages and challenges. Computers & Education, 126, 334–345. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2018.07.021
Campillo-Ferrer, J.M., & Miralles-Martínez, P. (2021). Effectiveness of the flipped classroom model on students’ self-reported motivation and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Humanities & Social Sciences Communications, 8(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-021-00860-4
Nouri, J. (2016). The Flipped Classroom: For Active, Effective and Increased Learning – Especially for Low Achievers. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 13, 1–10.
Roehling, P.,Bredow C. (2021). Flipped learning: What is it, and when is it effective?