Pondering the “flipped classroom” in the age of online education

“Flipping the classroom” means using class time differently than you would in the traditional mode of instruction — which is to say this: Why waste class time lecturing/presenting during class meeting times when you can ask students to listen to lectures via video outside of class, and then use class time for interaction with students, hands-on group activities, group problem solving, in-class writing, etc.? “Flipping the classroom” means flipping the usual mode of learning — instead of lecturing in class and assigning homework for outside of class, you flip it: lecture gets done outside, homework inside.

At Miami University we have been talking about this pedagogical approach as the “engaged learning” model. But well over ten years ago, my AIMS colleague Glenn Platt and his co-authors (Lage, Platt, & Treglia, 2000) coined the term “inverted classroom” to describe this mode of teaching and learning. It is by no means a new model, but it is taking on new meaning in the realm of online education. How do we apply the inverted or flipped classroom model in online instruction — particularly in my field, writing instruction?

Flipped Classroom Blackboard
OK, we have students listen to lectures — video lectures — outside of class. Sounds like a good idea, but will it work?  When instructors assign students reading outside of class, how often and how thoroughly do they do it? My experience is, So-so, 50-50. Same could apply to video lectures: Will students listen to video lectures and gain value from them? Or, might there be some advantage to the live and interactive nature of a face-to-face classroom lecture, at least the kind that is not the drone monologic speech but is an actual interactive presentation that allows for give-and-take with students? Of course the answer lies to a great extent in how effectively designed the video lecture/presentation is: How dynamic is it? How visual? Is it effectively designed for its audience (students) and their learning style and level of knowledge? Is the video itself engaging, even interactive? How do we design video lectures that meet this standard?

Be cautious about video lectures, because, as Kevin Makice puts it, “Moving a lecture online changes where that information is consumed, not necessarily the degree of student engagement or its effectiveness” (Makice, 2012). The key to learning is to increase student engagement — their engagement with the course materials, yes, but even more importantly their level and quality of interaction with other students and with the instructor. (Funny how we keep coming back to the importance of that rhetorical concept: interaction.) The other key to learning is production. Students need to be making and doing things for the reason Makice states: “As learners, we humans only retain 10% of what we read and 20% of what we hear, but we comprehend 90% of what we say and do.”

I believe in the value and efficacy of the flipped classroom, and in the value of interaction and production activities in the classroom: Let’s have more writing, more speaking, more doing, and more interacting; less passive listening or “whole class discussion” (a favored mode of instruction in the humanities, but one of dubious value … how many actually participate in “whole class discussion”?).

Ultimately, whether the flipped or inverted classroom model will lead to better teaching and learning depends on the quality of the design, scaffolding, and coordination of the varying modes of instruction. Obviously we can’t just take a generic video off the shelf and say, “Here, listen to this,” and expect student learning to improve. As we move toward using more pre-packaged modules and videos for online classes — e.g., we are now assigning YouTube videos as “readings” — we will need smart, sensitive, knowledgeable teachers to make the necessary strategic choices for students, to scaffold and coordinate class activities, to advise and evaluate student work, and to design the all-important how of pedagogical delivery.

- updated May 7, 2012

References
Bergmann, Jonathan, & Sams, Aaron. (2012, April 15). How the flipped classroom is radically transforming learning. The Daily Riff.

Berrett, Dan. (2012, February 19). How “flipping” the classroom can improve the traditional lecture. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Charania, Shafeen. (2009, September 17). Inversions. Synthesis.

Lage, Maureen J., Platt, Glenn J., & Treglia, Michael. (2000). Inverting the classroom: A gateway to creating an inclusive learning environment. Journal of Economic Education, 31(1), 30-43.

Makice, Kevin. (2012, April 13). Flipping the classroom requires more than video. GeekDad.

Zellner, Andrea. (2012, February 21). Flipping out? What you need to know about the Flipped Classroom. Inside Higher Education.

6 Responses to “Pondering the “flipped classroom” in the age of online education”

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  4. Hello Dr. Porter:

    This was a very informative and meaningful post. I wrote a post myself today about the flipped classroom and ran across the link to yours via Twitter.

    You made an excellent point in the conclusion that cannot be emphasized enough: Ultimately, whether the flipped or inverted classroom model will lead to better teaching and learning depends on the quality of the design, scaffolding, and coordination of the varying modes of instruction.

    I couldn’t agree more. As I wrote today: Videos are not used as a replacement for instruction, they are meant to be part of an interactive instructional strategy. The purpose of flipping or changing the classroom structure is to focus on improving the students’ learning experience and increasing their level of engagement in the learning process.

    Dr. J

  5. In what is now called a flipped or inverted classroom, denies and will not be successful with lectures, at all.  In my experience, even prior to the ability of students attention toward a lecture, they work better with a quick power point, which the teacher has created, in small groups, maybe more than one, so as to vary perspectives and writing, as well as reading.  They take notes, and they have the power point to go back to if needed.

    Those that need the verbal/auditory component may use an earset to listen and understand, so as to be a part of their group, then the teacher, facilitates, each group to hear and ask questions that will dig deeper, so that they begin to mimic questioning and descriptions.  This feeds into their writing, organizing on a self-made technological graphic organizer that they may articstically add to, individually, and then follow a rubrics, both made via typed and numbered or verbally read by another child or adult for others to listen as they read and then those who need laymen’s terms, the reader may read the rubric and explain in everyday language.

    We also NEVER want to forget to give a model and make it at least 3, so that their are visual examples, in order to give ideas, not replicas.

    After small group a couple of times, individualistic is more noticeable and expected.  However, WE, or someone else, did not have to give a lecture at all… It’s broken up into segments via Power Point…Facilitation of the PP is the lecture.  There is absolutely no control, only observation and assistance and modeling/grooming.  At least for me, this is how it’s worked.

  6. Clint Lenard says:

    Great article, Jim, and it’s always nice to see changes in the way students are being taught. As someone with ADD, I fully agree with:

      “As learners, we humans only retain 10% of what we read and 20% of what we hear, but we comprehend 90% of what we say and do.”

    It’s much easier to learn through doing than through lectures! 

    But I also believe in repetition, too. 

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