The Ups and Downs of Flipping the Classroom

Flipping the classroom is one of those instructional strategies that seems to elicit opposing reactions from educators: some vow by it arguing that is an excellent avenue for student-centered learning, whilst others claim that it is essentially the lecture-model of teaching in disguise. The University of Texas at Austin succinctly explains what a flipped classroom is in the video below:


The Potential

  • A flipped classroom frees up class time for hands-on work facilitated by the teacher that allows the students to clarify questions and use and apply the skills and content learned at home.
  • Students can watch the videos as many times as they want, stop and rewind when needed, moving at their own pace.
  • Students have access to a repository of videos related to past, current and future skills and content of the unit, allowing the students to use or revisit the materials as required.
  • Parents and students have access to the same “lectures” which can make it easier for parents to support their children at home and to know what is happening in the classroom.


The Drawbacks

  • This instructional strategy efficiency depends on whether the students do their homework.
  • It can be challenging to use this strategy if connectivity issues are frequent and expected.
  • Depending on different students’ needs, videos might not be the most effective medium for them to learn.
  • Creating a repository of videos, either self-created or outsourced, is time-consuming for the teacher so there is a lot of set-up work required.
  • The class time activities must be very well crafted and facilitated by the teacher in order for them to support students with gaps in their knowledge, to advance the students with their conceptual understanding and to extend students who are ready for a new challenge.


My Take

As with any other instructional strategies, there is a time and place for each, and balance is the key. I have flipped my classroom countless times, but my own experience has told me that for my students it works best when focusing on a discrete skill or specific content that later will be used to expand conceptual understanding.

When talking about flipping the classroom, some teachers focus only on the delivery method (i.e. the video) and forget an essential component which is the class time that follows. The teachers who argue that when flipping the classroom you are just shifting the lecture from the classroom to the home, are only considering those videos that are in essence a lecture. Although there might be a time and place for a lecture in the classroom (not often, but it happens once in a while), there are other types of videos that can be used in a flipped classroom that ignite curiosity and that allow students to come up with lines of inquiry that they will later explore in the classroom. Here are some examples of videos that I have used in the past when flipping my classroom:

There are two other key aspects of flipping the classrooms that come after watching the video and that are equally as important as the selection of the material that the students are going to watch individually at home. Unpacking the video is one of them. It is not enough to ask the students to simply watch a video. What exactly are they looking for in the video? That is a question that should guide how the students will digest the video. I usually have guiding questions, graphic organizers or use Visible Thinking routines for the students to think about what they have watched. Other times, depending on the content on the video and the purpose for watching, the students will take notes using their preferred method (mind mapping, sketchnotes, etc. – or any other method that we have learned in class).

The class time that follows the video is where everything unfolds, and in my opinion, where there are more challenges to deal with. A thorough planning of the activity is essential. Here are some of the aspects I consider when doing this:

  • How will I gather how much the students took from the video?
  • Will I need to fill the gaps before the actual activity or is this something that can be better done while the students are carrying out the activity?
  • How to include the students who did not watch the video?
  • What are the most suitable activities for the students to engage with the content or practice the skills learned?

On the whole, I consider that there is indeed a place and time for flipping your classroom, but its effectiveness depends on how much the teacher knows the students and can use that information to determine the most suitable type of content and/or skills that can be introduced or studied using this instructional strategy.


Featured image Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

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