Flipping the classroom

What is it?

The traditional and most common approach to curriculum delivery is to use contact time for basic knowledge transmission (lecturing) and then to provide independent learning activities to enable students to apply, discuss, critically analyse or extend; for instance through projects, coursework or exam revision. In an interesting flip to this teaching method, teachers assign videos and interactive online exercises prior to the lecture, and do what was previously the “homework” in the classroom. Thus, the time spent face-to-face is reserved for tackling the more difficult concepts, problem-solving, discussion and as well as other application of material. This method acts as a possible approach to deal with large classes, where students may be at different stages of understanding and skill.

In a typical lecture, students often try to capture what is being said at the instant the speaker says it. They cannot stop to reflect upon what is being said, and they may miss significant points because they are trying to transcribe the instructor’s words. By contrast, the use of video and other prerecorded media gives students control of the lectures; they can watch, rewind, and fast-forward recordings as needed. This ability may be of particular value to students with accessibility concerns, especially where captions are provided for those with hearing impairments. Lectures that can be viewed more than once may also help those for whom English is not their first language. This technique emphasises a clear and distinctive shift in priorities— that is, from merely covering material to working toward mastery of it

‘What is a flipped class?’

How does it work?

Content might be delivered using short videos or texts, with quizzes and other online activities to ensure independent learning takes place in preparation for scheduled contact time. The key feature of a flipped lecture or classroom is that this material is provided and studied before face-to-face contact time (lecture)- enabling students to cover the content at their own pace. Thus, rather than using time with the academic for simply receiving information, the students are given the opportunity to really benefit from the lecturer’s experience and expertise through focusing on the more difficult concepts.

‘Let’s use video to reinvent education’

Salman Khan talks about how and why he created the remarkable Khan Academy, a carefully structured series of educational videos offering complete curricula in math and, now, other subjects. He shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script — give students video lectures to watch at home, and do “homework” in the classroom with the teacher available to help.

How can staff and students use it effectively?

The flipped classroom constitutes a role change for instructors; they are required give up their front-of-the-class position in favour of a more collaborative and cooperative approach. Lecturers would be required to ensure pre-work is set in a timely manner, and more interactive activities are planned for the classroom.

In-class activities might include:

  • Individual problem-solving
  • Group discussion
  • Role playing (e.g. a discussion is staged as two or more sides of a debate)
  • Quizzes posed by the lecturer (using an electronic voting system)
  • Quizzes designed by the students
  • Question and answer sessions (e.g. using an electronic forum to gather questions from students)

In the flipped classroom model, students transition from passive recipients to active participants in the learning process. This approach necessitates students to complete preparatory work before attending lectures, enabling them to maximise the benefits of this teaching style. The model encourages student-led activities and fosters communication among students, thereby enhancing hands-on learning experiences.

The main Pros and Cons of flipped learning

  • Students no longer struggle with challenging concepts alone outside of class time.
  • Students can skip parts of the lesson they already understand and re-watch new or challenging ideas.
  • Applied learning can be done collaboratively in the classroom.
  • Students are given ownership and responsibility for their own learning.
  • Students come to class prepped and ready to learn; having a background understanding of ideas could boost confidence in lectures.
  • Wider scope for deeper thinking and further learning.
  • Teacher is able to spend class-time working one-on-one or in small groups of students.
  • Devoting class time to application of concepts might give instructors a better opportunity to detect errors in thinking, particularly those that are widespread in a class.
  • Collaborative projects can encourage social interaction among students, making it easier for them to learn from one another and for those of varying skill levels to support their peers.

  • Making sure every student has a computer and internet access could be challenging.
  • Students can not ask questions for clarification during a recorded lesson.
  • Technology issues can arise.
  • Designing and grading frequent quizzes could be time consuming for lecturers.
  • Students who do not complete the homework video will clearly fall behind.
  • Creating or finding quality videos for each lesson can be difficult and time consuming.
  • There is an increased commitment and workload from both students and lecturers.

Further reading

  • Flipping the right thing – Dr Christopher Pudney, from the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Bath, considers the benefits and challenges of flipping in his teaching.
  • Flipping for conceptual connections – Dr Christine Edmead, from the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology at the University of Bath, discusses why and how flipping was used in a core immunology course.