"Flipped Classrooms?"


If you are planning to use the ‘flipped classroom’,

then you might want to think about a few key ideas.


On Connected Principals Jonathan Martin has written a couple posts on the Flipped Classroom. In his first one, Reverse Instruction: Dan Pink and Karl’s “Fisch Flip”, he says:

Increasingly,  education’s value-add is and will be in the coaching and troubleshooting when students are applying their learning, and in challenging students to apply their thinking to hands-on learning by doing and teaming:  so let’s have them do these things in class, not sit and listen.   We know that collaboration is a critical skill set which can’t be developed easily either on-line or at home alone– let’s have students learn it with us in our classrooms.   Let every classroom be a collaborative problem solving laboratory or studio.

And in his second post, Advancing the Flip: Developments in Reverse Instruction, he says:

Flip your instruction so that students watch and listen to your lectures… for homework, and then use your precious class-time for what previously, often, was done in homework: tackling difficult problems, working in groups, researching, collaborating, crafting and creating.   Classrooms become laboratories or studios, and yet content delivery is preserved.

Further down in this post, he quotes a few educators, a couple of whom say things very relevant to my post… both in support of my points below…

Leanne Kuluski: She says the kids tell her they love it; one of her pieces of advice is to embed into them funny parts, with jokes and silly accents and things which surprise and amuse her students.

And also contrary to my points below…

Dr. Scott Morris advises other teachers considering this approach to not sweat the details.  ”The key is to not get too bent out of shape about production quality; just bang it out.  It is more important to get it out there and online than that it be perfect.”


The flip side of flipping

First and foremost, this is just ONE teaching strategy. It’s a good one. It isn’t the only one. I don’t know any teachers that are both one trick ponies and also good teachers. Add this trick to your repertoire, don’t make it your repertoire. Secondly, consider how these points, and related questions, can help improve your flipped classroom.

I’m not saying ‘don’t use a flipped classroom’, I’m just saying, ‘be thoughtful about how you use it!’

3 keys to a flipped classroom

1. Homework

One of the biggest challenges I faced as a teacher was getting all my students to do their homework. If you expect that students are getting the lesson at home, but some students don’t do their homework and watch your ‘flipped’ lesson at home, well then what is your strategy for getting them up to speed?

The reality is that not all students complete their homework. Not all students understand a one-way lesson where they can’t raise their hands and ask questions. Not all students will find this approach engaging. Not all students will see this single strategy as meeting their learning needs.

How do you engage the students that struggle with the flipped classroom approach? How do you meaningfully meet these students’ needs?

2. Lesson Quality

There are two aspects I’ll examine here:

a) Depth vs Breadth

No student is going to accept a barrage of 1 hour long lessons that they have to view at home on a regular basis. How much do you give them to watch online, at home? How deep do you go? How do you balance what students need to know and how much you put in your videos and screen-casts?

Also, how much does your flipped classroom either teach/promote higher order thinking skills or provide the scaffolding for higher order thinking skills in your class after students have viewed the lesson at home? This point relates to the other aspect of lesson quality below.

b) How vs Why

Are students just being given direct instruction on how to follow an algorithm or are they learning why that algorithm works? Here is a small example to illustrate my point: I can give students the ‘rules’ for multiplying positive and negative integers, but teaching them ‘why’ is critical for their understanding of the mathematical concept.

Are you using the flipped classroom to teach both the how and the why? Which is better to be delivered at home, rather than in class? Which do you give the students first, (and is this true for all students or all concepts)?

3. Production Quality

Dr. Scott Morris advises, ”The key is to not get too bent out of shape about production quality; just bang it out.  It is more important to get it out there and online than that it be perfect.”

I think that if you are going to produce 1,2 or even 5 of these kinds of lessons in a 13 week course, then Dr. Morris’ advice might be valuable. However, if this is something you are going to do week after week, if it is something that delivers a critical amount of the syllabus, then production quality becomes vitally important.

I also think it’s great that Leanne Kuluski gives advice to, “…embed… funny parts, with jokes and silly accents and things which surprise and amuse her students.”

I’m not saying we have to be entertaining but I am saying that we need to be engaging. Let’s face it, if a lesson in class isn’t engaging, you might still be able to hold a student’s attention by way of them being in your classroom. Producing a boring, uninteresting or bland lesson that you expect a student to watch at home, with a few hundred more distractions than a typical classroom… well, that seems pretty counterproductive to me.

We expect students to produce great work for us, we should do the same for them.

– – – – –

"Doulbe Standard by WhatEdSaid on Toondoo"


Previously, I’ve said three really simple concepts about teaching today: Teaching is different, harder and more rewarding!

A well executed flipped classroom is an excellent example of these three points! Providing a flipped classroom and getting the lesson delivery out of the way so that class time can be used to collaborate, and practice concepts, and problem solve, is actually a great teaching strategy to use. I think we just need to be careful not to overuse it. We need to consider that this approach may not work ideally for all learners and with all concepts. We need to think about depth vs breadth, and also go beyond teaching the algorithm void of analysis in our flipped classroom videos and screen-casts. We need to make our lessons engaging and present them in ways that capture our students’ interest and attention.

We need to be thoughtful about our use of a flipped classroom.

(Cross-posted on Connected Principals)

48 comments on “3 keys to a flipped classroom

  1. Great post!
    You say “One of the biggest challenges I faced as a teacher was getting all my students to do their homework.” Would love to hera more about how you work on that – this is an issue I’m expending quite a lot of energy on!

  2. Another key to the flipped classroom model is how the teacher uses the newly liberated classtime. The first few times that I used a flipped lesson model I spent all of my time prepaing the recorded lecture and very little time prepaing an activity to reinforce the concept covered in the lecture.

    When used correctly this model of instruction can be very effective. It is not, however, an easier model of instruction for either the student or the teacher. Both will be working hard.

    I just finished an introduction to the Flipped Classroom for the Troy University (Alabama) e-colloquium series which your readers might find helpful. It can be viewed here: http://electriceducator.blogspot.com/2011/04/introduction-to-flipped-classroom.html

  3. David,

    Powerful stuff and ideas that fit really well with our abilities and possibilities given that technology opens up the classroom from the “4 walls approach”.

    I’ve written and workshopped about flipping our classroom instruction in ELT and being more inductive. Usually teachers – prepare, practice, produce – a kind of behavioral and assembly line approach. However, for language learning which is a skill – production is most important, the doing. Students usually don’t do much there because the bell cuts the lesson short, the teacher takes ages explaining/pontificating and doing the chalk talk. So I suggested to teachers to FLIP. Just let students have a go. Monitor and then plan and instruct from that basis – after you see what they can do, do know. So instruction becomes about dealing with the holes in student understanding, not giving them the whole enchilada beforehand.

    I look forward to more teachers pursuing this and also sharing their curriculum for out of class use/reference. that’s key. Not all teachers can set things up in this way outside of class – it takes a lot of time/work.

    About homework etc… I”m for it always being voluntary. It shouldn’t be that students “have to”. One thing I agree with Alfie Kohn on. If they don’t do the reading/viewing – it is to their own detriment and they should learn to be self directed learners. That said, teachers are responsible for trying to instill the passion for the subject in their students.


  4. Naomi,

    It’s a great point David raises. Here’s one solution I’ve used – Daily Quizzes. Often I will end the video with a quick question from the content of the video to be answered, problem to be solved, definition to research, etc. and the first thing that happens in class the next day is a 5-minute quiz on that ending.

    You might also try letting student create their own videos. Guaranteed to make them more likely to watch (if they’re inclined not to).

    Rapid communication home with parents is key, too. In the end, you can’t make students do it, but you can’t let them off the hook for it, either.

  5. Thoughtful writing, David. As usual. The homework paragraph hits home to me.

    Another great point is how you go about distinguishing “entertaining” from “engaging”. I think this is key.

    So far the echoes to your voice. Let me add a question:
    Why would we assign homework the students may not do at all and still carry on with the lessons and learning? If they don’t do it, wouldn’t that leave a huge gap? At least in a foreign language class, the silence and sense of being lost the following class is deeply felt. Unless the homework was some kind of extra practice they can afford to miss, in which case it’s hard to see it integrated (not the best word choice, I know)to the learning process; but then again, if it is not important how can we expect it to be engaging?

    Well, that was more than one question 😉 I struggle with the answers myself by the way!

  6. Naomi, Josh, David, Jim and Claudia,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment!

    Re: Homework
    I spent way too long looking for something I shared online regarding homework… I can’t find it. This will be the subject of my next post, and I promise to also link to it ‘here‘ when it is done.

    John, I LOVE this point, “Another key to the flipped classroom model is how the teacher uses the newly liberated classtime.” Thanks for the link to your presentation.

    David, thank you for pointing out the value of a flipped classroom in Language Learning classes and also for pointing out that a culture of sharing (that we are seeing more and more of online) will allow many teachers to benefit from a few people leading the way. Along the same idea, Jonathan Martin linked to Shelley Wright who said, “I love the idea that my students are now being taught by leading neurologists. Shouldn’t all of our biology students be able to say that?” And so, experts at all levels can help teach ‘our’ students.

    Now I’m off to write a ‘homework’ post that is long overdue. 🙂

  7. I have been doing the flip for all of the 2010-11 school year and I think most of your points are well worth considering.

    A video lesson from 10-20 minutes seems about right, which makes for about a 20-30 minute lesson if notes are taken. But, it is very difficult to get many middle schoolers to commit to spending 20-30 minutes a night or every other night on school work, so that is a problem that I have no idea how to solve. You’d think they would jump at the chance to do something besides solve problems at home–but they don’t.

    The whole concept of “learning should be fun” is leading us down the road to ruin. Learning is hard work and the payoff and satisfaction of doing it often do not come for years after the fact. I don’t agree with everything he says, but I recommend reading Cliff Stoll’s book “High Tech Heretic” for some worthy challenges to what many of us think about technology and learning.

    Recorded lessons need not be perfect–the first time–they should be as good as we can make them, but they can be improved later (and they should be). I like an old Russian saying I heard recently: “Perfection is the enemy of good enough.”

    I have a growing collection of resources on the flipped class at my blog http://mistermcintoshsays.org/2011/03/10/mastery-learning-and-the-flipped-class-a-resource-guide/

  8. David – I enjoyed this post. I do take exception with your definition of “engagement” though. As I’ve experienced it, engagement is more about students buying in to the lesson; working through it because it has meaning to them. I think it is completely separate from entertainment. You could easily create a recording of a lecture which is not at all entertaining, and yet is thoroughly engaging – because it makes a connection with the learner’s brain. Chris Moersch at LoTi Connections http://www.loticonnections.com delineates between engagement and involvement, with the example of an advanced biology lesson involving the students, ie, there is a lot of hard work to be done, but they are not engaged because the lesson has no meaning/doesn’t connect with them intellectually. Your thoughts?

  9. Philip,
    Thank you for contributing such excellent points! I just finished writing my next post on homework and this could have easily been a quote I used to make a key challenging point about using the flip:
    “…it is very difficult to get many middle schoolers to commit to spending 20-30 minutes a night or every other night on school work, so that is a problem that I have no idea how to solve. You’d think they would jump at the chance to do something besides solve problems at home–but they don’t.”
    Great resource you are building on your blog!

    We actually agree!
    When I said, “I’m not saying we have to be entertaining but I am saying that we need to be engaging.” I was actually attempting to differentiate the two. I just didn’t do it as clearly as you… Thank you!

  10. I think this is a great idea on so many levels, however there are clearly some things to consider.
    I totally agree with Philip, how do you get students to do this. I have been really struck by the resistance of students to do anything but ‘worksheet’-like work in class. Maybe because I teach high school, but I have encountered some interesting blow-back in some cases.
    That however is beside the point, I really like this flipped classroom idea. I like it for two reasons:
    1) students are not restricted to only seeing something once, they can stop and rewind the parts that they don’t understand clearly
    2) students who are away are getting the opportunity to follow along as well

    The flipped classroom will not solve all issues, but it represents yet another technology tool that can deliver the material.

  11. Great points Greg!

    I also found this quote worth noting:
    “…flipping the classroom also requires us to flip some other things, such as how lessons are conceived and delivered; how technology plays a role in and out of school; and how [to] organize classrooms to foster participatory learning rather than a lecture model.”

    The flip isn’t just about delivering a lesson at home… it’s about a whole (not new, but) different way of teaching & learning too!

  12. Hey I forgot one, it can open an avenue with parents as well. Maybe not many, but probably more than I’d guess. More avenues of communication always seem to be better.

  13. […] most fully online courses should have some sort of content presentation. Just telling your students to read a couple of chapters in the text is not adequate. That said, plan carefully what goes online and in what format.

    Here’s a great blog post by David Truss on what goes online in a flipped classroom: […]

  14. Perhaps you might find “Five Easy Lessons: Strategies for Successful Physics Teaching” Dr. Randall Knight’s work interesting as it related to the broader ideas underlying Flipped Classroom.

  15. […] How will you FLIP YOUR CLASSROOM?

    If you are totally hooked or ready to flip, these articles are
    simply fantastic and go into more detail than I have: Promethean’s, “Can Technology Help Us Flip the Classroom?” & “An Introduction to the Flipped Classroom“, “Advancing the Flip: Developments in Reverse Instruction” Teacher Example of “Reverse Instruction“, “Mastery Learning & the Flipped Classroom: A Resource Guide“, & “Three Keys to a Flipped Classroom
    Also, check out more TED videos to support this idea (e.g. changing educational paradigms). Here is another blog post in favor of the Khan approach to learning. Check out Khan interview with LinkedIn.

  16. […] a teacher can build in some lecture questions that the kids must answer, making the kids accountable. The beauty of the recorded lecture: a student can replay the new concept repeatedly until he understands it with no one being the wiser. To read more about the flipped (backwards, inverted) classroom click the links below.

    Teachers “Doing The Flip” To Help Students Become Learners

    3 keys to a flipped classroom

  17. I agree with your three points and have a little more to add which I also addressed in a post I wrote on the same topic which I’ve linked to in my name above.

    Not only might students not do homework, I don’t believe they should have to. Let them use their time at home to pursue passions, be with family friends, get a part time job or whatever they choose. Instead, we need more study hall and/or free time in the school day. This way students have a choice to watch the videos at night if they’re able, or do so during the day.

    Not all children have access to technology to watch videos at home.

    Age Grouping
    I still see many teachers having students move at the same pace and grouped by age. If we were to take on the possibilities of the true flip, students could move at their own pace.

    Lecture doesn’t work for all learners.

    All that said, the availability of video is a powerful transformational learning tool, and should be used to enrich learning with considerations such as these kept in mind. In fact today, I wrote a post today about YouTube taking a more active role in this type of learning http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2011/10/youtubecomteachers-helps-innovative.html

  18. David, in one of Mr. Martins posts he states that kids doing homework were “..tackling difficult problems, working in groups, researching, collaborating, crafting and creating.” It strikes me that these are the activities that we WISH they were doing, but if we are being honest, know they are not. Another way to endorse the flip concept, maybe. It might be easier, or more realistic, to expect a student to watch a video, while texting, gaming, etc., than to expect all of the above, which we can control in the classroom. I hadn’t thought of proposing it in quite that way before, thanks for the spark.

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