In many courses, the content is organised in such a way that the teacher gives students new information during the lesson, and they have to study it in more detail at home by doing exercises or assignments. Often, the learning objectives are mainly situated at higher processing levels such as application and analysis. The aim of the homework assignments is thus to allow students to work on the material actively. However, the paradox of this traditional way of teaching is that during the crucial phase of learning (the application phase), students can’t turn to the teacher for guidance – the teacher is only physically present during the first, more factual phase when they are acquiring the new knowledge.
The ‘flipped’ classroom (sometimes called the inverted classroom) turns this teaching structure upside down. Before the lesson, students go through the learning materials independently, so that the face-to-face sessions with the teacher can be used to explore the learning content in more depth in exercises and assignments under the supervision of the teacher. This tip will teach you how to use the flipped classroom in your own courses.
The idea behind this method is not new. Teachers who use methods of instruction such as seminars, interactive lectures and practicals also expect their students to prepare independently beforehand. In the lesson itself, the students’ preparation is then put into practice actively. The term ‘flipped classroom’ actually reflects the new opportunities that technology offers in terms of independent preparation rather than a radical new didactic idea.
The didactic puzzle
The flipped classroom is just one of many different teaching methods. That means that in flipped classrooms, too, the ‘didactic puzzle’ must fit together properly. It’s important you check which goals you want to achieve, how you will practice the learning objectives actively in the flipped classroom approach and which type of formative or summative assessment you will use (what’s known as constructive alignment). In concrete terms, you should ask yourself the following questions (taking into account the objectives to be achieved):
- What are you going to ask the students to do as preparation (e.g. have them do exercises, react to a statement, study a theory)?
- Which technological tools will you provide to help them in this (e.g. online lectures, discussion forums, etc.) and how will these help?
- What are you going to do next in the face-to-face sessions (e.g. give feedback, do exercises, etc.)?
- And how will you establish a clear link between the preparation and the face-to-face sessions so that the students see the usefulness of preparing? (motivation)
What should you take into account?
We mentioned it already: a lot of variation is possible in the flipped classroom approach, both in the preparation and in the face-to-face lesson itself. In what follows, we answer a number of questions that might arise.
- What form are you going to provide the learning materials in? Often these will be screencasts that your students can go through, but it’s not the only option. You can also have students go through self-study materials, a textbook or reader containing different articles (or a combination of all these learning materials).
- Is the studying going to be ‘activating’? If you ask students to study the theory independently, each of them will go about it in their own way. A useful addition is to integrate one or more quizzes into the learning materials. This has several advantages: it provides students with the opportunity to test their knowledge of the theory; it gives you, the teacher, an idea of how many people have prepared for the lesson; and it increases the students' motivation (Spanjers et al., 2015). An alternative is to give students one or more assignments on top of just studying the theory. Students must first go through the theory in order to be able to complete the assignment successfully. This way, they have already taken a step towards the more detailed and difficult assignments that will com up during the lesson. However, it is important to take your students’ total study load into account.
- Will the preparation be individual, or will they interact with other students? This obviously has implications for the design of your learning environment. If you want to stimulate interaction, for example, you’ll need to provide a discussion forum where students can respond to a statement you’ve posted or ask each other questions. An essential element for this to succeed is that you, the teacher, actively encourage and monitor the students’ participation.
- Do you have to record new screencasts all the time? If a screencast turns out to be suitable for a certain purpose, you can reuse it in the future. Although it takes time to make a good screencast, you might be able to reap the benefits of this investment over several years. In addition to videos and casts that you make yourself, there is also a wide range of materials available on the internet, which you can then post to your own learning environment.
The goal of a flipped classroom is to make the lesson as activating as possible and to work towards the application-oriented learning objectives of your course. In other words, you want to have the students apply the knowledge they have acquired in their preparation by doing exercises and assignments. Here, too, a number of questions might arise:
- Should you go over the theory at the beginning of the lesson? Definitely not! If you do this regularly, students will realise they don’t need to prepare in advance. However, you might want to answer certain questions from students (maybe they can submit them in advance through the forum) or briefly go into some of the more difficult aspects of the theory in greater depth.
- What is the teacher’s role during the lesson? During the lesson, it is essential that the learning activities are student-centred. The students should be working actively themselves, which means that the role of the teacher is more to coach and guide. Of course, a lot of variation is possible, ranging from a purely coaching role to a combination of coaching during the tasks and providing whole-class feedback in between.
- Should I give individual or group assignments? This very much depends on the learning objectives you want to achieve. However, research has repeatedly shown that working together can have a very positive influence on the learning process.
- How should I end the lesson? You might include a number of different elements: briefly summarise any problems that came up during the tasks; go through the learning objectives for the lesson again; tell the students what they need to prepare for the next lesson.
Want to know more?
DeLozier, S. J., & Rhodes, M. G. (2017). Flipped Classrooms: a Review of Key Ideas and Recommendations for Practice. Educational Psychology Review, 29(1), 141-151.
Låg, T., & Sæle, R. G. (2019). Does the Flipped Classroom Improve Student Learning and Satisfaction? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. AERA Open, 5(3), 1-17.
Spanjers, I. A. E., Könings, K. D., Leppink, J., Verstegen, D. M. L., de Jong, N., Czabanowska, K., & van Merriënboer, J. J. G. (2015). The promised land of blended learning: Quizzes as a moderator. Educational Research Review, 15, 59-74.
Talbert, R. (2017). Flipped Learning: A Guide for Higher Education Faculty. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus Publishing, LLC.
van Alten, D. C. D., Phielix, C., Janssen, J., & Kester, L. (2019). Effects of Flipping the Classroom on Learning Outcomes and Satisfaction: a Meta-Analysis. Educational Research Review, 28.
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