The Flipped Class is Here to Stay

…or, “The Difference Between a Fad and a Usable, Meaningful Tool is the Teacher.”

I missed #EdChat…again. It’s one of the downsides of living just inside the Central Time Zone border. The 12PM EdChat is during a class, before my lunch hour. The evening EdChat is during the dinner hour, before my work block at home. It’s a no win situation.

It does provide me a chance, though, to scan through the feeds and see some of the comments made during the hour. I can also always go back and read the archive maintained by the amazing Jerry Swiatek. I noticed a couple of tweets immediately this evening when I was catching up concerning the Flipped Classroom, which prompted this post.

I think the flipped classroom is here to stay for a variety of reasons, but I’ll narrow it down to the top three or four I end up discussing most frequently.

1) The Flipped Classroom is more than watching Khan Academy videos at home every night.

This is probably the biggest argument I get against the Flipped Classroom…all we’re doing is moving class time into homework time (I’m not going to get in the homework argument right now). The short answer is yes, we do move instruction to time outside of class, but it is so much more than simply throwing video into the mix. I’m sure that most of the time I’m preaching to the choir on this blog, but we all know that “technology integration” is a much bigger challenge than putting a YouTube video on your class website for kids to watch.

The use of video-as-instruction was best described by my friend, Ramsey Musallam. He says that the purpose of the video is to offset the cognitive load that comes along with learning new material.

There are times where direct instruction (or lecture…you choose) is appropriate for the task you are trying to accomplish (see paragraph 4, about linear regression). We are simply using video to remove that portion of direct instruction. We can then maximize collaboration, interaction, and synthesis of new material or content during class because we aren’t spending 30-40 minutes lecturing at the front.

I teach in an urban district where biology isn’t really important to many of my kids. The flipped classroom helps me increase engagement and interest because they can choose when to do their work. They’ve never been given this choice…they’ve never had the opportunity to set their own schedule (within reason…there is much more than what I’m speaking to at the moment) and because I am trusting them, they are learning about things that matter to them. I truly don’t believe my classes would look the way they do if I were the one driving instruction all day, every day.

2) The Flipped Classroom promotes bad pedagogy.

I agree totally with this statement. I would also argue that traditional classrooms can promote bad pedagogy, but we don’t make a big fuss over those because they’re “tried and tested teachers.” We should always be trying to improve our pedagogy, regardless of what we call our method. The Flipped Classroom does not make you a magical and inspiring teacher…your kids might resent your more for it because you’re pushing them to go beyond the give-and-take education they’ve had up until now.

Looking at the class time we’re opening up by time-shifting content delivery, good teachers will fill it with learning experiences, labs, discussions, problem-solving, assimilation work, and creative work that expands upon and enhances the content. Regardless of the methods, we should be providing those opportunities for learners in our schools. But, we either A) waste time with lecture in class, or B) have the time, but choose to fill it with worksheets because they’re easier.

I can be a bad teacher regardless of what methods I choose to use. Pedagogy must come first, and the flipped classroom is not excused from that expectation.

3) The Flipped Classroom can’t work for English and Social Studies, so it won’t ever become a major tool.

While I do agree that the flipped class is mostly centered in science and math right now, I do know of many other classes in the humanities (English, history, reading or writing workshop classes, economics) that are using flipped classroom ideas.

Remember, the flipped classroom isn’t a prescribed methodology…it is an ideology that uses technology to expand the classroom and allow more time for inquiry, discussion, debate…fill in the rest for your particular class. It is a choice to offset as much direct instruction in a medium that is appropriate for your learners. That may be videos, it may be articles, it might be a project. It doesn’t matter how it is being done, but rather that it is being done at all.

*  *  *

Now, back to my title. Notice that the constant in each section above is a teacher that is working hard for their students. We are not replacing the teacher with the soft glow of a computer screen. We are not relegating kids to computer labs and cubicles. The teacher is present and active…a member of the learning community. Rather than being a dispenser of information, the teacher is an active learner with the group. We are there for support and guidance, not as sages or simply another reference. Our questioning and probing should drive deeper understanding and ownership if the content.

Fads come and go because while they’re fun and work to help engagement in the moment, they don’t do much to push learning in the long run. Meaningful change happens when teachers, students, parents, administrators, and other community members come together to support student growth in any form.

The Flipped Classroom isn’t a passing phase…I think it is a middle-ground from 100% lecture-driving instruction to a mix of direct instruction, creative thinking, collaborative learning, and application of content. I am only in my third year of teaching, so I feel extremely fortunate to have found this so early. This is all I know, and it makes sense to me. For those of you that have been teaching for 10, 20, or even 30 years, the Flipped Classroom is a great bridge to more student-led classes.

There is a continually growing network of people from around the world and across all content that are looking for your expertise. Check the Flipped Class Network out and see what is really going on behind the scenes.


For a longer, more in-depth look at the Flipped Classroom, you can read The Flipped Class Manifest written by myself and others that address the issues above and more.

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