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Understanding The Flipped Classroom Model: Advantages & Potential Drawbacks

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A teacher holds a robotics project and talks to students during a flipped classroom session.

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  • Teaching Strategies

Between new educational technology, changing ideas about educational efficacy and a global pandemic, external factors have turned education on its head in the last two decades.

Flipped classrooms are one teaching strategy offering educators a new way to conceptualize learning and boost student achievement. 

It may surprise you that flipped classrooms have only been around since the early 2000s. While it’s a relatively new teaching method, there’s evidence to suggest flipped classrooms keep students more engaged in the learning process and see better learning outcomes. 

Let’s dive into:

  • What exactly a flipped classroom is
  • Whether or not they’re effective
  • How it could work in your classroom

What is a flipped classroom?

Male teacher sits in a flipped classroom with students and points at a textbook.

A flipped classroom is a type of blended learning that exposes students to new concepts through homework assignments, then uses in-class time to do hands-on activities and have discussions.

Instead of a classroom lecture followed by homework, flipped classrooms bring the hands-on learning to the classroom in order to:

  • Engage students in active learning
  • Develop relationships with teachers and peers
  • Build connections and use higher-order thinking skills

At its core, flipped classrooms recenter learning around the student. Flipped classrooms are mostly used in high school and post-secondary education settings, but can be adapted for younger students with careful planning. 

Here’s how flipped classrooms work

In a flipped classroom, you introduce the at-home portion of the learning, tell students how they should use it, and give them a way to troubleshoot or ask questions. 

At home, students can complete a range of activities, including:

  • Watching a video
  • Reading and summarizing a document
  • Listening to a podcast or section from an audiobook

Once students are back in the classroom, they have the opportunity to connect with the instructor and participate in hands-on activities, which often involve peer learning. These activities can include, but are definitely not limited to:

In-class activities generally focus on active learning techniques that encourage students to leverage higher-order thinking skills with the help of teachers and peers. 

Flipped classrooms: The origin story

High school teachers named Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams were two of the first educators to narrate and record their PowerPoint presentations so students could watch them at home.

Online resources like Khan Academy and YouTube have since helped teachers develop effective learning resources for flipped classrooms.

Flipped learning isn’t a one-size-fits-all, magic solution. Especially at the beginning of the process, you’ll have to guide students through the at-home portion of the class, make or find the resources, and give students space to ask questions.

Over the years, flipped classrooms have become more common in higher education and high school classrooms, making it ideal for:

  • Classes with limited lecture time
  • Students who can’t attend lectures regularly
  • Students who want to review concepts on their own time

During online learning and the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers at all grade levels saw success with flipped classrooms.

To reduce screen time, teachers assigned videos, discussion boards and reading for students to do out of class time, and spent time on video calls using breakout room features, interactive software like Kahoot! or in-person discussions to make the most of face-to-face teaching time. 

But do flipped classrooms actually work? There’s lots of compelling evidence to suggest flipped classrooms can boost student learning and influence how they feel about school — more on that later. In general, flipped classrooms give students time to:

  • Learn at a pace that’s right for them
  • Come to class with questions and insights
  • Achieve skill mastery and retain information longer

In a survey of 453 instructors, 67% said flipped classrooms improved student test scores, and 80% said flipped classrooms improved their students’ attitudes toward learning. 

The most compelling argument in favor of flipped classrooms? 99% of the same teachers said they were planning on flipping their classrooms again the following year.

6 Advantages of a flipped classroom

Students do in-class activities as part of a flipped classroom.

There’s a pretty good chance your current classroom system is working well — maybe it’s not perfect, but you’ve got it down pat and don’t know if putting the extra time and effort into flipping your classroom is worth it. 

If that sounds like you, here are some of the advantages of having a flipped classroom:

1. It embraces different learning styles

Although flipped classrooms are most often video lessons at home and discussions in class, they can be used with a whole range of teaching strategies and materials.

Because of the range of materials and teaching methods you can leverage, students with different learning styles and study strategies can connect with lessons in ways that work best for them. 

Plus, hands-on learning and the emphasis on student-centered, social learning techniques make your classroom engaging, collaborative and a place students want to be.

2. It can empower teachers to use time more efficiently

Instead of being in a rush to deliver information and finish lectures, flipped classrooms give you space to:

  • Check for understanding effectively
  • Run hands-on activities that help students apply learning
  • Circulate throughout the classroom and build relationships with students

It’s an amazing opportunity to not only boost learning but improve the relationship you have with your students. 

3. Students can learn at their own pace

Independent learning is a lifelong skill — and the sooner students learn to practice it, the better. 

Especially in high school or university, students are often the best judge of their own learning progress. Flipped learning gives students resources they can use to pace themselves, review as needed and study for tests. 

The increased interaction in flipped classrooms can also give you a better sense of where students need extra support and help you tailor your teaching accordingly. 

4. Students learn responsibility and task management

Instead of passively receiving knowledge, flipped classrooms empower students to work towards actively developing their own knowledge. 

Online materials and class websites make it easy for them to access teaching materials and lectures. The at-home learning component encourages them to develop their time management skills and prioritize what they need to know. 

5. Teachers, students and parents build a useful feedback loop

It’s not always easy for all parties involved in the learning process to stay up-to-speed on what’s required and how students are progressing. 

Flipped classrooms emphasize communication between teachers and students — both in-class and outside of the classroom — and this communication can easily be extended to parents.

Especially during online learning, flipped classrooms help parents understand and support their child’s learning at home. 

6. Many students like flipped learning once they’ve tried it

Although your students might be hesitant about the switch to flipped learning, studies have shown once it’s implemented properly many students prefer it to the traditional classroom structure (more on that later).

Opportunities to use factual knowledge, peer-to-peer connections and self-paced learning are just some of the reasons students benefit from flipped classrooms.

6 Potential drawbacks of flipped classrooms

A student sits at a computer and completes at-home flipped learning activities.

Given all the benefits above, why wouldn’t you flip your classroom?

There’s more than one right way to teach. But if you’re considering using a flipped classroom model, it’s important to consider some of the drawbacks.

1. The model doesn’t work everywhere

One of the biggest problems with flipped classrooms is inequality. Not every student has access to the things they need to be successful in a flipped classroom — computers, reliable internet and a supportive learning environment at home. 

Some students don’t have the time to watch long videos or do a lot of reading on their own time. They might have a part time job, or be involved in caring for their families. 

It’s not fair to penalize students for factors outside of their control. Students, teachers and parents or guardians, if applicable, need to be able to buy into the flipped classroom model in order for it to work properly.

2. Some students benefit most from in-person instruction

Not every student learns well independently, which can make flipped classrooms difficult. 

If students can’t or don’t want to do at-home video tutorials, you may find yourself spending more time in class on lectures than you’d like, or students may simply fall behind. 

Students who need extra learning support might find at-home work challenging, as may younger students. 

There are ways to overcome these obstacles, and many unenthusiastic students warm to the structure of a flipped classroom eventually. But it’s something you need to be aware of!

3. Implementation takes time

The largest roadblock on the path to flipped classrooms is time, whether it’s time spent:

  • Creating at-home learning resources
  • Teaching students how to use at-home resources
  • Developing engaging in-class activities that help students learn effectively

Most of this load takes place in the first year, but flipped classrooms represent a significant time investment from educators. 

4. Increased screen time for students

Lots of parents and teachers today are worried about the impact of increased screen time on kids.

With so many questions about children and technology, it’s important to keep in mind flipped classrooms can increase student screen time and might not be the best choice for younger learners. 

Video lessons, the most common method for delivering flipped lessons, can have students online more often in the evening. Assign screen-free at-home resources like podcasts or readings to decrease students’ screen time.

5. Increased reliance on independent preparation

No matter how you choose to structure your flipped classroom, students need to do the work at home in order to reap all the benefits. For many younger students, this simply isn’t possible without significant help from their parents. 

Many older students might find it hard to adjust to so much independent work at home, but there are strategies you can use to help. For example:

  • Quick clicker quizzes at the beginning of class to review key concepts
  • Modeling time-management skills and encouraging good study strategies 
  • Setting aside a small block of time at the beginning of the lesson to answer questions

No matter what strategies you use, be sure to support students as they make the transition to flipped learning. 

6. You might cover less content

Proponents of flipped learning often say the model allows for deeper knowledge. But this may come at a cost. In flipped classrooms, many teachers have reported they’re able to cover less content than they might with a traditional classroom model.

Sometimes this is a good thing because it means more students are attaining mastery and overall there’s a deeper understanding of key concepts. However, keep in mind progress might be slower and you should plan accordingly.

Overall, it’s important to adopt a flipped classroom model because you believe it will boost learning outcomes for your students — not because you’re following educational trends or think it’ll be easier.

What the data says about flipped learning

Four high school students sit at desks and work on in-class flipped classroom activities.

If you’re a data-driven teacher, anecdotes and secondhand accounts probably aren’t enough to convince you. So let’s dive into the data and see what it has to say about flipped classrooms.

When it comes to student performance:

Flipped classrooms could boost long-term retention. 

Students in a statistics course were taught either with traditional or flipped classroom methods, and a year later students took a test on statistics and nine other psychology areas. Students in the flipped classroom outperformed other students on the statistics part of the test, but not in the other psychology areas — demonstrating flipped classrooms can help students remember key concepts longer. 

At several different universities, students in flipped classrooms had higher grades than students learning the same material in traditional classrooms

But flipped classrooms don’t just boost student performance — in some cases, they’ve also increased student satisfaction and engagement.

At the University of British Columbia, students taught with a flipped classroom model increased their engagement from 45% to 85%. According to the study author, this result is the biggest performance improvement ever documented in educational research.

A survey of undergraduate students found they preferred positive face-to-face learning, active learning and flexible class structures with clear expectations (especially if they were considered a nontraditional student).

According to an analysis of studies about flipped learning in K-12 classrooms, a flipped learning model had “a neutral or positive impact on student achievement when compared to traditional classrooms.” Some students liked the extra support, but others reacted negatively to the change.

Tools that can help with flipped learning

Two teachers sit in front of a computer and talk about tools for flipped classrooms.

From powerpoint presentations to video lessons, there are lots of tools to help you:

  • Make at-home resources for student learning
  • Structure in-class activities and check for understanding
  • Distribute and store resources to help students manage time and stay informed

Here are some of our favorites:

Google Classroom

Google Classroom helps you build a class website that helps keep all the moving parts of a flipped classroom organized seamlessly. Whether you’re storing lesson materials or delivering feedback to students, it’s a great way to keep your classroom (and your lesson planning) tidy!

Use Google Classroom to help you:

  • Deliver assignments and feedback
  • Store at-home materials for easy student access
  • Find and host resources or instructions for in-class activities

Prodigy Math

Looking for a fun, adaptive math resource all your students will love? Prodigy Math is a game-based learning platform that motivates students to practice math skills while they complete quests and earn amazing rewards. 

Use it as part of a station rotation for independent work, or leverage Prodigy Math as a fun way to engage and reward students while they learn. 

Your free teacher dashboard gives you access to assessments and real-time reports you can use to make sure students are mastering the right concepts and making progress.

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Khan Academy

If you don’t have the time or resources to create your own at-home video tutorials, Khan Academy is a great resource for subjects from math to grammar and music. 

A non-profit organization, Khan Academy is dedicated to providing personalized learning through their instructional videos, all for free. 

Kahoot!

Not sure if your students did the prep work before the class? Make sure your lesson is a success with a quick Kahoot! quiz. 

Pick around ten questions that cover your subject material, and students can respond by entering the game PIN on their devices at kahoot.it. After, reward your top scorers with a high five and adjust your lesson plan as needed. 

Edpuzzle

You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to make videos for at-home learning. In fact, all you need is Edpuzzle!

This free resource helps you make videos quickly and easily, and you can even combine it with quick assessments to check for understanding.

Should you flip your classroom?

No one else can answer that question for you, because you know your classroom and teaching style best! 

Don’t flip your classroom just because it sounds cool. Do your research, think through the possible outcomes and ask yourself:

  • Do I have the time to dedicate to creating new resources?
  • Is my teaching style compatible with a flipped classroom model?
  • Will a flipped classroom enhance or hinder my students’ learning for this subject?

If you’re prepared and clear about what you’ll have to do and what results you want to see, go for it! Flipped classrooms are a great way to enhance student learning and transform your teaching practice.

Prodigy Math is a game-based learning platform that engages students and helps you assign in-class or at-home activities they'll love! Create your free teacher account today to access teacher tools like Assignments, Plans and Test Preps that make planning for your flipped classroom easier.

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