"Flipping" the Instruction?

I had taken one course in my life in which the instructor met the class on the first day and gave one homework: Read a textbook from cover to cover and show up later in the semester to take the exam. This was an extreme example of taking the instruction fully out of the classroom. Needless to say, I did not do well in that course. With technology, one could imagine a slight variation. The instructor could record in advance all the lectures he had planned to deliver on digital video discs and distribute these at the beginning of the semester. Students could then view these lectures at their own pace. And of course, at the end of the semester, students would show up to take the exam. The results still might not be positive. Another variation would still keep the reading and lectures outside the classroom. But, in addition, engaging discussions and activities instead of lectures would now be run by the instructor inside the classroom. This is now widely called as "flipped instruction"

First, it is important to note that there are very few peer-reviewed studies (if there are any) on this style of instruction. Teachers are trying it out, but well designed studies evaluating its efficacy are not yet available. There are initial thoughts, both excitement and apprehension. Producing a video, for me at least, is quite challenging. Do I stare in front of a classroom with empty chairs and give a lecture?

Perhaps, I can make funny faces so that I can keep myself amused. That just may prevent me from falling asleep. Wait, maybe this one is a better idea. Probably, all we need is to browse the web and extract videos of lectures that match the content of what we need to teach. I do not even have to record my own lectures.

My initial reaction to "flipped instruction" is to reflect on what teaching and learning really are. Education is a "two-way street". We learn while we teach and we teach while we learn. Bringing homework back into the classroom addresses the current limitation of conventional instruction: The instructor is not present when a student engages in problem solving or activities outside school. To generate the time needed for homework inside a classroom, lectures are then taken home. The difficulty I perceive in this arrangement lies in the production of the learning materials to be viewed at home. How these compare to a live lecture depends on how well an instructor can anticipate the reaction or response from an audience. Excellent lectures have a way of finding the pulse of the audience. Excellent lecturers engage students inside the classroom by posing questions, pausing and breathing the atmosphere inside the classroom. Lectures like exercises are also "two-way streets".

Since there are teachers that have been experimenting on this new model, it is possible to get a glimpse of how these attempts are currently working. Grace Hood of the National Public Radio in the US recently wrote "More Teachers 'Flipping' The School Day Upside Down". The following is an excerpt:
...While there's little academic research on the concept, it appears to work in a variety of schools from Colorado to Illinois and Michigan. Outside Detroit, Clintondale Principal Greg Green tested the idea in 2010 as a way to curb disciplinary issues and boost test scores. It worked well enough that Green flipped the entire school, which has a large number of at-risk students....
John Thornburg, Chief of Staff at the Northwestern Military Academy in Wisconsin, wrote "If You Build It, Will They Come? - Flipping the Classroom" in the Action Research Report 2012 of the International Boys' Schools Coalition.

Online learning is on the move in education. From podcasts, vodcasts, blogs and wikis, to game-based platforms and second life environments, instructional design models are changing the face of teaching from a sage on the stage to meddler in the middle style (McWilliams 2009). McWilliams (2007) contends that teachers will need to spend “less time explaining through instruction and more time in experimental and error-welcoming modes of engagement” (p. 1). With an array of potential teaching approaches and strategies available, especially as Web 2.0 continues to offer seemingly limitless opportunities to engage boys in learning, the author wanted to test his idea that spending more time in his Biology class on practical collaborative activities, and less time on teaching content, would benefit his students and build stronger teacher-student relationships. 
The researcher took a giant step in deciding to flip his classroom. Having little exposure himself to online learning and teaching, he wanted to test whether, for his lower level Biology students, placing course content online and leaving classtime for interpersonal practical activities would develop strong learning relationships between him and the boys. He introduced an online learning component where students were required to read and familiarize themselves with course content through guided worksheets supported by customized video casts. Surprisingly, and against the rich evidence that boys are more engaged in delivery of lessons that are activity-based and grounded in what they know (Reichert & Hawley 2010), the researcher found that the online learning component did not seem to promote effective learning, nor did it enhance the teacher-student relationships in his classroom.  
Although unexpected, the results led the author to constructive introspection and healthy discussion with peers; processes which contributed to much personal growth and greater school involvement in addressing the online learning needs of students. The study served as a catalyst for several new online initiatives and the development of a new vision for this type of learning at the school.

Robert Talbert of Grand Valley State University cites the following potential issues of "flipped instruction" in his article, "Inverted Classroom":
The inverted classroom does have potential pitfalls. The creation of video content can be time-consuming. Students can often feel that they are being abandoned to learn the material on their own, which is a legitimate concern if the instructor does not actively engage students during the inclass time. Also, students who come from an educational background where lecturing and rote work is the norm may experience a great deal of culture shock at the inverted classroom and resist taking on the responsibility for learning that the method entails. Instructors should be prepared to gather lots of formative assessment data to watch for places where students may not be learning and to convince students that they are learning when appropriate.

"Flipped Classrooms"? I do not know. All I know is that it is a two-way street: Teaching and Learning.  


  1. I am glad to hear that teachers are now looking at the possibility of flipping their classroom in the Philippine setting. I agree with you on how lectures should be engaging to the students to keep students engaged in the lesson. however, flipping the classroom in my opinion is a tool to create more hands on interaction of the classroom teacher to his students.

    I flipped my classroom this year and it's really challenging. I tried it once and it didn't really fly... but after I did some research and reading, I came across with Dr. Mcgammon's FIZZ model in flipping classroom. I tried it and it finally worked for me.

    I am taking this opportunity to share with you my flipped classroom in youtube and how i embed my video lecture in my math website.

    Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/thenumberbender

    website: http://www.numberbender.com/


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