Preparing to Flip a Classroom? Here’s What to Plan For.

For instructors and administrators who’ve never flipped a classroom, making the switch (even on a trial basis) can seem daunting. After all, flipping redefines what’s required of the educator twice. First, it requires that lecture materials be made available ahead of class time. Second, it requires teachers to replace passive in-class time with active learning strategies. Fortunately, the technologies that make the pedagogy possible are increasingly accessible to anyone willing to try.

In addition, faculty new to flipping can learn from the experiments and lessons of thousands of teachers across all levels of academia who have already made the switch. This growing community is contributing an ever-increasing body of knowledge to help other instructors make their first flipped classrooms a success.

As with any classroom change, preparation is essential. Establishing expectations for yourself, your students, and your institution will be instrumental to ensuring everything runs smoothly.

 

Preparing Yourself

In a flipped classroom model, the traditional boundaries between lectures, assignments, activities, and assessments are fuzzier than with traditional teaching. That change will produce a few unexpected challenges, and require a few adjustments to established working styles.  

To assist in making these adjustments, and to help you plan for a successful flipped classroom, here are a few things to expect:

Plan to spend more time preparing content and in-class activities

As with any course material, the first step to planning a flipped classroom is to identify what you will and won’t cover.

Here, though, the flipped classroom diverges from traditional teaching. Using the traditional model, every in-class lecture has a fixed duration and a common menu of formats, the most common being a slide presentation.

With a flipped classroom, you aren’t bound by a fixed-duration lecture or by traditional delivery formats that work well in class. Your lecture materials may include a short video presentation, curated recordings, podcasts, pointers to other websites, or virtually any other resource you choose. Class time is no longer built around one-way presentations, and instead can be dedicated to conversations, experiments, activities, and demonstrations.

Remember that you’ll need to spend more time and thought outlining how you’ll structure the lessons you’ll be sharing.

Plan to experiment and iterate

When you begin planning the content for your flipped course, it may not be obvious which topics would benefit most from the flip, which activities students will find most engaging, which content should be developed from scratch and which should be curated, how to pace your material, and how to structure pre-class and in-class assessments.

As with any change to your pedagogical approach, experimentation and iteration will be critical. This is particularly the case with the flipped classroom, an approach that introduces new complexity and is highly people-dependent.

Chances are, things won’t go perfectly on your first iteration. That’s okay. If you review each activity and content block, eliminating things that don’t work, trying new approaches, and mixing up your content sources and delivery styles, you’ll see improvements with each subsequent iteration.

Engage teaching assistants

Should you be fortunate enough to have the support of a student working in a teaching assistant or graduate assistant role, take time to walk that person through your plan for flipping, and what their role will entail. Because the in-class lecture will be minimized or eliminated, the TA should expect to take a more active role during class time, engaging with students in problem solving, discussions, and labs. Outside of class, TA participation can take many forms, from recording mini-lectures to assisting in the coordination of the digital classroom.

Find a champion in IT

While an increasing number of technologies give you the power to flip your classes independently, it’s also important to know how to get technical support when it’s needed. Your academic technology team can help. From setting up a computer for recording your videos to integrating them into your school’s LMS, having a solid relationship with someone in the technology department will make it easier to fully explore the potential of the pedagogy.

 

Preparing Your Students

Once you’ve prepared yourself, the next step is to set clear expectations and lines of communication for your students.

It’s easy to imagine students as infinitely flexible and always open to something new, particularly when it comes to adopting a new technology. However, the traditional learning model is quite familiar to students too, and it’s not uncommon for some to express reservations about a change. It’s therefore important that students understand the benefits of the flipped classroom, and when they do have concerns, that you and your teaching staff are ready to respond.

Spend a class session setting expectations

Along with the standard discussion of the course syllabus, plan to spend the first day of class explaining the reason for the flip and how students can best approach the new format. Come prepared to share examples of what they’ll see in the lecture recordings, and what they can expect for in-class activities. Just knowing what to expect will help boost student confidence when it’s time for the actual lessons to begin.

digital-student-with-panopto

Share an introductory video with your class to show them what to expect in recorded lectures.

Let students know what they stand to gain

For students new to the flipped class model, emphasizing the benefits upfront will help foster a sense of enthusiasm. For example, most students are excited to hear that they’ll always have access to recorded lecture materials. This aids in their study and enables them to learn at their own pace. Students are also often interested to know that they won’t be subjected to “death by PowerPoint” during class time, nor will they be required to spend class time frenetically scribbling or typing notes. The message to students should be clear: the flipped classroom model is a more engaging way to learn with the potential to dramatically improve their performance.  

Emphasize student responsibility for coming to class prepared

Students may not immediately recognize how essential it is to watch pre-class lecture recordings. Once they realize that in an interactive classroom they’ll only be able to participate if they’ve put the work in upfront, the majority will happily watch the video content.

As part of this, you should provide details on how students can access pre-class recordings and other materials. Then, to avoid the trap of becoming the de facto IT support for your students, you should explicitly make them responsible for completing the online lessons, regardless of computer or network problems. Just as students are responsible for getting to class on-time in spite of traffic and other external factors, they should be accountable for accessing their online lecture materials.

duration-of-watch

In a year-long pilot, Ball State found that the vast majority regularly watched their flipped classroom lectures.

For K12 classrooms, keep parents in the loop

As parents increasingly seek to understand their children’s learning environments, teachers who flip should expect to get questions from curious moms and dads. As with students, you can help mitigate concerns by being proactive in communicating the benefits of the pedagogy, and transparent in communicating your expectations. As part of this, you may want to encourage parents to follow along, watching videos throughout the semester in order to gain a better understanding of what their child is learning.

 

Five Frequently Asked Questions about the Flipped Classroom

Whether you’re preparing your students, their parents, or your institution for a shift to the flipped classroom, there are a few questions that almost invariably enter the conversation. Here are five of the most common questions you should be prepared to answer.  

1 . Will flipping take the teaching responsibility away from teachers and place it on the students?

No. A common misunderstanding is that flipping the classroom requires less instructor engagement, leaving students to fend for themselves. As experienced educators and students know, the opposite is true. The flipped classroom provides teachers with more time to cover content in greater depth, to foster discussion and collaboration, and to spend time tending to individual student needs and questions.

2 . Won’t students learn more effectively if they’re hearing the lecture in person, directly from the instructor?

Not necessarily. The flipped classroom actually brings teachers and students closer together. With lecture materials reviewed at home, educators no longer have to teach “to the center,” accommodating the average student while boring the more advanced learners and overwhelming those who need extra time. With flipped class recordings, students can drive the pace of their own learning.

3 . What happens to homework?

“Homework” in the flipped classroom may have multiple meanings. Most often, the work done outside of class will be watching the recorded lecture. Traditional homework, such as assignments, essays, and other exercises, still exists; however, in many cases, students will work on those assignments while in class where they can ask questions, learn from peers, and actively apply their knowledge in a collaborative environment.

4 . Without lecture, what do students do during class time?

The most valuable element of every flipped classroom is the opportunity for enhanced learning during class time. While classroom time can take many forms, it is always an engaging experience where students consult their teacher and collaborate with classmates. It can take the form of case-based learning, problem solving, role-playing, demonstrations, peer instruction, and more.

5 . How will students be evaluated?

Student retention of material will most often be tested through in-class tests and quizzes. Depending on the technologies used to support the flipped classroom, some assessments may be done online. Along with traditional midterm and final exams, graded assignments often make up the majority of students’ final grades. Note that in a flipped classroom, however, some of these assignments may take the form of recorded video presentations.

 

Preparing Your Institution

If you’re among the first faculty members at your institution to flip your classroom, gathering the support of your colleagues and administration is an important step to ensuring your own success, and to expanding the use of the pedagogy among your peers. So how can you convince them that flipping the classroom is a good idea?

Reference research on student performance

School boards and department heads are understandably driven by student performance. Citing recent studies, surveys and articles from other institutions will help allay fears that student performance will suffer under the flipped classroom model. The Flipped Learning Network offers a comprehensive and regularly updated list of the latest flipped classroom research — you can review the reports on the organization’s website, under Research, Reports, and Studies.

Address attendance concerns

When lectures are available outside of class, another oft-raised concern is whether students will feel that their attendance in the classroom is no longer essential. Of course, nothing about the flipped classroom makes skipping class acceptable. If anything, flipping makes the in-class experience more valuable to the student and more critical to their success.

Many schools and instructors have found that flipping the classroom actually improves attendance. This is often driven by student perception that in-class time is more engaging when they have an opportunity to work with their peers. Additionally, students have reported improved confidence and lower stress levels when they can come to class prepared with a foundational understanding of the material.

Offer to pilot the pedagogy through a “part-time flip”

Many of the best-known flipped classroom case studies feature schools that have made the pedagogy core to the learning experience. However, flipping has also been embraced as a tool that educators can turn to on a part-time basis, supporting their lessons as best fits the material.

It’s okay to start by dipping a toe into the shallow end of the flipped classroom pool. Experimenting with this new format enables instructors to gauge student and administration receptiveness to further flipping, and incorporate their feedback into future lessons.

 

Find out more!ICON - CTA - Practical Guide to Flipping Your Classroom eBook

With clear communication and expectations, consistent behavior, and a few simple strategies, any instructor or institution can launch a successful flipped classroom strategy.

Interested in joining teachers from around the country at the forefront of the flipped classroom pedagogy? We’ve prepared a comprehensive guide to preparing, delivering, and evaluating your flipped classroom, from ideas for interactive classroom activities to the tech needed to produce recorded lessons. Download your free copy today.

Published: August 31, 2015