The Flipped Classroom

The concept of the Flipped Classroom has been around for over twenty years, however, it is only in the last decade that it has gained increasing popularity and prevalence within the UK Higher Education sector.  The Flipped Classroom is a concept based on the principles of blended learning; it moves the traditional and didactic aspects of learning outside of the classroom and uses the face-to-face time for group work, collaboration, active experimentation and discussion.  With Flipped Learning, the lecturer will often front-load their students; requiring them watch online videos and engage with other resources prior to the timetabled ‘lecture’ in order to familiarise themselves with the key concepts and issues.  This practice lays the foundations for the discussions and exercises that then take place in the ‘lecture’, offering up opportunities for deeper learning to take place.

According to Spector, Flipped Learning “shifts the emphasis from teaching styles to learning styles, since the primary presentations take place outside the classroom with individual learners approaching problem solving in very different ways” (2016, p.190).  Indeed, Spector argues then that Flipped Learning can promote more personalised and inclusive learning styles, something that can be difficult to achieve in a ‘traditional’ classroom setting.

The rising popularity of Flipped Learning has been facilitated by the ever-increasing pervasiveness of technology in everyday lives.  The ways in which people access and interact with information is vastly different to how it was twenty years ago; the Internet allows users to engage directly with leading scientists, thinkers, policy makers and artists across the globe; social media connects users, enabling them to interact and collaborate anytime and anywhere; users can learn about any subject at the click of a mouse or the touch of a screen; and the publication of information is no longer limited to a select few – anyone can publish their thoughts and ideas to a global audience.  The Flipped Learning concept uses such shifts to its advantage and taps into the concept of ‘just in time’ learning and the notion of today’s students as ‘digital natives’.

This, of course, represents Flipped Learning in its uppermost limits.  Flipped Learning isn’t all about front-loading students with YouTube videos and TED talks.  At the University of Kent, in cases where this approach has proven to be successful, local and well-considered adaptations have been key.  Indeed, a number of academic staff have successfully combined ‘traditional’ didactic teaching with elements of Flipped Learning.

It is important to emphasise that the Flipped Classroom is not a one-size-fits-all solution and certainly shouldn’t be regarded as a panacea.  Lecturers considering the adoption of such an approach need to consider how this will work within their own disciplines and how this approach will enhance the learning experience of students.  It is also important that Flipped Learning is pedagogically driven and not techno-deterministic.

For those interested, here are some examples of how the concept of Flipped Learning could be applied to your own teaching:

  • Use KentPlayer to record ‘snippets’ that are made available to students prior to the taught lecture.  This offers more time during the taught lecture for group work and discussions.
  • Re-use KentPlayer recordings from the previous academic year to provide the foundations for the current academic year.  This leaves the taught lecture time free for group work, discussions and further inquiry into the concepts, issues and themes being discussed.
  • Use Moodle to link to online videos and other resources in preparation for the taught lecture.
  • Partially-flip your module by combining traditional didactic teaching with elements of Flipped Learning.

Spector, J.M, 2016, Foundations of Educational Technology, 2nd Ed. Routledge, London.
Image sourced from JISC, under Creative Commons

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