Considering the Flip-side to Teaching and Learning

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By Leahann Renaud

To a non-teacher, the notion of a “flipped” (Baker, 2000) or “inverted” (Lage, Platt & Treglia, 2000) classroom is a relatively new concept. However, from my career perspective focused in higher education and instructional design experience, I find this method of teaching and learning to be growing in popularity. With current trends in educational reform concentrated on shifts in traditional teaching methods, I aim to explore whether the flipped classroom is really worth flipping-out over within post-secondary education (PSE).

WHAT?

The flipped classroom model suggests moving the delivery of content and curriculum outside of formal classroom hours (via video lectures, required readings, and other means), to allow face-to-face classroom time for student-teacher, interactivity and collaboration relevant to the course material (Butt, 2014, p. 33; Hill, 2013, August 26). This inverted method acts to incorporate constructivist, problem and inquiry-based learning to student-centered approaches, which are commonly regarded as more effective alternatives to traditional teacher directed instruction.

SO WHAT?

Whereas limited academic literature exists on the effectiveness of inverted classroom methods, early studies indicate that students excel in a flipped classroom environment. According to a recent North American study, the pass rate of students from San Jose State University and the grade score of students from the University of British Columbia was upwards of 30% higher for those grouped in some type of flipped course format than for those who received traditional instruction (Caramanico, 2013, December 29). Reports also indicate that student response to a flipped classroom model is positive. Research conducted at the Australian National University indicate that over 75% of students who participated in an inverted classroom course considered the model to be “beneficial to their learning experience compared to a didactic lecture structure” (Butt, 2014, p. 41).

While advantages of the flipped classroom can also include flexible learning schedules, efficient use of formal class time, and hands-on practical learning experiences (Hill, 2013, August 26), there is significant value in listening to what the critics are saying.

A prominent challenge with the flipped classroom model concerns student learning preferences and preparedness. Whereas this approach invokes interaction, collaboration, and socialization during face-to-face class time, learning strategies often favour extroverts over introverts, or those who prefer individual reflection within a group space (Honeycutt, 2014, February 17). A flipped classroom is not a ‘one size fits all’ model; there is potential that the approach could create a wider socio-economic gap among students, providing greater advantages to the higher-income population base with means to modern technology, as opposed to lower-income students, or those from rural areas with limited internet access (Findlay-Thompson & Mombourquette, 2014, p. 64-67). Further, we must consider what role the instructor plays within the flipped classroom, and how this influences teacher identity. Tucker (2012) argues that teachers may find themselves in a constant battle with the technology; whereas software and online tools will continue to evolve, teachers will be required to commit to training and managing flipped classroom technology to ensure the approach is effective in engaging learners (Findlay-Thompson & Mombourquette, 2014, p.   66).

NOW WHAT?

As with most unconventional approaches to teaching and learning, the concept of a flipped classroom summons various current issues within the realm of PSE, from student accessibility and learning styles to teacher identity, e-learning technology and sustainability. While the topic is gaining traction within academic literature and among online sources, further research is required in the following areas in order to better assess the effectiveness and efficiency of the flipped classroom model:

  1. Online Studies – Research generalizes the flipped classroom as consisting of blended learning formats. Further analysis is required to determine whether inverted approaches could work within learning environments offered entirely online. What are the most effective learning management system platforms currently available and what are their features?
  2. Accessibility – How might the integration of a flipped classroom model impact students with physical/learning disabilities? What services should institutions of higher education offer to ensure equal access and opportunity for all learners?
  3. Instructor/Teacher Identity – With a move toward online-system integration, how does this student-centered approach affect the role of our current instructors? What does this mean for future teacher training? Could PSE retain tenured faculty considering shifts away from traditional lecture instruction?

Additional Resources

References:

Baker, J.W. (2000). The classroom flip: Using web course management tools to become the guide by the side.” In: 11th International Conference on College Teaching and Learning (p. 12-15). Florida, United States.

Butt, A. (2014). Student views on the use of a flipped classroom approach: Evidence from Australia.
Business Education & Accreditation, 6(1), p. 33-43. Retrieved from:                 http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=38ca5ab0-c875-4889-b376-91541681c90b%40sessionmgr4005&vid=4&hid=4211

Caramanico, N. (2013, December 29). K-12 Blueprint: Is flipped education worth flipping for? Retrieved from: http://www.k12blueprint.com/content/flipped-education-worth-flipping

Findlay-Thompson, S. & Mombourquette, P. (2014). Evaluation of a flipped classroom in an undergraduate business course. Business & Education Accreditation 6(1), p. 63-71. Retrieved from:http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.proxy.library.brocku.ca/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=3&sid=e2174521-1f1d-4ce8-bfc2-fc6c64ffd043@sessionmgr114&hid=116

Hill, C.A. (2013, August 26). Faculty Focus: The benefits of flipping your classroom. Retrieved from:
http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/instructional-design/the-benefits-of-flipping-your-classroom/?utm_source=cheetah&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2013.08.26%20Faculty%20Focus%20Update

Honeycutt, B. (2014, February 17). Faculty Focus: The flipped classroom: Tips for integrating moments of reflection. Retrieved from: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/instructional-design/flipped-classroom-tips-integrating-moments-reflection/?campaign=FF140217article

Honeycutt, B. (2012, August 30). Flip It Consulting: The lecture vs. the flip. Retrieved from:
http://www.flipitconsulting.com/2012/08/30/the-lecture-vs-the-flip/

Khan, S. (2011, March). Salman Khan: Let’s use video to reinvent education. TED. Video retrieved from:
http://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education.html

Lage, M. J., Platt, G.J., & Treglia, M. (2000). Inverting the classroom: A gateway to creating an inclusive learning environment. Journal of Economic Education, 31(1), p. 30-43.  Retrieved from: http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.proxy.library.brocku.ca/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=38ca5ab0-c875-4889-b376-91541681c90b%40sessionmgr4005&vid=4&hid=4211

Tucker, B. (2012). The flipped classroom: Online instruction at home frees class time for learning. Education Next, 12(1). Retrieved from: http://educationnext.org/the-flipped-classroom/

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7 thoughts on “Considering the Flip-side to Teaching and Learning

  1. Leahann, this is a provocative topic.

    When I was an undergraduate student one of my classmates videotaped all of the lectures and posted them on-line. This took off any pressure that was on me for note-taking and I experienced a more relaxing lecture experience where the stress of not wanting to miss anything did not interfere with my learning. I saw every lecture in person and then again at the end of the term when it was time to study for the final exam. I could pause and rewind my professor at will. This was a great luxury and it led to an enhanced grade.

    This experience led me to record (just audio, the only equipment I had) the lectures for a subsequent course and then type out the recordings. Again I could pause and rewind my professor’s voice. My effort to ‘flip’ my classroom experience resulted in the highest mark I ever achieved in an undergraduate course.

    I agree with Tucker (2012) that time is the enemy for teaching and learning. Online lectures are great because they allow students to dictate the time needed for their learning to occur; they assists learners absorbing the lecture material at all different paces.

    An impediment to flipped classrooms, as discussed by Trowler and Bamber (2005), is the resistance often witnessed by professors to change their teaching methods. Even if research is linked to superior academic performance where should the focus be to foster the growth in flipped classrooms: the professor, the department, the institution, the discipline, or where?
    Marc

    References:
    Trowler, P., & Bamber, R. (2005). Compulsory higher education teacher training: Joined-up policies, institutional architectures and enhancement cultures. International Journal for Academic Development, 10, 79-93. doi: 10.1080/13601440500281708
    Tucker, B. (2012). The flipped classroom. Online instruction at home frees class time for learning. Education Next. Retrieved from educationnext.org

  2. To clarify my last paragraph…
    Regarding the theory of change (e.g. bringing flipped classrooms into a department) one might assume that if you train faculty members in flipped classrooms and administration tells them that they want them to flip their classrooms then they will flip their classrooms…but they often don’t.

    Trowler and Bamber (2005) say “local departmental and workgroup cultures are powerful, operate against innovation, and hinder the transfer of trainee lecturers’ learning back into their departments” (p.83). So if flipped classrooms are indeed a valuable way of teaching, how do get the professoriate on board?

    Trowler, P., & Bamber, R. (2005). Compulsory higher education teacher training: Joined-up policies, institutional architectures and enhancement cultures. International Journal for Academic Development, 10, 79-93. doi: 10.1080/13601440500281708

  3. I enjoyed reading this Leahann, definitely an educational approach worth exploring. As relates to the North American study of student performance in a flipped classroom environment at San Jose University and the University of British Columbia, is there a specification as to which programs these statistics are drawn from? Are the higher pass rate and grade scores indicative of all programs across the undergraduate and graduate spectrum or are they relative to specific programs?

    Your blog also identifies the socio-economic concerns that may arise from an inverted classroom approach. To expand on this idea, one should consider whether an inverted approach lies too heavily in the assumption that all students and universities have access to technology? (Ivala, Thiart, & Gachago, 2013). It would be interesting to compare how universities and colleges with different and varied levels of access to technological resources, funding, location and student demographics would respond to an inverted classroom approach.

    The inverted model also has some further challenges to consider. The intention of inverted classrooms is to deliver all low-order content prior to face-to-face classroom time using technological forms such as instructional videos (Bergmann & Sams, 2014). How would the class progress in instances where some students have not had an opportunity to review the assigned lectures? These occurrences are inevitable and perhaps comparable to students attending lectures and tutorials without completing their assigned readings. How do instructors respond in these instances? Do they deliver the missed content to students who need it while simultaneously subjecting the remaining students to the monotony of repetition? Or do they move forward with the planned activities at the risk of potentially marginalizing the students who have not completed the assigned viewings? The inverted classroom model is an interesting idea and I look forward to seeing further studies on its implementation and effectiveness in Ontario’s colleges and universities.

    References

    Bermann, J., & Sams, A. (2014). Flipped learning: Maximizing face time. T + D, 68(2). Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.proxy.library.brocku.ca/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=bd7522d3-4a02-41bb-a1ff-5d59a039b9d2@sessionmgr4002&vid=2&hid=4111

    Ivala, E., Thiart, A., Gachago, D. (2013). A lecturer’s perception of the adoption of the inverted classroom or flipped method of curriculum delivery in a hydrology course, in a resource poor university of technology. Proceedings from ICEL ’13: International Conference on e-Learning. Cape Town, South Africa.

  4. One additional thought…

    I wonder how part-time contract professors feel about flipped classrooms? As Woolsey (2013) points out lectures that instructors post online become “irretrievable intellectual property of the institution” (p. 246) that can be used by another professor should the professor who posted it not have their contract renewed. This could leave contract professors feeling very uncomfortable about signing on with an institution that has flipped classrooms as part of their teaching culture.

    Woolsey, S. (2013). Quality and sustainability concerns for online course offerings in higher education. In Kompf, M. & Denicolo, P.M. (Eds.), Critical issues in higher education, (241-255). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

  5. And (in response to Marc’s comment) professors often just don’t feel they have time for pedagogical innovations – I know that sounds simplistic, but having worked in faculty development, one so often hears profs talking about what they’d like to implement – and it can sound great – but when the next term rolls around, it’s suddenly time to start again and it didn’t quite happen (been guilty of this myself at times!)

  6. Leahann, thank you for adopting the “what – so what – now what” approach in your posting. I appreciated how you used this approach to introduce the topic and then present various perspectives on the flipped classroom model.

    Of course, from my perspective in educational development, the flipped classroom model is “old wine in new bottles” since I see it as yet another variation of active learning strategies. Proponents of Team-Based Learning have been arguing that they’ve been employing this strategy long before the “flipped classroom” concept got so popular (see http://www.teambasedlearning.org/). My heart goes out to Garrison and Vaughan whose oft-cited text on blended learning (see http://ca.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0787987700.html) never once used the term, flipped classroom, as the term wasn’t yet part of popular discourse at the time of publication.

    I would like to share some additional perspectives/questions :
    – Michael, you commented about a very real challenge that I see in my support role, namely expectations and implications. That is to say, if an instructor expects learners to engage is x-hours of pre-F2F classroom preparation, what are the implications if learners do not do this? And how do these implications align with philosophical assumptions toward adult learners as intrinsically-motivated, responsible individuals?
    – Too often, we look at these classroom innovations from the perspective of “my course” (i.e., from the lens of one instructor adopting the innovation). I’ll suggest that learners don’t come to post-secondary for individual courses; they come for programs. So what happens if an entire program adopts the flipped classroom approach. Are we expecting too much “outside of scheduled classroom time” from our learners, who are also managing multiple personal and professional responsibilities? Feel free to refute or support me on this, but I might argue that the flipped classroom is another example of a neoliberal approach to educaiton. 🙂

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