Month: May 2014

Flipped Primer – Part 1

I love it when folks smash my negative preconceptions.  That happened with the class I am taking this semester.  The syllabus foretold lots of research and writing reflections and I much prefer getting my hands dirty and trying things out. But, to my great surprise, I really enjoyed myself. I even enjoyed writing my research paper.

Perhaps that was because I chose a topic that I have been peripherally interested in for a while – flipping the classroom. There is already a lot of information out there on flipping the classroom in a K-12 or college setting, but not too much on doing this in the workplace, so I thought I would share my findings.

Today I will touch on what it means to flip a classroom.  Over the next few weeks I will be looking at a couple of useful models, the benefits and challenges of flipping, some tools and best practices, and examples of how this is already working in the workplace.

So, what is Flipped Learning?

Unfortunately many learning professionals have misconceptions about what it really means to flip a learning experience, and little literature exists to support implementation of flipped learning in the workplace. Flipped learning is not just about watching lecture via videos outside of the classroom and doing homework in class. Flipped learning is a learner-centered approach where the educator actively considers the best way to use class time so that learning and retention are maximized.

According to the Flipped Learning Network (FLN),

Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.




What does that really mean?

This definition touches on several key points.

Direct instruction occurs in the individual learning space, but there is no prescription for how that instruction occurs. That is, a video lecture, or even the use of technology, is not imperative.

The group learning space is dynamic and interactive; this is not a place for a traditional discussion or where students are getting support on completing a worksheet. Rather the classroom is a space where learners are exploring, applying, creating and problem solving.

The word “guide” is used to describe the educator. They are there to observe, support students in the learning process, and provide feedback when necessary. They are not instructing in the group space or even providing all the answers to questions.

The FLN states that there are four key features, or pillars, of flipped learning. Notice they handily spell out FLIP.



Flexible Environment – A flipped classroom must be flexible in several ways. Since classroom time is spent on activities, the physical space must be flexible; educators should be able to arrange desks, chairs, tables and materials according to the type of activity. The timeline will also need to be more flexible as students will be learning at their own pace and class time will be less structured than in a traditional format. Assessments are also on a flexible timeline and should be meaningful.

Learning Culture – A flipped learning environment is student-centered. A shift in learning culture and expectations may be necessary for both the instructor and students. The instructor must deliberately construct meaningful knowledge construction activities. Students have greater responsibility in the learning process and are not reliant upon the instructor for new content and learning evaluation.

Intentional Content – An instructor in a flipped classroom should consider how to best present new information and concepts. Some material needs to be directly taught; other material can be introduced and learned through student exploration. A flipped instructor is intentional about using student-centered techniques to maximize classroom time.

Professional Educator – A professional educator may be less visible in a flipped classroom than a traditional one, but they are more critical in this environment. A flipped educator is not just lecturing on an area of expertise, but supporting students as they dive even deeper into a subject. They are providing continuous feedback and must be knowledgeable enough to support the flexible environment and uncertainties that come along with flipped learning.

How is flipped learning different from blended learning?

A common misconception is that flipped learning is just another name for blended learning. While flipped learning may manifest as a type of blended learning, there are significant differences.

Blended learning is focused on technology and engaging the learner; it is often seen as the combination of asynchronous e-learning events with traditional face-to-face instruction. Flipped learning on the other hand focuses on how to address different types of learning; in particular, it looks at how an instructor can best support a learner in higher level learning tasks.  Leigh Anne Lankford has a great post looking at the difference between the two.

As shown in the image below, use of a flipped learning model allows the instructor to spend more time to support higher level learning tasks like application, analysis and creation.


These are the tasks that should be occurring in a flipped learning classroom. Lower level tasks such as remembering and understanding are completed independently in a flipped classroom. These may be done with some peer-to-peer collaboration but for the most part they are self-paced and not instructor led. By freeing up the class time normally used on lecture, instructors are able to focus on high levels of learning, whereas in a traditional classroom they often are unable to make it past understanding or application. The Flipped Learning Network, and it’s founders Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann, talk a lot about this.


Next up: Two models for flipping the classroom

In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions about flipped learning you’d like me to address in this series! And here are some resources for a little extra reading.

Flipped Learning Network. (2014). What is flipped learning? Retrieved from

Hamdan, N., McKnight, P., McKnight, K., & Arfstrom, K. (2013). A review of flipped learning. Retrieved from

Lankford, L.A. (2013, January 24). Isn’t the flipped classroom just blended learning? Training Pros: Leighanne’s Learning Notes. [Web log]. Retrieved from

Sams, A. & Bergmann, J. (2013) Flip your students’ learning. Educational Leadership, 70(6), 16-20.