The Flipped Classroom



“…flipped classroom teachers almost universally agree that it’s not the instructional videos on their own, but how they are integrated into an overall approach, that makes the difference. …students can’t just “watch videos …teachers check their notes and require students to come to class with questions…. as the year progresses they ask better questions and think more deeply…”

The flipped classroom (also inverted classroom and flipped teaching) is an instructional approach (not method, per se) aiming to minimize direct pedagogical instruction in classrooms while optimizing one-on-one and group interaction. The flipped model focuses on preparation outside of class to free up student time for learning during class. As a strategy for social learning, flipped teaching draws considerably on web-based learning tools as platforms for learning. By flipping the classroom this way, learning becomes situated both in isolation and with others; in class, difficult ideas and concepts are worked through and students engage in peer-to-peer learning. The idea in the FC is to flip instruction, getting students to engage in interactive social learning. With teacher-created videos and lessons, instruction is less about being taught content as attending to learn. FCs can be rethought of as best ways to maximize learning resources (and time).

Mazur and Crouch describe a modified form of the flipped classroom that they call peer instruction (2001). In a 2012 NEJM article, the authors proposed the idea of flipped classrooms where medical students could absorb lecture materials outside of class thereby freeing up time for learning during class. In 2014, McLaughlin explores the idea of flipping the classroom within health-related (i.e., pharmacy) courses.

Different ways of flipping the classroom

The use of technology such as webinars, podcasts, videocasts and other online learning objects can be very effective in imparting concepts. That said, creative teachers can also use the following techniques to engage with their students away from formal class time:

  • try some small group instruction between teacher and students from class
  • schedule one-on-one sessions between teacher and students; set weekly goals, provide specific coaching to students
  • offer peer-to-peer tutoring where students explain concepts to each other; students are then expected to understand concepts and teach (e.g., struggling students get clarification, and explainers deepen their understanding)
  • project-based learning with a group of students who have mastered or are ready to explore concepts



In the traditional approach to teaching, students come to class to hear lectures, then make sense of material through problem sets and other activities after class. The “flip” involves shifting the exposure to concepts “before the class” and placing the deeper learning during class time. One of the many benefits of the flipped classroom is focusing on the critical aspects of teaching such as student autonomy, purpose/relevance, emotional intelligence and so on. The flipped classroom should make optimal use of instructor and student time, provides increased access to the instructor’s expertise and enables better scalability of instructional resources to support high-enrollment demands. From the pedagogical perspective, key benefits of the flipped classroom are:

  • increased classroom time to present content, discuss complex topics and work with students — either individually or in small groups
  • reduced time spent answering basic and repetitive questions due to students’ ability to review lectures online;
  • recorded lectures are used in multiple course sections with tools for updating content
  • quick adaptation of lecture content to respond to new learning needs

Flipping meetings & conferences

In 2013, due to the MLA13 Conference in Boston, there has been much discussion about flipping classrooms for health librarians but extending the flip into future meetings and conferences. In the “flipped classroom”, the usual lecture and assignments are reversed; further, video lectures are to be viewed before participants come together and the time in class is devoted to exercises, projects or discussions about content. One of the benefits of this flipped approach is that it asks participants to change how they use their time in the classroom. Will the instructor use it for lecturing? thoughtful discussions with learners? hands-on learning? What happens online between classes? Will learners use social media? The use of recorded lectures puts instructors under the control of their students; they can watch, rewind and fast-forward content as many times as needed. The flipped classroom isn’t merely about watching video lectures or doing homework; it has to do with who is learning, and when it happens.

One way presentations might be flipped at conferences is that materials for sessions could be posted online beforehand. Posting content would be up to the individual or sponsor. Posting content would allow attendees (not just those that can squeeze into the room) to review content. Attendees and non-attendees could have some time to digest content and discuss it with colleagues before going to the conference. At conferences, sessions could consist of discussions, activities and other methods of engagement. Discussions could be captured or added to dialogues. This could be used for posters. Why wait until one is in the hall standing there in front of the author reading their materials then have to generate questions on the spot?

Eric Schnell has some good ideas about flipping the classroom or “flipping the conference”. While flipped presentations may not always be appropriate, for plenary and invited speakers, the idea might be worth exploring by placing more ownership of conferences on attendees. Attendees could access and digest content and use face-to-face interactions to further understanding. If the attendees own their experiences, there is more potential for deeper and transformative learning to happen.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s