What Is Flipped Learning?

Flipped learning turns conventional teaching on its head. Instead of delivering a ‘one size fits all’ lecture to the whole class and then setting questions for homework, students are asked to learn new topics for homework (typically via online video tutorials) and then tackle questions in the classroom. 

This allows the teacher to spend less time in front of the whole class and more time assisting students one to one. Classroom time may also be used to promote interactive, creative and engaging shared experiences.

Students learn a new topic at their own pace and only move on when they’ve mastered it. The technology enables teachers to precisely monitor the progress of each student. Teachers are able to focus their efforts on helping students when they’re stuck.

Origins of Flipped Learning

I’m not sure it’s possible to exactly pin down who “invented” the concept of ‘Flipped Learning’ but Salman Khan certainly popularized it through his Khan Academy and this Ted Talk: Let’s Use Video to Reinvent Education:

At the time of writing this video has over 3.3 million views. The Khan Academy has inspired teachers in the USA and across the world. The majority of those case studies are videos and they make inspiring viewing.

One of the first adopters was the Los Altos School District (in California, but the case studies include examples from Spain, Ireland and Peru).

Advantages of Flipped Learning

I’m sure that Flipped Learning is not a panacea and much still depends on the quality of teaching but I think the case for flipped learning is compelling. Based on some of the information and video sources listed above, I can see the following advantages:

Stu­dents learn at their own pace: Students can be asked to study tutorials that are appropriate to their current level.  They can then work on that topic at their own pace. Able students can race ahead, less able students can make steady progress. In his video (see above) Salman Khan highlighted the fact that most (all?) students struggle at some point. Some students may get stuck at the early stages but, once they master a topic, they can catch up and even overtake their classmates. Nobody is discounted due to a poor start.

Students master topics: Students do not move on from a topic until they have mastered it. This avoids gaps in understanding and ensures that all students master the basics.

Individual Performance can be monitored: The technology enables teachers to track each student’s performance precisely. If a student is stuck, the teacher can intervene promptly or even ask another student (who has mastered the topic in question) to help.

Independent Learning: Students learn how to learn independently.

Self-reliant: I guess this is related to independent learning. The traditional method of teaching can make it difficult when a student is stuck. Many people find it challenging to admit they don’t understand something, especially in front of their peers and if they feel that they should really know it already. Flipped Learning gives students the opportunity to go back and revise troublesome topics without pressure from their teacher and peers.

Engagement: Students enjoy the challenge of working through the video and questions and moving onto the next level.

Improved Teaching: Less time delivering ‘one size fits all’ lectures, less time marking and more time one to one teaching and more time on challenging and engaging activities and developing mathematical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Equal Opportunity: All students, no matter what their background, past experience or confidence levels have access to the tools to enable them to reach their potential. Flipped Learning empowers students.

Mentoring/Parents: Technology makes it possible for students to be mentored by anybody. A student in Mumbai can be assisted by a teacher or volunteer in London. This clearly raises questions of safety and quality, but these are not insurmountable. Parents can get involved and learn alongside their children.

Continuous Improvement: Because Flipped Learning is driven by technology and data it offers the potential to benchmark and implement best practice across schools and countries.

Disadvantages of Flipped Learning

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m more than a little biased, so I find it difficult to think of many disadvantages. I’d be interested to hear about any negative experiences associated with Flipped Learning.

Technology availability: May require students to have access to the internet at home.

Reliance on homework: If the Flipped Learning model used requires students to study at home, some students (for a multitude of reasons) may not do this work.

Misapplication: It’s possible (as is the case with all teaching techniques) for Flipped Learning to be poorly executed. For example, all students could be asked to study the same tutorials rather than tailoring to suit individual needs. It would also be possible to focus on just pushing students through the syllabus and ignore the opportunities for rich learning and shared experiences.

The Future of Flipped Learning

 I’m sure that Flipped Learning will become increasingly popular. As its effectiveness becomes clear, students will expect it and parents demand it. At the moment the Khan Academy dominates the flipped learning landscape but teachers will develop local solutions. For example, two young Math teachers in England have developed an impressive website with videos, questions and checklists covering Key Stage 3, GCSE and A level math.

Most of the flipped learning applications I’ve seen seem to start at Year 5 or Year 6. Why not start them young? I’m sure that many 5-year-olds would be comfortable learning math on a tablet.

What would cement learning better than making a video? Why not let children teach others via videos? Educreations.com hosts educational videos and half of them are made by children – here’s an excellent example. Videos made by students are more powerful than polished videos made by teachers – they can highlight both mistakes and breakthrough moments (as per the example).

Flipped Learning — Summary

In my opinion Flipped Learning has huge potential. If it’s implemented correctly, with the appropriate technology and use of data, I’m sure it could allow the vast majority of students to reach their potential. However, I’m not a teacher, just a parent who has become fascinated by this approach. What do you think about Flipped Learning?