As you would imagine, more learning is most likely taking place in the class where the students are having real conversations about the content, and not simply listening passively to a lecture. Any time you can have your students engage in conversation or debate, they are engaging in higher-level thinking skills and processing content at a more rigorous level. That is just one of the benefits of an authentic flipped learning environment.
In that engaging history class, students had previously completed a lesson by watching a pre-recording video and answering questions about the Civil War. It helped them prepare for the expectations of the next day’s tasks- where they engaged in deeper level discourse throughout the group activity. Thus, many teachers find value in a true Flipped Learning lesson, where at-home learning aided by technology allows students to engage more deeply in activities inside the classroom for a longer period of time.
The Flipped Learning Network is the leading education organization in studying and providing resources about flipped learning. They define Flipped Learning as 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. In short, this means that teachers initially deliver lesson content to their students out-of-class and students work independently to learn the content. Then, they come into class and engage in activities in which they creatively apply that new knowledge, most often working in cooperative groups.
The Flipped Learning Network has even coined the acronym FLIP to outline and define the four core pillars of true flipped learning.
- F – Flexible Environment
- L – Learning Culture
- I – Intentional Content
- P – Professional Educator
Let’s examine each of these four pillars, considering what they look like in a flipped learning environment and how that differs from a more traditional classroom setting.
F – Flexible Environment
The “F” in FLIP stands for flexible environment, which of course refers to the obvious classroom space. In a flipped environment, classroom space is rearranged as needed, and other spaces such as computer labs, libraries, or outdoor areas are used as needed. This includes the flexibility of an at- home environment where students can use technology to learn important information on an upcoming lesson in order to prepare them for more rigorous activities. In contrast, a traditional classroom might keep desks in rows, or possibly in small groups, but rarely does the class work outside the confines of their room. Flexible environment also refers to flexible timing. In a flipped learning environment, students work at their own pace at home, but a more traditional classroom adheres to a specific schedule and even out-of-class activities have hard deadlines. The third area which is truly flexible is in the actual work done by students. Flipped learning classroom tasks are hands-on, engaging, and rigorous, and encourage students to apply their knowledge through high-level thinking. Additionally, assessments often take the form of a practical mastery task in which students demonstrate their knowledge in a creative way. This is a direct contrast to the more traditional classroom environment where classroom tasks may involve some cooperative learning, but typically involve a low level of rigor and do not require much high-level thinking. Furthermore, more traditional and lower rigor paper and pencil or online assessments are administered at the end of each lesson or unit.
L – Learning Culture
The “L” in FLIP represents a Learning Culture. As opposed to a traditional classroom that is often teacher-centered, a true flipped learning experience offers a learner-centered classroom culture. In this setting, the teacher serves as a facilitator and his/her role is to provide feedback to students and offer guiding questions as needed to encourage deeper thinking. Knowledge and skills are applied through activities that are high in rigor and encourage student engagement. This is in direct opposition to a teacher simply imparting knowledge to his/her students, while keeping that knowledge and skills at surface level, and planning classroom activities that are low in rigor.
I – Intentional Content
The “I” in FLIP stands for intentional content. Content refers to content standards, which are the standards set by a state or district that describe the knowledge and skills students need to master. In an authentic flipped learning environment, the teacher carefully analyzes content standards to determine what students are capable of learning independently, and what should be learned in class through the application of that knowledge. He/she then plans for rich learning experiences to take place in-class to increase conceptual understanding. They work hard to ensure that their out-of-class lesson delivery, in-class activities, and assessment are all clearly aligned with the content standards. On the other hand, a teacher in a more traditional setting plans for most content to be delivered in class. If the content is delivered out-of-class, the teacher may not have given much thought to what part of the content standards are best learned independently. Additionally, in-class activities and assessments often appear arbitrary and not clearly aligned with the content standards.
P – Professional Educator
The “P” in FLIP represents a professional educator. A professional educator sets aside time to regularly reflect on his/her practices, and they seek constructive feedback from colleagues in order to improve their practice. They also accept that noise and movement are inevitable when students are frequently working cooperatively. On the other hand, a traditional classroom teacher may be “stuck in their ways” and does not make time for regular reflection of his/her practices. They might have rigid classroom expectations and rarely give students a voice. They often limit the level of interactions such as discussion and cooperation between students.
As you would imagine, students can really benefit academically from flipped learning. By using the out-of-class time to learn the basic content knowledge, all of the in-class time can be dedicated to really applying that knowledge. Students are able to engage with their peers through discussions to analyze and evaluate ideas, in order to solve challenging problems. Furthermore, teachers are able to spend more time interacting with their students, asking questions, helping them see connections to prior knowledge, and encouraging deeper thinking. This is because the direct instruction piece has been taken out-of-class, thus freeing up class time for these engaging activities.