Use of the term Flipped Classroom

What is a flipped classroom?

by Julie Schell

We write a lot about the term “flipped classroom,” which is a term we did not invent, so it is worth a little explanation.

High school chemistry teachers, Bergmann and Sams (2012), are the guys most people thank and credit for that! Although, they don’t claim to have invented the flipped class either.

In fact, they claim that there is no such thing as the flipped classroom. They define flipping the classroom precisely as a mindset that directs attention away from teachers and puts it squarely on the students and their learning. They also say “every teacher who has chosen to flip does so differently.” Bergmann recently posted his definition here, and he says ” you see there is no ONE way to flip a class and in this lies one of the great strengths of this methodology. ”

To dig into what a flipped classroom is and is not, see our interactive question series 7 myths about the flipped classroom. You can also watch us define the flipped classroom in 60 seconds in this video. 

Bergmann and Sams seem to have began flipping their classes in 2006 and acknowledge Maureen Lage, Glenn Platt, and Michael Treglia (2000) for their research article “Inverting the Classroom” A Gateway to Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment.” In this article Lage et al. state: “Inverting the classroom means that events that traditionally taken place inside the classroom now take place outside the classroom and vice versa…the use of the World Wide Web and multimedia comptuers (and/or VCRS) emables students to view lectures either in computer labs or at home, whereas homework assignments can be done in class, in groups” (p. 32).

In 1997, in “Peer Instruction: A User’s Manual,” Eric Mazur wrote about moving information coverage out of the classroom by requiring students to read before class: “the key point is to get students to do part of the work ahead of the lecture” (p.22)…”I require students to read the text book and my lecture notes before coming to class” and my “lectures elaborate on the reading, address potential difficulties, deepen understanding, build confidence, and add additional examples” (p. 10). Eric was using multimedia in the form of animations and videos to help physics students learn better as early as 1988. He developed a computer program called the Essence of Physics, which encouraged students to interact with multimedia outside and inside of class.

Screencasting or Lecture Capture: For Bergmann and Sams, the traditional flipped teaching model means having students view pre-recorded lectures online (and they give some training to students on how to do this well), often called screencasts or lecture captures. Teachers use software to capture their lectures and then make those videos available to their students. Students then watch the lectures before class. Students and teachers spend a few minutes going over questions about the online lecture in class, and then spend the remainder of the class period doing guided homework problems (i.e. homework in class and lectures at home). You might also be surprised to learn Bergmann and Sams don’t even use this model anymore, they used a more advanced version that leverages a personalized and mastery learning approach.

History of the Flipped Classroom

With Bergmann and Sams, we agree there is a long history of voices calling for flipped models of learning. The earliest is probably Socrates, who emphasized the necessity of active dialogue, although that may be stretch. In more recent history, Christopher Columbus Langdell should get props (but is often neglected in conversations about flipped classes) for the last real universal revolution in American higher eduction with his casebook method reform for law schools. Law students prepare before they come to class by reading cases and then answer questions to probe their understanding in class, ala Socratic Dialogue.

Many of my English and Humanities colleagues shake their heads at the recent hype over the term “flipped classroom,” as they have been requiring students to do information coverage out of class since day one.

Peer Instruction facilitated by Just-in-Time Teaching is just one research-based example among many for flipping a classroom. Peer Instruction offers an interesting, evidence-based way to do something innovative with your flip. There are tons of innovative ways to flip your class and we use the term more broadly to incorporate all the incredible possibilities that go beyond screencasting. “It’s not about the technology, it’s about the pedagogy,” Eric Mazur.


Comments RSS
  1. Danny

    It is very important to give our children a right way to learn in their lifetimes.


    This is the best method which can allow a student to maintain his/her life long learning

  3. This is a very informative post, Julie. It is timely to review the background of the “flipped classroom” concept, because in the current media craze it’s not uncommon to see credit being flung in the wrong directions. Take Khan Academy, for example, often associated with the flipped classroom in media outlets. Even Stanford Medical School press calls it “Khan Academy’s flipped classroom model of teaching.”

    In his Telegraph feature “Flip Thinking” (Sep. 2010), Daniel Pink calls it the “Fisch Flip” and gives a lot of credit to high-school teacher Karl Fisch from Colorado, then extrapolates the concept wildly to other industries. (Fisch, it seems, got the idea from Bergmann and Sams.)

    So, it is good to remember that various “flipped classroom” practices were being applied a long time before this term appears. But sometimes giving something a name that is “sticky” (people go “ah-ha” and remember it) goes a long way to spreading an idea. I believe it was Bergmann who coined the term.

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