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What is flipped learning and should I use it in the classroom?

As teachers, we are always keen to keep up to date with the latest research and methodology in delivering instruction, and one that is always in hot discussion is flipped learning.

Flipped learning, or flipped classroom, is an alternative approach to guiding students through their subjects. Instead of being taught a topic in a lesson, students are asked to complete a reading or project about the topic prior to the lesson, meaning they come into the classroom already informed on it. The lesson is then used for discussion on the topic, deepening their understanding and broadening their perspective.

Traditionally, a teacher is the leader of a lesson, lecturing the class on a subject matter and talking only small amounts of input from students. In the flipped learning classroom, this part of teaching is skipped because students already know the subject matter. In the new learner-centred, discussion-oriented environment, instead time is focused on gaining deep insight and on collaboration.

Benefits of flipped learning

  • A teacher can gauge what their students understand and ensure the correct information is consolidated before they leave a lesson.

  • There is more variety to lessons because the lecture-style parts of them have been removed. Instead, there is more time for discussion, student contribution, project work and group collaboration.

  • With deeper understanding of subjects, students will need to cram before exams less, and the information will be retained more easily once exams are over.

  • In traditional learning, students might find themselves learning a set of information and regurgitating it when required. With flipped learning, having a whole lesson dedicated to discussion allows students to consider different perspectives and engage in critical thinking.

  • When students are given time to study a topic before they enter the classroom, they have time to consider what parts they don’t understand or would like to discuss. These can be submitted to the teacher and can inform the direction of the following lesson.

Drawbacks of flipped learning

  • The success of flipped learning depends on every student having sufficiently completed the pre-lesson work. Rarely will this be the case in a full class.

  • Not every student has the same means to complete work outside of class, what with them having unequal access to educational technology tools and having different schedules. This puts the students who do have home computers and ample free time to read up on a subject before a lesson a big leg up when they actually enter the classroom.

  • Not all students learn the same way. If the pre-lesson work is a required reading, for example, this will suit some students’ learning styles more than others.

  • Some argue that making students read about a subject or watch a video on it in their own time has the same effectiveness as them being taught the subject in lessons. In both instances, they are simply absorbing information. In traditional lessons, students still consolidate what they have learnt and consider different perspectives on it by completing homework tasks. In this way, both traditional teaching and flipped learning have a first stage of learning the subject matter and a second stage of deepening understanding of it, and both have time learning in the classroom and independently outside of the classroom - these stages have simply been switched around.

  • Flipped learning may increase lesson preparation time, with teachers needing to find high-quality resources for students to study at home.

Overall, switching over to flipped learning is a choice dependent on the attributes your students, your school and your own teaching style. It may be the case that you and your students thrive from implementing a mix of traditional teaching and flipped learning approaches throughout each school year.

What do you think about flipped learning?

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