Not Flipping for Flipped

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a flipped classroom workshop. As many of you know, I have been fairly critical and skeptical of the flipped classroom model. I was engaged in a conversation with some folks on twitter about the model and was extended an invite to a workshop so I could see firsthand what it was all about. I wanted to attend this workshop to either prove myself right or to put my foot in my mouth and I was very much open to both possibilities. For those not familiar with the flipped model or flipped classroom, there are plenty of articles out there explaining it…just google it.

To get things started there was a keynote that highlighted the evolution of the flipped classroom. Right off the bat, I was not buying what was being sold. The basic flipped classroom takes the homework component and puts it into the classroom. Then the direct instruction or lectures are videotaped and sent home to be watched prior to coming to class. For me, this is not sound practice as I am not a believer in homework and mandating learning happening outside of the school. I am not saying that all teachers are using it this way but a majority of them are and that truly is a flipped classroom as it was originally defined. In this type of a model, it's no different than assigning homework to be done at home in terms of a teacher still impeding and infringing upon family time which is something I disagree with.

Moving through the morning, the phrase “it is not about the video” was referenced and cited several times. Yet, every person that shared experiences talked about their videos. If I was keeping track, I would say a majority of the people that asked questions from the audience were asking about the videos as well. In addition, a large portion of the day was dedicated to making videos and using the video software. Clearly, the flipped classroom is about the videos. Many of the video fans were talking about the transformative element of a student being able to pause and rewind. Yes, that is good for some kids, yet not for all. Some students need the interaction that a discussion or in class lecture provides.

As many people have said, there are lots of different ways the flipped classroom is being interpreted. For me, the flipped classroom is bad. Period. With that being said, I think the flipped classroom idea has allowed some people to move out of a comfort zone. It forced some teachers to look at their practice with a critical eye which is a good thing. Some of those teachers just started videotaping their lessons and sending them home which, as I already mentioned, I view as poor teaching. Yet, some of the teacher’s classrooms evolved into a mastery model or PBL or other forms of teaching models that many view as good practice. As these teachers move to these more advanced models, I don’t see that as a flipped classroom anymore yet some still do. You can have a mastery model classroom without any videos or homework and the same can be said for a PBL setting. Myself, I screen-capture reviews and lectures and post to a YouTube channel for students to view at any time for review or re-teaching. It is never required but simply another resource for students to use and I don’t think of that as “flipping” anything.

My final thought on the phenomenon that is the flipped classroom is it is not good teaching. Flipping a classroom and pushing videos homes is not something I can vote in favor of. Yes, there are examples of teachers where flipping their classrooms has led to other instructional changes that have been for the better. They started with the videos at home and moved towards a mastery model or just simply created a bank of video resources for students to use as needed. The keynote address even described these changes in the opening remarks and I think teachers who have evolved in this way are tremendous. Unfortunately, the hype of the flipped classroom is overlooking what a flipped classroom truly is as opposed to what good teachers should be doing naturally.

I have talked with teachers that are firmly on the flipped bandwagon and will tell you their teaching has been transformed for the better. They have shared how they have increased engagement and their students are achieving at a higher level than ever before. Yet, when you talk further with these people, they are not operating a flipped classroom and pushing lectures at home. They are simply evolving their teaching to meet the needs of the individual learners and are using a plethora of tools and resources to do so. In my book, this is not flipping…this is teaching as it should be.


Wm Chamberlain said...

I'm totally convinced that the flipped model works. I don't however agree with using video, too many students don't have access to the equipment necessary to view them at home. Therefor I am flipping my classroom using something I call 'textbooks'.

In these 'textbooks' all the information the students will need will be found. Best of all, as they read through the lessons if they have a question they can always go back and review the reading.

The core of my new flipped program will be to have the students do independent learning at home using the 'textbooks'. They will have access to all the information they need and all night to learn at their own pace. That way we won't have to worry about students slowing the class down when we are together, the students will have had plenty of time to learn independently. This means we can use the class time in a much more valuable way, doing worksheets!

Brian Barry said...

Great post Josh. I have never bought into the flipped model. I see it as another form of homework, of which I am not a fan to begin with. Moreover, it creates a bigger gap between the haves and the have nots. Many kids come from homes where survival, not the flip, is the top priority. I cannot imagine a more destructive way to put those kids further behind in school.

Josh said...

I wanted to make a clear distinction in what I say/hard. The flipped classroom model of sending videos home is not something I can see as good teaching. Yet, I think when some have dabbled with flipped, although not for me, it opened up doors to better teaching such as PBL or mastery. Once a teacher has done that, I don't see that as a flipped classroom anymore although many are still thinking it is. I guess it is a matter of perspective.

Chuck Baker said...

Agree with Barry - technology gap among families breaks my heart the lengths some kids have to go to do electronic assignments while some kids take their tech for granted.

TomZ said...

I'm about 3 months into my "flipped" physics classroom and I've found that I no longer assign videos as HW. I make them, compile them with other videos, and make a "resource list" for each unit.
My "did you watch the video" assignment included summarizing, asking questions, etc. Now I don't do that. Instead I give the students packets of conceptual problems of increasing difficulty, and if they struggle after some discussing I refer them to the videos.
Looking at it now I'd say I'm not really following what Jon Berggman calls Flipped Class 101 by a longshot. But as you mentioned, the use of the flipped model has allowed me to break out of the lecture mold and try new things... which I will continue to do!

Brian Bennett said...

I think we need to make an important distinction're approaching Flipped Learning as someone who is already doing the things we're trying to transition teachers into. Many veteran teachers are scared to death of giving up lecture to include other teaching and learning strategies...Flipped Learning helps them make the transition.

As someone who is already leading in progressive methods, the Flipped Learning you're describing here is a step backwards, which is why you're so turned off by it (to me, at least). The model you described is not the end state, much like what TomZ said. My experience was similar...started with homework, but then it blossomed into a larger-scale, open learning environment with video as a resource to my students.

Is it still Flipped in that iteration? I would say yes, because the students have been given nearly 100% responsibility for their learning, which is not they way they grew up in school. Remember, growth is a process, and this is just one step in that process for many people looking to improve their teaching.

Josh said...

I agree that it is important to make a distinction between what is flipped in what is not. However, in my opinion what you are doing is not flipped. You are utilizing other teaching methods such as student driven learning, PBL, or even mastery learning. Again, I do not see those as flipped models. I think the problem is the flipped classroom which is pushing lectures home is not the best model. The problem is everybody is putting other methods and other tools underneath the some broad definition of flipped and I don't think that's accurate. Then again, it is just a matter of perspective. I don't see what you are doing is flipped but rather you have evolved past flipped into other teaching methods...

Unknown said...

Hi Josh,
Nice post, I had a similar experience this summer when I attended a flipped learning conference here in NY, so I definitely see what your saying about what is presented as "flipped learning".

Please don't get me wrong, I am very grateful for info that some of the "leaders" of this style of teaching shared with me especially on vodcasting techniques, but as I developed my program I saw that the "flip" relies too much on watching the videos for homework and that seems very teacher centered.

Speaking from my experience, my time experimenting with vodcasting a few years ago was an exciting time for me where I grew a lot as an educator. Along the way it seemed that since I was using videos, my class was labelled "flipped" even though they were not assigned for HW or required. This was not all bad and it was nice to be recognized but I think that educators should use more detailed labels for different techniques as you mentioned-just because you use video doesn't mean its a "flipped" class.
Jasper Sr.

MathDifferently said...

Brian hit the nail on the head for me. I'm in a school where I'm pressured to 'give notes'. The only way I can do that AND do more of what I feel benefits students MORE is to move the lecture outside of class. There are many, videos that I feel the majority of students should be able to get the concept without just with what we do together in class. There are very few that I stress it would very much be in their best interest to watch before we do X. Some do, some don't.

We have a very transient student body and I often have students who leave for weeks or more. Having the resource available to them wherever they are is great.

But as stated in the original post, I view the videos as transitional, both for my teaching and for my students learning. Meaning students in my school are used to lecture/notes. When they don't get that, they're uncomfortable. I'm uncomfortable. We're both learning.

My goal now is a flip/shift in responsibility. When a student said 'I don't "get" stuff when I watch the video, I "get it" when I practice working out problems", I know at least some of them are starting to 'get it'.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post Josh. I have been feeling like there needs to be a bigger perspective on the role of 'flip' and what its goals really are. So far there seems to be a band wagon approach which focuses mainly on the videos and sending work home, which I have never been very comfortable with. But you crystallised for me what I do find appealing about flip - the push it gives to help me overcome my inertia around my bad habits. And the freedom it gives to help me move to mastery and PBL.

If you don't mind, I would like to incorporate this post into a presentation I am doing in the spring. It encapsulates the pros and cons of Flip very well, allowing me to better inform my audience of what they need to do in their practise. I would completely attribute you, but please let me know at @bar_qu on twitter. Thanks.

Christopher Mayorga said...

Dear Mr. Stumpenhorst,

I enjoyed reading an opposing voice towards this idea of the flipped classroom/flipped learning. Some key points are brought up in your blog, but I feel that you are focusing on an older model/prototype of the "flipped classroom". As you mention, there are various ways to implement it so it is not possible scrutinize all of the flipped classrooms based on some variations of it. The biggest issue in your blog is the idea of homework where the videos (lectures) are assigned to be viewed outside of the classroom. I respectfully disagree with the idea of no homework. As a former K-12 student and now a student at USC, I believe homework is crucial to a student's learning. As almost anything in this world goes, practice makes perfect. The only way to get better at math is by doing multiple problems, the best way to learn an instrument is by constant practice. Homework is where the student gets the opportunity to practice and apply all the learned material from the classroom. The flipped classroom reverses the role of homework where the students now "practice" in the classroom where they can ask questions to their teacher and get the clarification they need. Who are the students suppose to ask if they are doing homework at home? Not everyone's parents are able to help students with their homework, far more common in low-income homes. Flipped learning address this directly by allowing the teacher to answer these questions. This new teaching is more of a college style of teaching where you go home, read/learn the material, then go to class where the material is reviewed and questions are answered.

You criticize the video aspect of flipped learning because teachers just record themselves lecturing, which I believe is a failed attempt. You make the point that, "Some students need the interaction that a discussion or in class lecture provides." This is a good issue that can be addressed in flipped learning by haven the student bring in the questions they have into class to be answered by the teacher. Nonetheless, I see bigger issues facing flipped learning, not in the sense of the method of teaching, but economically. Many low income students do not have the required technology at home to access these video lectures which places them at a great disadvantage. I do agree that some of the video lectures need to be more than just a teacher conducting their normal lecture. If teachers are going to use a video then they can easily incorporate links and resources to further help their students during the lecture (the beauty of being able to pause and rewind). Overall, I think you bring up some great points about flipped learning that must be address to make the ideal flipped classroom.

Douglas Green said...

The key thing for me is students progressing at their own pace and only taking unit tests when they are ready with unlimited retakes. This requires a bank of test items and probably some kind of computerized administration system. Students must demonstrate mastery before they move on. This means no failure and no grades. You are judged by how far you get. Video resources can help can be used or not depending on what the student needs. When the student finishes a body of content they go one to something else and get a certificate/badge of completion.

Bill Ferriter said...

Hey Pal,

This sounds a lot like Gary Stager's take on IWBs:

Hope you're well -- and really hope we get a chance to meet in person someday.

Rock on,

Darcy Mullin said...

Josh, I get and for the most part agree with your concerns around the traditional flipped classrooms. That said, I think the model has evolved from where it started. I like the idea of flipping education, but what I mean by that is questioning long held beliefs and assumptions about how we do things. I think questioning practices and routines that we know do not help students is the true essence of flipping.

Gladys Scott said...

This is all very interesting. What I see is an old method under a new name with a few contemporary add-ons. Going back to William Chamberlain's post, textbooks were the "old" flip. Students were expected to read their assignments and come to class prepared to extend their learning. What I see in the "new" flipped is an attempt to get students who no longer read in preparation for class to acquire the content in another manner, i.e. videos. Students without technology access are not without resources to prepare for class but little is done to set the expectation that reading is essential, which as I see it, is a larger problem than the interpretation of a flipped classroom. Thank you, Christopher Mayorga for your comments as well.

Unknown said...

People who are pro-flipped have no real idea what it means or looks like to learn in a facilitated K-12 classroom. Homework has always been bad practice, for this reason: learning and practice are NOT separate ideals, they must be bound together. If a student is capable of learning at home, they can certainly practice at home, and likewise if they can practice at home, they either already know the material well enough (which means they don't need the practice), or they can reteach themselves while practicing (which means they don't need the classroom). See my blog post at

MSL said...

Wow, Josh, you're not typically this biased. You're really letting your personal feeling get in the way of understanding this model. First, you wrote a straw man definition of flipped learning. In a flipped classroom, students do NOT just do what they would have done for homework but do it at school. They do higher level processing that they could not have possibly done at home alone. They have debates, Socratic Seminars, complete collaborative projects, do computer simulations, etc. And that brings me to the next bias, whenever someone says that they do these things in class, then you say they're not doing flipped learning . . . At least not according to your straw man definition.

I don't mean to criticize because you're usually so much better than this. But I hoped that pointing it out might help you to see it.