Should You Be Flipping Too?

upside down apple
Image courtesy of Thinkstock.com. Used with permission.

One of the hottest trends in higher education is the flipped classroom. We all know that some trends don’t end up having much staying power, but this one seems to be here to stay. Briefly, the flipped classroom is about using 21st-century digital learning strategies in the classroom and engaging learners outside of the classroom. Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, science teachers at Woodland Park High School (Colorado), are widely credited with pioneering this new way of delivering content in a classroom.

According to the Introduction to Flip It! (Lockwood, 2014), published by the University of Michigan Press, “… a flipped classroom is one in which material traditionally presented or done in class is assigned as homework and assignments usually assigned as homework are now done in the classroom. One of flipped learning’s most common forms involves technology: Students watch the instructors’ lectures online at home and then participate in discussions, solve problem sets, work collaboratively on assignments, or develop projects (or something similarly group-oriented or interactive) in class. However, this isn’t the only way to implement flipped learning. Flipped learning doesn’t have to involve videos or technology at all. Instruction can be delivered via reading just as easily as it can be from videos.”

In this new learning model, “the instructor doesn’t spend the entire class time lecturing; rather, he or she is almost, in a sense, tutoring or mentoring—helping students as needed rather than giving the instruction. Students still have homework (and maybe more than before), and the instructor is still a vital part of the learning experience.” The instructor moves from being a “sage on the stage” to a “guide on the side.”

So, if instructors are no longer lecturing in class, what is the impact on situations where instructors are assisting students in meeting the goals of a course, including listening to lectures and note-taking? As pointed out in the September issue of The Atlantic, the future of the lecture-style classroom is under scrutiny throughout higher education (“The Future of College,” Graeme Wood, pp. 52-60). Many universities and professors are looking for alternative ways to deliver content “from the so-called expert” to the students, primarily through the use of technology.

Those who are already flipping have identified many advantages:

  • Each student has the time he or she needs to understand the material.
  • Instructors have more control of class time.
  • There is evidence that students deliver a higher caliber of work.
  • There is reduced tedium and increased interaction in the classroom.
  • Instructors operate more in a consultative role.
  • In some cases, flipping has reduced absenteeism.
  • There is increased use of materials that students perceive as important or useful.

Can you think of a time when you applied a new trend in higher education successfully into your courses/workshops? What about unsuccessfully? What do you think was the difference? How and when should Library instructors include trends in teaching into their courses?