There’s so much buzz about the flipped classroom model. From K-12 to higher education settings, from corporate training to continuing education, instructors around the world are talking about how to use inverted instructional design to engage students and improve the learning experience. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement!

However, as I travel across the U.S. and speak with educators, it’s not uncommon for me to hear:

“I tried it and it didn’t work at all” or “Students hated it” or “It took too much time” or “I’m never doing THAT again!”

When I hear responses like these, I always dig a little deeper. Almost every single time, I can pinpoint that at least one of these “rookie” mistakes resulted in a poor flipped learning experience for both the faculty and the students:

Rookie Mistake #1: Narrowly defining what the flipped classroom is.

“What’s your definition of the flipped classroom?” This is the first question I always ask faculty when they say the flipped classroom doesn’t work. If you only define the flipped classroom as “students watching videos of lectures before class” then yes, your flipped classroom will fail. Expand your definition.

In my work, the FLIP means to “Focus on your Learners by Involving them in the Process.” Involve students in higher level learning and critical thinking experiences DURING class time. Move the lower level learning experiences OUTSIDE of the class time. When you define it this way, videos may be one tool to use to help student master content prior to coming to class, but there are many, many other tools and strategies that will work more effectively.

Rookie Mistake #2:  Poorly articulated learning outcomes.

You must clarify your learning outcomes for both the pre-class and in-class learning activities. If your students cannot show you the result of the learning activity, then you need to re-write your learning outcomes. Get focused. Be specific. Learning outcomes must be measurable.

If you cannot articulate what students need to be able to do, then they will be confused and frustrated. If that happens, they will not do the pre-class work or engage in the activities you have planned during class. Review Bloom’s Taxonomy to help you clarify learning outcomes. Share the learning outcomes with your students. Use worksheets, templates, and other tools to organize the flipped learning experience, focus attention, and clarify why the activity, assignment, or task matters.

Rookie Mistake #3: Not planning.

One of the most important responsibilities you have as a teacher in the flipped classroom is to plan. Plan the learning outcomes. Create a lesson plan. Plan each step of the activities you will use in class. Plan how you will introduce the flipped activity at the beginning of class. Plan how you will navigate to each group to answer students’ questions. Plan how many markers, whiteboards, flip charts, or worksheets you need. Plan how much time you think it will take to complete the activity.

The flipped classroom is a dynamic place. It’s noisy. Students are talking, sharing ideas, and solving problems. Some students are using their phone to find answers. Some are using the book. Students in one group are working at a different pace than students in another group. Planning is critical to organizing this type of learning environment. On the flip side (pun intended!) of this mistake, it is possible to plan too much. So be careful. You still need to be flexible and adaptable within your plan, but as the saying goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

Rookie Mistake #4: The activity is too big.

When you think about the flipped activities students will participate in during class, it’s easy to get excited and go for the “big” ones. A complex case study. An awesome game. A detailed simulation. These types of activities have what I call a high “level of intensity.” They address the highest levels of critical thinking, but that also means they require a more intense amount of time during class, planning before class, and more of you.

If you’re new to the FLIP, and you’re just starting to try active learning strategies in your classes, then go for an activity with a lower level of intensity. Use flipped activities that are less complex until you build your confidence and understand the nuances of student-centered learning. Once you gain more experience with the model, then go for the more intense flipped activities.

Rookie Mistake #5: Flipping everything.

Last, but not least, don’t FLIP everything. If a lesson is working well as it is and students are meeting or exceeding expectations, leave it alone. You don’t need to spend your energy or time redesigning it to fit within the flipped model. Instead, look for flippable moments.

Look for the places where students are confused or struggling with the course material. Look for places where they are bored. Look for places where you are bored. Those are the places in your course and in a lesson where the FLIP is needed.

As you start thinking about implementing flipped strategies into your classroom, think about how you can avoid these five rookie mistakes. If you’ve been teaching using the flipped model for a while but you’re still not finding the success you want, review these mistakes again and see if they apply to your course.

And remember, change takes time. Be flexible and patient with yourself and with your students. Not all flipped lessons will be successful. There will be resistance from students. There will be activities that miss the mark. There will be lessons when the activity you designed just didn’t fit the learning outcomes. But then there are flipped lessons that are awesome and you realize this is why you do what you do.

Let’s keep the conversation going!  If you’ve been using flipped and active learning strategies in your classes, what other rookie mistakes should we look for when planning to flip?

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