3 Strategies to Encourage Students to Complete the Pre-Class Work in the Flipped Classroom

Here are 3 ways to encourage students to complete the pre-class work in the flipped classroom.

One of the most frequently asked questions I hear from instructors about the flipped classroom is, “How do you encourage students to do the pre-class work?”  After all, if students are unprepared for the learning activities you have planned for the in-class time, then the flipped model will not be as successful.

Usually, before I answer their question, I ask two questions of my own:

First, I ask, “How are you defining the flipped classroom model?”

If you define it as “students watching videos before coming to class” then you may be limiting the possibilities of what the flipped model is supposed to do. Students will get bored very quickly if the pre-class work is to always watch a video of a lecture. A video of a lecture is still a lecture.

For some reason, the flipped classroom has been wrongly defined as "students watching videos of lectures." The goal of the flipped model is not to eliminate lectures. Lectures are part of the flipped classroom. It's another strategy you can use when it helps your students achieve the learning outcomes. But, as with any teaching and learning strategy, it can be over-used and become ineffective.

That's why I'm on a mission to expand the definition of what the flipped classroom is and can be. When you expand the definition, you can offer more of a variety of pre-class assignments and tasks which enhances motivation and encourages students to do the pre-class work.

In my FLIP model, the focus is on designing the pre-class assignment around the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and then making the learning visible so students are held accountable for the work. A video may be one way to do this, but there are also readings, worksheets, quizzes, games, puzzles, pictures, graphs, charts, diagrams, etc.

The goal is to involve students in activities that involve them in the process of analyzing, evaluating, and creating. And, the challenge is to do this during class time when you are with the students.

Second, I ask, “How are you thinking about student motivation in the flipped classroom?” 

By design, a flipped classroom requires students to have some level of motivation to do the pre-class work. One way to think about motivation in the flipped classroom is to refer to Daniel Pink’s AMP model. It can be a helpful way to frame an assignment and encourage students to do the pre-class work.

In his book Drive, Pink discusses the importance of Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.  He argues that intrinsic motivation is more effective and powerful than extrinsic rewards when encouraging people to take action. T

his “trifecta” can be extended to the classroom:
  • Autonomy - a student has some sense of choice and/or the opportunity to be self-directed. 
  • Mastery - students feel a sense of accomplishment and keep working towards a goal.
  • Purpose - students see the greater reason why this task is important and why it matters. 
So, how does this relate to our original question, “How do you encourage students to do the pre-class work?”

When developing a pre-class assignment or task, here are 3 recommendations to consider to enhance motivation and encourage students to come to class prepared:

(1) Give students direction and guidance so they can achieve learning outcomes at the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, but allow them the opportunity to complete the task using their own approaches. (Autonomy)

Example: Assign students to read an article and either summarize the author’s main point in their own words OR draw their interpretation of the author’s argument.

(2) Hold students accountable by making their learning visible. (Mastery)

Example:  When designing the assignment, ask yourself “How will I know if students completed this task? How can students show me they have mastered the pre-class work?” 

Give students something to DO with the pre-class work. Complete a quiz. Bring a written summary to class. Post a drawing to a discussion forum. Fill in a worksheet. Submit a question in the forum. Make a list. Outline the main points.

Make the pre-class work visible by combining it with a task, activity, or assignment.

(3) Connect the pre-class work to the in-class work.  

This is probably the most important recommendation for encouraging students to come to class prepared.  Students, especially in the flipped classroom model, need to know why the pre-class work matters and how it will be used to help them succeed. If you don’t follow up and integrate their work into the in-class time, they will quickly see they can get by without completing the pre-class work. (Purpose)

Example:  When students arrive to class, engage them in a task or activity immediately that requires them to use their pre-class work. Put them into groups and ask them to start sharing their drawings from their interpretation of the author’s argument.  

Or, ask them to sit with a partner and analyze the differences and similarities in their interpretations of the author’s argument. In the flipped classroom, it is critical to connect the pre-class work with the in-class work.

This encourages students to DO the pre-class work and to be held accountable for it. And, it provides continuity between the pre-class work and the in-class work so you can assess learning, address confusion, and move forward with the course material.

Not everyone agrees with the AMP model as a basis for motivation. Some argue we still need incentives, or extrinsic motivators, to change behavior.

Get 10 more strategies by downloading your FREE copy of the whitepaper! 10 Strategies to Encourage Students to Actually DO the Pre-Class Work in Flipped and Active Learning Classrooms.