Use the Model, Coach, Fade Strategy to Help Students Adjust to Changing Roles in the Flipped Classroom

The "model, coach, fade" strategy is an excellent way to introduce students to their changing roles in the flipped classroom.

One of the challenges of teaching in flipped classrooms and active learning environments is supporting students through the transition from notetaker and listener to collaborator and creator. The students' role changes from listening to a lecture to constructing their own mental models for how to approach solving a problem or addressing a challenge.

Some students struggle with this transition which may lead to increased resistance or hesitance. They may come to class unprepared, choose not to participate, or become confrontational when they don't understand what is expected of them and why it matters. (For more about how to address these challenges, download your copy of the free whitepaper).

One way you can help them ease into their new roles is by using the "model, coach, fade" strategy to introduce students to the flipped classroom model. It's also a good strategy for you to try if you are nervous or uncertain about your changing role as the instructor in a flipped learning environment.  

The "Model, Coach, Fade" Flipped Strategy

Dr. Carol Scarlett teaches Physics at Florida A&M University, and she shared this strategy during a Q&A when she attended one of my on-campus workshops. As she discussed her approach to the flipped classroom, she explained how she uses the "Model, Coach, Fade" to engage students.

This strategy provides structure, support, and guidance while slowly shifting responsibility away from the teacher and towards the students, which is the foundation of the FLIP framework.


The Model, Coach, Fade is when you model the process or approach for the students first.  Maybe you show students how to think about solving a problem using a new formula. Or, maybe you demonstrate how to apply a theory to address a case study.  Or, perhaps you explain the steps involved in conducting an experiment.


Then, once you model the process, you turn it over to the students.  (You flip it to them!)  As they work through the problem, case study, or experiment, you shift your role to a coach.  Step to the side, let students work, and coach them when they need advice, guidance, or additional support.


Finally, fade.  As students practice, and as they continue to work together, your role is to fade to the back, allowing them to take the lead in teaching, learning, and evaluating their approach.

Moving to a Coaching Role in the Flipped Classroom

I like this "model, coach, fade" strategy, especially for faculty and students who are new to active learning and flipped classroom models. I use a similar approach when working with faculty who are thinking about flipping, only I call it a "structured FLIP."

In a structured FLIP, you might integrate brief (2-3 minute) active learning strategies into your lecture. You can use 'think, pair, share' or ask a clicker question, for example.

This allows you to still maintain control of the content and the environment without jumping too quickly into the deep end of a fully flipped classroom. It also gives students a chance to experience a brief moment of activity without veering too far away from their comfort zone.  

The "structured FLIP" approach works well when you're just starting to integrate new strategies into the classroom.

Of course, teaching in flipped environments and becoming a coach or "guide on the side" doesn't mean letting go of your authority and credibility, nor does it mean giving students free reign in the classroom.

One of my colleagues, Dr. Robert Talbert, wrote about this role change in the flipped classroom. He pointed out, "The coach doesn’t do the exercises for the players, but neither does s/he stand off to the side and let them flail around the entire time" (See full article The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 28, 2014). 

As you think about the changing roles in the flipped classroom, consider the "model, coach, fade" or "structured FLIP" as ways to create successful flipped learning experiences for both you and your students.