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What's next in the conversation about flipped classrooms and flipped learning?

What's next in the conversation about flipped classrooms and flipped learning?

The flipped classroom conversation has been around for almost a decade (or two or three decades, depending on which model you're referring to). 

You get it. You know what it is, and you know how to do it (or, you’re at least trying it and figuring it out as you go!).  Conversations about the flipped classroom have started to evolve.

Educators aren’t asking “What is the flipped classroom?” anymore. Many of you are ready for more advanced conversations.

I believe many of you are ready to take the flipped classroom conversation to the next level.  What does this mean?

Here are four new conversations we need to explore if we want to advance our thinking about flipped classrooms and flipped learning models:

1. Transferable skills in the flipped classroom

The flipped classroom is not just about mastering course content and improved learning outcomes. During a panel session at Wright State University, I heard five different faculty members from five different disciplines all say that one of the main benefits of using the flipped classroom model is how it prepares students for “real world” situations.

These transferable skills go beyond the course content. These are skills such as learning how to communicate effectively, learning how to solve problems from multiple perspectives, learning how to trust the often messy process of learning something new, learning how to lead a team of colleagues, and learning how to handle productive frustration and ambiguity.

Transferable skills aren’t always measured in the course grades. They’re often not listed in our learning outcomes or reflected in final grades. Maybe they should be? Are you integrating these skills into your learning outcomes, grades, and/or exams?

2. Students with disabilities in the flipped classroom

Several years ago, I was leading a workshop at a university and a faculty member asked me how students on the autism spectrum do in the flipped classroom. I didn’t know the answer. It was the first time someone asked me this question.

I invited other faculty members in the audience to respond since I knew someone in that room of 60 educators had more experience than me with this topic. We discussed it, but we didn’t come up with any definite answers.  I’m not an expert in this field, but I do know many faculty members are trying to figure out how to design for all learners.

While the flipped classroom model has been shown to increase retention, motivation, and performance in a variety of settings for a variety of learners, we haven’t talked much – at least formally - about students with disabilities.

Do you allow students to audio record his or her group discussions for review at a later time? How do you balance students’ need for predictability and routines when the flipped classroom is a dynamic and often noisy place?  If you are using videos as part of your flipped classroom, do you provide closed captioning, transcripts, or other options for access?

The best work I’ve seen in this area is the connection between the flipped classroom and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). My colleague, Dr. Thomas Tobin, and I co-wrote a book chapter focused on the intersection of these two ideas in the hopes of starting a conversation and increasing awareness about UDL as one way to

answer to this question. But, UDL isn't just about disabilities and accommodations which is why more research needs to be done in this area when thinking about the flipped learning model.

3. Scholarship in the flipped classroom

Now that more educators know what the flipped classroom is and how to design it for higher education, the next step is conducting scholarship. Studies are being published both within and across disciplines as we all seek to learn more about how the flipped classroom model influences student learning, engagement, and self-efficacy.

Some scholars are also looking closely at the connection between the flipped classroom model and faculty engagement. But, as a profession, there is a need for more scholarship related to the flipped model. Part of the challenge we face when conducting research is how the flipped classroom is defined. Both faculty and students come with preconceived notions (both positive and negative) of what the flipped classroom means.

With so many definitions and interpretations, we have to be careful how we formulate our research questions and analyze the findings.  Are you conducting research on the flipped classroom model? How are you designing your study? What questions are you asking?

4. Resources, support, and recognition for faculty who FLIP

A few years ago, I was invited to a campus to lead a flipped classroom workshop for faculty who were curious, but overall very resistant to the approach. I see some of this almost everywhere I go, but on this particular campus, the resistance was stronger than I’d seen before.

After asking more questions and digging a little deeper, I learned that the flipped classroom was a “mandate from the president” who saw the model as a way to “free up faculty’s time teaching so they could spend more time seeking funding and writing grant proposals.”

Ouch. No wonder there was pushback.

That’s everything the flipped classroom is not. A successful flipped classroom relies heavily on the faculty member. Without an instructor who is excited, motivated, and engaged, the flipped model will not work.

In reality, the role of the instructor is even MORE important in the flipped classroom. It is not a model that will ever remove the instructor from the role of teaching, at least not with my model.  

This is why faculty who FLIP need resources, support, and recognition. One idea is to hire teaching assistants or learning assistants to help manage groups, especially in large (200+) classrooms where there are 15 or 20 groups of students. This is especially helpful as more advanced flipped strategies are used and class size increases.

Faculty may need course releases to prepare to conduct scholarship in their flipped courses or re-design a course to align with the flipped model. They may need access to flexible classroom space where desks and chairs are moveable, screens are viewable from any seat in the room, and faculty have mobile devices or technological tools to organize their learning environment. What resources and support does your campus provide for faculty? How are faculty recognized for this work?

Your Turn:

This list is just a start…I’d like to hear from you! What other topics do you think we need to explore to advance the conversation about the flipped classroom and active learning in higher education?  


This post was also published on LinkedIn.

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