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Best Practices

The LTO Best Practices

Issue No. 56: The Flipped Classroom

Welcome to the fifty-fifth issue of The LTO Best Practices. Each month, the Learning & Teaching Office will be spotlighting a timely topic in education. This May, our topic is "The Flipped Classroom."

For more information on the flipped classroom, download our Teaching Tips document on The Flipped Classroom [pdf] and check out this month's issue of The Research Digest.

Check out our page of Teaching Tips handouts for more downloadable documents on a variety of teaching topics.

An Introduction to the Flipped Classroom

The flipped or inverted classroom is a form of blended learning in which “events that have traditionally taken place inside the classroom now take place outside the classroom and vice versa” (Lage et al., as cited in Bishop and Verlager, 2013). In this model, learning is divided into two parts – “interactive group learning activities inside the classroom, and direct computer-based individual instruction outside the classroom” (Bishop & Verleger, 2013).

The flipped classroom typically takes the form of web-based video lectures delivered at home, with class time devoted to problem solving, discussion, debates, case studies, and other activities. What is important to keep in mind is that the flipped classroom “actually represents an expansion of the curriculum, rather than a mere re-arrangement of activities” (Bishop & Verlager, 2013). Another important distinction is that the flipped classroom gives students their first exposure to new course content outside of class, followed by time spent in class assimilating the content into new knowledge (Brame, 2013).

Cynthia Brame believes that the flipped classroom meets key characteristics of a successful learning experience, as defined by Bransford, Brown, and Cocking in their book How People Learn:

“By providing an opportunity for students to use their new factual knowledge while they have access to immediate feedback from peers and the instructor, the flipped classroom helps students learn to correct misconceptions and organize their new knowledge such that it is more accessible for future use. Furthermore, the immediate feedback that occurs in the flipped classroom also helps students recognize and think about their own growing understanding” (Brame, 2013).

Brame has defined the flipped classroom as having four key elements (2013):

  1. Provide an opportunity for students to gain first exposure to course material prior to class, whether through lecture videos or screencasts.
  2. Give students an incentive for students to prepare for the day’s activities by requiring them to complete a specific task before they come to class. This can accomplished via automated quizzes, discussion board posts, or assignments to be reviewed in class.
  3. Develop a mechanism to assess student understanding. Pre-class tasks can help the instructor tailor class content to match student need. Self-grading quizzes can provide students with self-knowledge as to where they need help. In-class activities can be structured so as to provide students with feedback both from their peers and the instructor.
  4. Use in-class activities that focus on higher level learning objectives. As described above, class time should be used to promote deeper learning and to increase the skill with which students can apply and synthesize the knowledge they gained when preparing for class (Brame, 2013)

Models for the Flipped Classroom

  • Assignment-based: In their book, Effective Grading, Walvoord and Johnson propose an assignment-based model for the flipped classroom where students are required to produce work, such as a piece of writing, prior to class. Class time is then be used to run activities that would generate productive feedback for that work. This model ensures students prepare for class, and reduces the need for the instructors to spend time outside of class producing extensive feedback on student work (1998, as cited in Brame, 2013).
  • Universal Design: Lage, Platt, and Treglia developed a flipped classroom approach in order to address the diversity of student learning needs. In their model, students are provided with a variety of material to review outside of class, including readings, lecture videos, screencasts of PowerPoint presentations with voice-over, and printable slides. Class time is spent on activities that encourage students to process and apply course principles, ranging from mini-lectures in response to student questions to experiments to small group discussions of problems (2000, as cited in Brame, 2013). This model successfully integrates two of the three best practices in universal design for learning—representation (using a variety of methods to present course material) and engagement (using a variety of methods to capture student’s attention) (Ohio State University).
  • Peer Instruction: In this model, developed by Mazur and Crouch, class time consists of mini-lectures followed by conceptual questions. These conceptual questions are posed to the entire class via a personal response system, in this case, clickers. If a large proportion of the class answers incorrectly, the students form small groups to reconsider the question. After these guided small group discussions, students must answer the question again, with the instructor providing feedback and explanation as needed. This cycle is repeated for the rest of the class, with each iteration taking about 15 minutes (2001, as cited in Brame, 2013).

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"The LTO Best Practices" is produced monthly by Michelle Schwartz, Research Associate at The Learning & Teaching Office of Ryerson University.

Do you have any thoughts, suggestions, or best practices that you would like to see appear in this newsletter? Please send all submissions to michelle.schwartz@ryerson.ca. We look forward to including your contributions in our next issue!

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