In a new report published by George Mason University, Pearson’s Center for Educator Effectiveness and the Flipped Learning Network, the authors outline “four pillars of flipped teaching” that are critical to the success of flipped instruction. While flipped instruction has garnered a lot of press lately, I worry that some people may see the process as just replacing class lectures with recorded lectures that students watch outside of class. This report, however, provides a thoughtful lens on the critical components that make flipped instruction powerful and an overview of the mindset that makes the pedagogical approach successful.
Pillar #1: Flipped learning requires flexible learning environments. Flipped learning changes how and when people learn. In a lot of ways, flipped teaching has changed the time and space of learning. While that may sound a little futuristic or science fiction-like, the reality is that flipped learning changes how teachers use class time and out-of-class time. Gone are the days when students passively listened to lectures in a classroom. Students now interact with that content individually outside of class and come to class to collaborate with their peers and apply what they’ve learned. The face-to-face classroom, which was once dominated by a single instructor’s voice, is now transformed into a noisy and chaotic space where students actively participate in the learning process.
Pillar #2: Flipped learning requires a shift in learning culture. The flipped classroom puts the student at the center of the learning process, which can be a difficult shift for students and teachers. For students who are used to passively receiving information through lectures, the flipped classroom requires that they take a more active role in the learning and attend more to how best they learn. For teachers who were comfortable being the “sage on the stage,” flipped instruction requires they shift their roles to being facilitators of learning rather than deliverers of content. This is an important shift that some learners and instructors may struggle with initially.
Pillar #3: Flipped learning requires intentional content. One general misnomer of flipped learning is that ALL instruction is delivered through video lectures. The reality is that in a flipped learning environment the teacher must continually decide which pedagogical method best fits the instructional objectives and learning needs of the students at any given time. This may involve teacher-recorded lessons that students watch at home. It could also involve a host of strategies including peer instruction, problem-based lessons, open discussions or many other student-centered activities. The video lessons offer a way to replace traditional lectures but they are not the only way that learning occurs. In flipped learning, teachers must use their expertise to thoughtfully and intentionally orchestrate the best learning environment for students.
Pillar #4: Flipped learning requires professional educators. Many people fear that flipped learning will replace educators completely or devalue their roles. The reality is that in a flipped learning environment, educators play a more important role than ever. In flipped learning, the educator must select the activities that will help students learn and masterfully transition from activity to activity as students’ needs change. The educator must conduct ongoing assessment to examine students’ learning and provide feedback to scaffold students’ conceptual development. This is difficult work that requires professional educators who are committed to student centered learning. It’s also not easily replaced by a recorded lesson or a computer.