Flipped Out by Nancy Heuer-Evans, Curriculum Coordinator

Today I’d like to talk about flipping out.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? We’re all flipping out a little bit in this pandemic environment. Seems like a perfect opportunity to focus our attention on learning about a different way of teaching—specifically, the flipped classroom.

Let’s start at the beginning. Flipped classrooms were originally called inverted classrooms because the relationship was changed between class time and homework time. Learning was moved from classroom time to individual time (via readings or online videos, audio files, or assignments) and classroom time was spent on answering questions, working on projects, and guiding students with more individualized help. You probably already do some of this. Flipped learning is now a recognized pedagogy that looks a little like this:

Before Class – Completing homework; Remembering, Understanding
During Class – Applying, Analyzing, Fine-Tuning Understanding
After Class – Evaluating, Creating, Applying More Confidently, Connecting to Other Learning

If you are a teacher who is constantly reflecting on how your instruction can be improved, consider flipping. Here are some of the positives:


  • Is easier to stay current
  • Helps today’s multi-tasking learner
  • Assists those who are struggling with content
  • Ensures all students can excel by giving them individualized instruction
  • Allows students to provide feedback instantly and repeat content if necessary
  • Increases interaction with teacher and peers
  • Improves teacher’s ability to know students’ strengths and weaknesses
  • Magnifies class importance and clarity

The basic premise is that you are trusting your students to cover course content on their own time so you can spend class time reviewing, clarifying, and putting new information into practice. This is a key point because it can be difficult to let the reins of your class go and believe your students will spend the time and energy to go over material without you guiding them. This is why, if you’re new to flipping, you might want to start with one particular unit, or even one lesson. Or take it step by step.

In one of my advanced composition classes, I did this incrementally. One of my course objectives in this class is to teach students how to identify the claim (the stance of the arguer) in an argument, as well as how to look at evidence and decide its credibility, in addition to that of its presenter. Then I want them to be able to diagnose why a particular argument is compelling or not. I decided the best method for regular application of these skills was to watch “Ted Talks” together. I developed a rubric of questions they needed to answer in their written response, then selected short Ted Talks with strong arguments. The first several we watched together in class, with the 1-page writing identifying claim, evidence, warrant, and credibility as well as any offputting features, due by the end of class. I graded these quickly and provided quite a bit of feedback on the first couple so they could be sure they were getting the hang of it. Once I was sure the majority of the class knew what I was looking for, I assigned them to watch additional Talks on their own, turning in their writings at the start of the next class, when we talked about what they had seen. So essentially, we modeled it in class, then moved it to the flipped environment. The best part was the confidence they grew in the process, learning to dissect an argument, but also trusting themselves to do it on their own once they had some practice.

Some of my classroom flipping came about because I was assigned to teach an online class about 3 days before the semester started. I panicked and as a result, came up with videotaping my lectures for my online class. I felt that I needed to try to duplicate the in-person experience as much as possible. The online class appreciated it, but future in-person classes did, too. It happened with a little bit of creep, actually. I made the video of my lecture available on my Blackboard site for those who had missed it or those who needed to be exposed to the material more than once to truly absorb it. The response was immediate and positive. My students loved to be able to watch it on their own time, with fewer distractions and less pressure. Reading quiz scores climbed, and I noticed they were actually using my definitions for key terms when talking in class. What had originated as a patch for not-enough-time-to-plan became something I stumbled across that is now a consistent part of my course.

Flipping isn’t for everything or for every class. There are some negative aspects, as you no doubt have figured out.

The digital divide is a real thing.

In order to flip effectively, it really helps to have access to strong internet signal. Your students may not have this at home, and their local library or coffee shop may not suffice. It is essential you find out what the connectivity challenges are for your students before you require them to watch videos or do online activities outside of class.

It’s a matter of trust.

You have to build and maintain trust with your students, and they have to validate your trust in them. How can you ensure that your students are engaged enough in the class to do the necessary preparation to make flipping work?

Planning, planning, and more planning.

Flipping your classroom requires some serious examination of your course preparation. You have to inhabit the seat of a student and determine which lessons, which activities will be served best by in-class or at-home. You have to see which of your lectures or lessons can be video or audio taped and uploaded in an easily accessible format. You need to examine your course goals and map a path that helps students find their way in this new format.

Test-prep? Nah.

Flipped classrooms are pretty terrific for helping students learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills. They are not ideal for memorization of terms or concepts. In order to use a flipped classroom for test prep, you will have to be very focused in your design. Can you create games for in-class time that help students learn specific ideas, dates, and skills? It will take some labor on your part to be sure you are meeting their needs.

Passive Learning.

Flipped learning by its very nature will increase screen time, if the activities you include require them to be online. More screen time can feel like more passive learning, which has a bad shelf life for retention and can cause students to disengage from the process out of frustration or boredom. You will need to be sure that you design activities that keep this in mind. Can their reading of a play be attending it instead? If you’re studying art history, can they have a scavenger hunt that requires them to go to the Art Museum and draw or take pictures of certain things? If they’re learning about water purification, can they take a tour of the water treatment facility and interview staff? Find ways to keep the 3-dimensional aspect in their learning whenever possible.

In this incredibly stressful time, we can desire nothing more than to fall back on the tried and true, but I urge you, instead, to use this time for reflection, for examination of your current practices, for seeking an opportunity to flip out.

There are some resources available at the end of this post, as well as a checklist from the University of Texas you can use to begin, if you want to see what all the excitement is about. It can be very therapeutic to focus your energy on something new!

Check out our web site at i-Pathwayslearninglab.org. We have more resources you might find helpful–and be sure to fill out our questionnaire on what your professional development needs are. We are here to help.


Recommend pilot testing the flipped model with a single class before engaging in a complete redesign.

How to identify where the flipped classroom model makes the most sense for your course.

  1. Spend class time engaging students in application activities with feedback
  2. Clarify connections between inside and outside of class learning
    • What do I want students to know and be able to do as result of completing this sequence? How does it fit into the bigger picture of the course
    • What part of the current homework could be moved inside of class to help students practice applying the content? What in-class learning activity is being rushed because there is currently not enough time to do it well?
    • What practice do students need inside of class to prepare them for the larger assignment that will be completed after class? Will students make the connections between what is happening inside of class and the assignment they are working on after class?
    • What content do students need to know before class to successfully engage in the learning activity during class?
  3. Adapt your materials for students to acquire course content in preparation for class
    • Reading materials, articles
    • Online video and audio content
  4. Extend learning beyond class through individual and collaborative practice
    • Use discussion boards or academic social media to elaborate on ideas developed inside class
    • Present additional problems (on Canvas, course website, or from the textbook) for students to gain further practice on their own outside of class. Online assessment systems can be used to provide immediate feedback to students
    • Create assignments that require students to take the skills and knowledge developed in class and apply it in a new way or to a new situation not covered in class
    • Assign additional readings that further expands upon the concepts discussed in class
    • Encourage students to create informal learning groups
    • Develop a peer-led undergraduate study where students come together once a week to work additional problems that expand upon the concepts being learned in class

For a printable version of this checklist, click here.

UT Flip Quick Start Guide

Instructional Strategies for a Flipped Classroom

10 Pros and Cons for a Flipped Classroom

Schoology – Flipped Classroom

Flipped Classroom Pro and Con – Mary Beth-Hertz

What, Why and How to Implement A Flipped Classroom Model

Blended Learning Models

Additional Resources:

Bergmann, J., & Sams, A. (2012). Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. Eugene, Or: International Society for Technology in Education.

Center for Teaching Innovation at Cornell University. (2017). Flipping the classroom. Retrieved from https://www.cte.cornell.edu/teaching-ideas/designing-your-course/flipping-the-classroom.html.

Chen, F., Lui, A. M., & Martinelli, S. M. (2017). A systematic review of the effectiveness of flipped classrooms in medical education. Medical Education, 51(6), 585–597. https://doi.org/10.1111/medu.13272

Dunn, J. (2014). The 6-step guide to flipping your classroom. Retrieved from http://dailygenius.com/flipped.

Flipped Learning Network (FLN). (2014) The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P™