Saturday, October 8, 2011

Five Reasons I'm Not Flipping Over The Flipped Classroom

If you've read my thoughts about the Flipped Classroom in USA Today, you probably are either in agreement with my caution over the excitement around the flipped classroom made popular by Sal Kahn or you are a flipped classroom advocate who wants to convince me and other innovative educators that flipping is for everyone.

While I certainly see benefits in flipping instruction as I wrote about earlier this year, there are also reasons to move ahead with caution
Here's Why:
  1. We have yet to bridge the digital divide...
    Many of our students don't have access to technology at home.  The flipped classroom method does not have strong provisions in place for these children. 
  2. Flipped homework is still homework...
    There is a growing number of parents and educators who don't believe we should rob children of the time after school with mandatory homework. We believe time at home should be for pursuing passions, connecting with friends and family, playing and engaging in physical activity.  In some families it might be the time needed to take care of a sibling, work a job, or take care of their own child.  Let us leave children to the activities they and their family choose or find necessary and instead as John Taylor Gatto suggests (in lesson 7), that we should "give children more independent time during the school day" at which time they may also choose to watch flipped classroom lessons.  
  3. More time for bad pedagogy...
    Flipping instruction might end up just meaning we can provide time to do more of the same type of memorization and regurgitation teaching that just doesn't work.  When I shared the idea of the Flipped Classroom with an administrator, she said to me with excitement, "This is great!  We'll have more class time to prepare kids for the tests!"
  4. Grouping by date of manufacture...
    If we really want transformation in education, one thing we must do is stop grouping students by date of manufacture, which the flipped classroom is ideally suited for, but have schools put the structures in place?  Are they ready to let students move at a pace that meets their developmental readiness and come to the realization that not everyone at the same age needs to be at the same place at the same time?  True flipping should include a careful redesign of learning environment, but this is often overlooked.
  5. Lecturing doesn't = Learning... The flipped classroom is built on a traditional model of teaching and learning.  I lecture - you intake.  While this method of teaching works for some learners, many others thrive with a model that takes a more constructivist approach.
While there's no doubt that flipping is preferable to sending kids off on their own to make meaning of lectures, without questioning that type of pedagogy in the first place, we are doing our children a disservice.  

If you want to keep the Flipped Classroom conversation going, in addition to commenting here, you can join the Flipped Class Network.


  1. I agree with you... teachers are still the most powerful tool we have for learning. Flipping takes the teacher and passion out for the equation... plus, what right have we to give more homework after all.

    1. false - Flipping takes the teacher and passion out of the equation
      true - Flipping reduces the "content delivery" role of the teacher and allows teacher to do the things in the classroom that most teachers went into teaching for: discussion, application, engagement, questioning, reflecting, celebrating, sharing, collaborating (all the things the inspire passion for learning, right?)

      false - flipping requires more homework
      true - most flipped learning environments require less hw if any (this is due to the ability to create/curate clear/concise video and the fact that most educators eventually move into supporting a student learning cycle that is not segmented between home and school - therefore allowing students to view content at home or school)

      This entire process/transformation leaves the teacher to wrestle with what else (besides content delivery) they are good for. leading to reflection, conversation, idea/resource sharing and growth.

  2. The flipped classroom can be powerful precisely because the teachers are the best learning tools we have. The idea is to let teachers do what a live person does best, rather than make them do what can be easily achieved with pre-recorded delivery.

    I'm fairly sure if you look at some of the best flipped classrooms you'll see teacher passion aplenty, both in the pre-recorded lectures and the classroom collaborative activities. Therefore flipped classrooms aren't necessarily excluded from passionate teaching.

    Furthermore flipped classrooms shouldn't create 'more homework', but replace the traditionally assigned problem solving activities with the knowledge delivery stuff that happened in classrooms. Different doesn't mean more.

    Having said all that, I agree with the call for caution. Just like other innovations in education, unless the flipped classroom is part of a comprehensive suite of other innovations and a bit of a shift in thinking, there's little chance it will make a real difference.

  3. I am just learning about flipped classrooms, and my gut thinking is, while there is some value to students working from home and bringing their questioning back to the classroom, perhaps there is a more engaged way to do it. Lectures are passive and not at all student-directed. What if the topic was presented with a menu of possible ways to learn about it independently? This work would be done at home, allowing the student to take ownership of the learning (rather than have the teacher's lecture try to impart it) and then back in school, the students can come to the teacher for support.

  4. I agree with many of the points here as well but must admit that I have never done a flipped classroom model. The reason being, I don't want to lecture at my kids. We try to do hands on learning so the flipped classroom model just doesn't work for us. I also try to eliminate homework in my classroom so assigning them videos to watch goes against that. I love how it is held up as the thing that will save education, education needs to be saved, but only from those who keep thinking they know better than teachers, students and parents.

  5. Great reminders/reflection.

    I'm giving a talk on the Flipped Classroom but from the perspective of TESL. I've really changed what the flipped classroom traditionally proposes (but it still is "flipped") because the subject isn't a traditional content class but a language where practice and not factual knowledge takes precedence.

    For me, the flipped model of delivery is just a starting point for us educators to think differently on how to deliver our classes so class time is not a waste of time. A starting point to consider the importance and primacy of video - that is coming in gangbusters towards us and will be replacing text in many important ways.


  6. hey lisa - i agree with your flipped classroom comment in the usa today article; i would add that even those who have the technology at home may have a 'learning style' that requires some 'just in time' intervention - somebody to ask questions of, for example - at the time of the lecture/explanation, not the next day. flipped works for some, but not for all. lecture works for some, but not for all. no one way is 'the' way for all people.

  7. I think you have some very valid points. Flipped Classrooms are buzz words in edtech circles, but the reality is that right now they will only work for some students some of the time.

  8. Hi, Lisa -

    Thanks for posting your concerns. I agree with you but want to extend the conversation to propose some "solutions" to the concerns you stated.

    #! - Agreed about technology access, but recent Pew Research showed that close to 90% of young people have mobile devices. As such, any discussion of technology integration should include the use of BYOD and cell phones in the classroom.

    #2 - Flipping the classroom as it is being proposed is about watching the videos at home. I agree about homework being overused in our educational system . . . but this type of homework allows the student to control when and how they view lectures - study halls, at home with family and/or friends, etc. Also, if this movement helps to create libraries of high quality videos with demonstrations and engaging content, then this type of homework may be exciting for learners.

    #3 & 5 - I agree with your points about bad pedagogy and lecturing does not equal learning . . I like the use of videos whereby learners watch experts talking about their craft (like TED talks) as opposed to teachers lecturing about content for which they may have limited practical knowledge. I believe that the use of video lectures needs to within a broader spectrum of learning activities and discuss this in The Flipped Classroom: A Full Model The missing piece, as I point out in the blog, is that educators need to take advantage of NOT lecturing to create authentic, experiential learning activities.

    #4 - I am also in agreement of sorting students by manufacturer date and discuss this in my blog post about learning communities - . . . but believe it is a discussion of larger educational reform.

    My hope - my desire is that this flavor of the month helps be the spark that ignites a different type of pedagogy where classroom time is engaging, fluid, and passion-based.

  9. Great post with great questions! Here is my response through my blog post!

  10. what a pity you did not bother to do some deeper research about how the 'flip' (which is not American in origin by the way) has been incorporated into more complete learning cycles by dedicated teacher. You do other teachers a dis-service by implying that they have not considered your criticisms.By the way,the 'flipped classroom' has very little to do with Khan who offers more of an online resource for mastery, noting to do with the classroom. Your last point shows you have not understood the method at all.

  11. Great food for thought, Lisa! Some excellent points have been made in the comments, too.

    I think something to consider regarding whether lecturing is bad pedagogy is this: the teacher in the USA Today article teaches math. At some point, a math teacher has to demonstrate how to solve a math problem. Student exploration is important, but there's nothing wrong with a teacher whipping out a whiteboard marker and talking students through a few problems. I'm assuming this type of modeling is what the teacher is referring to as 'lecture.' A ten minute video explaining and demonstrating how to solve a math problem sounds like a very useful tool for students.

  12. As with any implementation of instructional technology, we must not underestimate the critical importance of thoughtful and reflective teachers. You bring up some valid concerns about the flipped classroom model, but I also think that an effective teacher will be cognizant of the potential pitfalls and take steps to ensure that what they are doing benefits all students. As with any instructional strategy, the potential for problems and bad pedagogy exists. However, good teachers can employ flipped classroom concepts that engage all students in meaningful learning. Thanks for a thought provoking post!

  13. #5 was my main concern. I am supposed to teach Spanish IN Spanish, according to research, but how can I rephrase for the confusedon a recorded lecture?

    1. Sra. Spanglish,
      I am a Spanish teacher too. My suggestion to you would be to look up what "comprehensible input" can mean. Students need to understand what you're telling them so they can then use it to produce their own language (in Spanish). If they don't understand YOU in the first place, how will they ever use their own Spanish to communicate? So there IS a place for English in the World Language classroom. The reason that I'm finding the flipped classroom concept so interesting is that this could actually lessen the English that I have to use when I'm with the students, interacting with them in the classroom. If I have to explain something in English in the video, so what? It's a short video and it gets a concept across quickly. We can then go ahead and put that concept into practice IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE the next day. Buena suerte.

  14. 1. Yes, we have yet to bridge the digital divide, but using technology provides one more way to engage students with school work. Anything which switches students on to their studies is a good thing, even if it works for some but not all. The difference between good and mediocre teaching is exemplified by how much effort goes into engaging ALL students, however time-consuming and however varied the methods and techniques used.

    2. Homework does not necessarily remove time from following a passion. What is a student has a passion for maths? If homework is conceived as repetitive, then it will be perceived as boring. Make homework fun!

    3. As in any walk of life, some teachers seem better at what they do than others, not necessarily through any fault of their own, and we must realize that there is no magic bullet, that technology is not going to teach the next generation for us and neither will any fad, new methodology, textbook or website.

    4. The world's education systems have been based on what Europe designed to produce a workforce for the industrial revolution. Time for a radical rethink that suits the modern age.

    5. Students do not learn the same thing at the same time, at the same pace or in the same way. Too often we have a 'one size fits all' approach to education that leaves some behind and leaves the brightest bored.

  15. Thanks for the twitter invite to share here. As per usual you not only have a quality post, but great comments that expand on the topic.

    I'll try to tackle a few things without repeating what I've read above:
    ~ The 'flip' is just ONE strategy and although a good one, it is frought with potential pitfalls.
    ~ Video doesn't have to be just used for homework and maybe everyone doesn't need to be 'on the same page'... this is when the flip can get very interesting. Why should it be teacher vidoes only? Multiple perspectives on a topic?
    ~ I think your point about bad pedagogy is key, and other aspects of that are lesson quality & production quality. I go into this in a little detail in my post, which I linked to my name above.
    Thanks for tackling this from a perspective most people have not (the 'flip' side). This isn't about naysaying, but rather providing context to a single teaching strategy that is far from an 'answer' to education's challenges. We can all learn from this conversation!

  16. I'm absurdly lucky to teach at place where every kid has a computer so #1 isn't an issue for me. But with this new technology, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to flip the classroom. And I'm starting to get more concerned about all the homework my middle schoolers have. I am wary of jumping on the bandwagon of an education fad. But I am thinking that if we combine "Khan-style" videos with authentic project based learning, then it might have value. I just posted my ideas/struggles/questions on flipped classrooms on my blog ( and would love to continue this conversation.

  17. The inclusion of requiring media technology in students home was a negative first thought., but then again I guess in some districts that might not be an issue.

    I do think that its interesting. It may not be ideal but it seems to allow students who want to listen the privacy of their homes to do so.

    Also proving class time to come together to work on assignments and spending that time to be able to give one on one or small group attention seems to be a valuable way to spend the face time.

  18. My thoughts on flipped here:

  19. Just a few of my points/questions:
    1. Why does the video to watch homework assignment have to be a lecture? Teachers can use multiple tools to record demonstrations for the students to watch at home.

    2. If the video homework is a lecture it is proven that the time to give the lecture is greatly shorter that the same lecture given in class. Therefore it is far more of an efficient way to utitlize one's time. Maybe using a chat forum to reflect or post questions that students can use while watching the lecture or demonstration will give more purpose to that homework assignment. The next day the class can then use that chat forum as a place to start the discussion over the concept at hand.

    3. Homework has been a part of a student's life. I agree with wanting the students to have down time at home, a time to connect with family and friends, pursue passions, unwind, but is homework ever really going to go away? If not than I see the demonstration video as a more powerful way to spend a child's at home time than to practice the skill on a worksheet only to get feedback the next day when he/she returns to class.

    4. Many families, even the ones who are in lower income brackets, have access to the internet via smart phones. If these videos are posted on YouTube or Facebook, then students would have access to them. How many of those families don't have internet access at home, but still seem to update their Facebook status? I just don't see this as the reason to not try using some of the Flipped Classroom concepts.

  20. If you want to hear from a teacher who has seen success with the flipped model, and has worked to improve it year after year, I recommend you watch a recent presentation he gave to the Colorado Learning Network. He admits flipping needs to be more than giving kids videos, it is about engaging students, freeing up class time for deeper and more meaningful work, and providing support for students who are progressing at different paces. He admits it's not for everyone (students and teachers alike), but like all education resources, the teacher needs to understand when and how to use it.

    The webinar/presentation can be found here -

  21. I think it we should talk more about flipped lessons than flipped classrooms:

    Another tool in our instructional toolbox...

  22. I think these are all things that teachers need to keep in mind when planning to flip a room. (or single unit, or single lesson). Particularily number 3. If anything, this post should serve as a warning guide for educators willing to give it a try. I think there is a wonderful compromise amidst all the glamorized struggles. Education has never been about blacks and whites, it has been about finding the shade of grey that works best for specific students.

  23. I love the sentiments you express in this post, but I am not sure if your cautionaries over the flipped classroom are about the #flipclass model as much as they are about bad education in general.

    I completely agree that #flipclass does not act as an antidote for what is wrong in education (over-reliance on lecture, testprep culture, viewing students as fillable buckets, etc). What the system does, however, is allow teachers who are already inclined to solve those issues a tool to effectively increase 1:1 student contact time, open up time for collaboration and experimentation, and truly individualize.

    while i think each of your points is worthy of a prolonged discussion (digital divide as an educational problem that must be addressed, the potential of flipclass to provide foundations in much shorter more effective time-periods than traditional lecture or traditional homework, etc), That would be an abuse of a comment.

    Rather than view flipping from the kahn point of view, I would recommend that you and your readers listen to practitioners and their experiences in the twitter #flipclass chat (mon 8pm, est) or read some of the blogs and resources at . My first impressions of my flipped class are documented here:

  24. Amen! I share your concerns, and appreciate you posting this!

  25. You make some great points, especially for those neo-Rousseaus out there who really adhere to the constructivist model and don't believe their students will get as much out of direct instruction. If you're philosophically against homework, as per point 2, then of course direct instruction won't work.

    I'm not sure I'm swayed by your concerns that this is just "more time for bad pedagogy," though - that could really be leveled at anything you try in the classroom ("Collaborative learning? What if they do it wrong! Critical thinking? What if I do it wrong?") And your gripes about grouping by date of manufacture are definitely valid, but they're also a bigger question than the flipped classroom needs to address. Yes, many schools could benefit from a careful redesign of their learning environments, but this does not logically preclude them from still benefitting from trying to flip.