Flipping the Classroom


The quote I am choosing to reflect on is “The flipped classroom is…essentially reversing the traditional order…this approach fits adult education’s values of active learner engagement and self-direction” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p. 207).


The concept of flipping the classroom is of great importance in my current role as an instructor at the College of the North Atlantic – Qatar (“CNA-Q”).  CNA-Q has adopted Desire2Learn (“D2L”) as a learning management system and this initiative is slowly progressing from using D2L simply as a repository for course information to a truly blended learning experience for students in which the traditional classroom is flipped.   In order to get a little bit ahead of the curve, I thought this was an opportune time to further investigate the potential benefits of – and effective strategies for – a flipped classroom. Perhaps I can be ready to try to implement some of these strategies in the upcoming semester.  Flipping the classroom makes a lot of sense to me because having the students learn basic concepts through self-direction (with some provided resources) then spending face-to-face time engaging in more complex learning activities seems like sound andragogy.  I wrestle with figuring out how to flip the classroom so I will try to focus on that throughout this reflection.


The phrase “active learner engagement” was really what got me to pay attention to the selected quote.  When I think about great courses I’ve attended, it often involved me being actively engaged.  Engaging students is what I strive to do as much as I possibly can, though I am beginning to realize that I can create even more opportunities to do so and flipping the classroom seems like the next logical progression to maximize student engagement during class time.  The flipped classroom was all the rage in education technology circles in 2013 (Triola and Cook, 2014).  The hype hasn’t totally fizzled out as the flipped classroom has been a staple in my department meeting minutes for the past several years.  Though I’ve heard bits and pieces about what it involves, I’ve never fully investigated the benefits of a flipped classroom, nor how to go about achieving a successful iteration of the flipped classroom.  There are, however, adequate resources at CNA-Q to achieve a flipped classroom, and it’s about time I try.

In a short review of the flipped classroom approach, Leung et al described some of the methods used for third year medical students.  He noted that self-learning materials were developed and made available to students online and that students were expected to access and review the material prior to class.  The class time became dedicated to “answering questions or practicing the application of knowledge in activities designed to further enhance familiarity” (Leung et al, 2014, p. 1127).  By adapting the flipped classroom approach, Leung stated that knowledge transfer for students regarding specific skills was improved.  Another benefit noted by Leung was that instructors updated learning materials more frequently.

Love, Hodge, Grandegenett and Swift evaluated student learning and perceptions in a flipped classroom in an algebra course.  In that study, students in a flipped classroom were encouraged to review course materials, including online screencasts, prior to arriving at class.  During class, time was reserved for “engaging students in organized, interactive, hands-on activities” (Love et al., 2014, p. 320).  This included working through problems on the board in pairs.  In addition, students in the flipped classroom were required to complete a daily readiness assessment prior to entry to the class, which assessed their learning and provided an opportunity to ask for additional explanation of the content.  While the small sample size in this study did not show significant difference in assessment scores between students in the flipped classroom and students in a traditional classroom, the students in the flipped classroom had an overwhelmingly positive review of the class in a post-course survey compared to the students in the traditional classroom. 


It seems clear to me that there are enough benefits of a properly flipped classroom to dedicate the necessary time to prepare at least one of my courses this semester in this manner.  One such course that might suit this format is my hazardous materials management offering, which is scheduled for 3-hours per week of lecture.  Flipping this classroom would require me to develop my lecture notes and references online using our D2L management system.  I can provide one such online lesson per week, in video format, with reference material to read and/or watch.  Students would be provided with review questions in order to facilitate their self-directed learning, with reflective questions being used to help propel discussion at the start of the next class.  One such example, from the Love et al study,  would be, “What did you find difficult or confusing about this section?  If nothing was difficult or confusing, what did you find most interesting?” (Love et al., 2014, p.321).  

The start of the class time can begin with students pairing off, discussing this question between themselves, then sharing the answers with the rest of the class.  That way, the remainder of instructional resources can be dedicated to teaching the students what they really want to know and/or what they struggle with.  The rest of the class time can be used to work through solutions to real-world problems concerning hazardous materials management.  For instance, when teaching about the globally harmonized system (“GHS”), we can spend class time inspecting hazardous materials storage locations for compliance with GHS, rather than me telling them what the requirements are for labels and safety data sheets.  This seems to be a much more effective approach to teaching that is consistent with the principles of andragogy.               


Bierema, L.L., Merriam S.B., (2014). Adult learning linking theory and practice. John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Cook, D.A., Triola, M.M., (2014). What is the role of e-learning? Looking past the hype. Medical Education, 48, John Wiley & Sons Inc., 930-937

Leung, J.Y.C., Kumta, S.M., Jin, Y., Yung, A.L.K., (2014).  Short review of the flipped classroom approach. Medical Education, 48, John Wiley & Sons Inc., 1127

Love, B., Hodge, A., Grandgenett, N., Swift, W., (2014). Student learning and perceptions in a flipped linear algebra course. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, Vol 45, No. 3, 317-324