How to Flip Your Classroom – and Get Your Students to Do the Work


Recently I shared lunch with colleague and friend, Mike Gwaltney. He teaches in a variety of blending settings both in class and online. We got into an interesting discussion about ways to deliver instructional content and learning process both in and outside the classroom. The conversation quickly turned to the notion of “flipping the classroom.” This is the idea that teachers shoot videos of their lessons, then make them available online for students to view at home. Class time is then devoted to problem solving – with the teacher acting as a guide to teams of students. It’s a great approach that flips the delivery of the lesson to homework – it’s like a TiVo time shift that can reshape your classroom. More about flipping here.

Watch this video to see flipping in action – cool graphics courtesy of Camtasia Studio.

Both of us admired teachers (like these in the video) with the time, technology and talent to do video productions – but questioned how many teachers would be able to morph into video producers. Moreover, with the growing catalogue of free online content – we questioned why a teacher would even want to bother to produce their own online material. As Mike quipped – “why would someone video their own Lincoln lecture – when you can watch Gary Wills online?”

Flip the delivery of the lesson to homework – it’s like a TiVo time shift that can reshape your classroom.

Ultimately, we saw flipping the class as a great opportunity to engage our students in taking more responsibility for their learning. Why not let your students curate the video lessons from existing content on the web? As a follow up to our chat, here’s my seven-step how to:

1. Start slow! Pick a single upcoming lesson or unit that you already plan to teach.

2. Recruit a few of your savviest students to do the research to find existing online video material to support the lesson. They should include a text overview defining what the students should be looking for in the video.

3. Also work with the student team to develop an in-class activity that students will do after viewing the video.

4. Post the video lesson to your content manager. Don’t have one? Just use a free Google website – very easy to embed or link to videos there.

5. Then run the video as a pilot lesson for the whole class. Part of their assignment is to decide what they like (and don’t like) about the each component of the lesson. In other words, they assist in the design of rubrics for selection of videos and integration of the video lessons into a classroom activities.

6. Then repeat step 1-3 until you get a good basis for selection of future videos.

7. Repeat 1-6, as needed, until your students have curated a collection of online content to support your classroom. They would also be responsible for better defining what constitutes “high-quality” online content and how that can be best used to support a more student-centered classroom.

Extension: You might even consider adding some pre-assessment for upcoming units – using a formative pre-test or student self-assessment rubric to let students decide which elements of an upcoming unit need video support. Then based on the formative assessment – assign teams of students to curate online content while you work with them in class to design future follow up class activities. If this process works, think of all the class time you would free up. No concerns of running out of time to “cover” the required material. Instead of class time being filled with the pointless transfer of information from teacher to student, you and your students would have the time to apply and explore the content in a more engaging and project-based classroom. Who knows you might gain so much time that you’ll have the chance to discover your inner Scorsese – and go on to produce your own instructional videos?

Image credit: flickr/Nasser Nouri

10 Replies to “How to Flip Your Classroom – and Get Your Students to Do the Work”

  1. Very cool, Peter! It would be trickier with elementary students but perhaps with a teaching team or with savvy tech support staff it would be doable. The new interface is nice – not cluttered. It was fantastic to see you in Pittsford – and great to keep up with you online this way. Regards as always to Nancy. I think I will blog this at my blog site – watch for the trackback.

    1. Hi Cathy,
      Great to see you both, as well. And thanks for the feedback on the site. How’s it measure up for the visually impaired? Still doing some work with the designers.

  2. I do like the idea, but I doubt that it could be successfully implemented everywhere. Where I teach – a rural Indiana district with significant poverty – many students don’t have access to a computer and fast internet connection when not at school. Thus I can’t make an online video an essential part of a lesson.

    But what I have begun to do is make short video summaries of what we do in class so that those who are able can review the day’s lesson.

    1. Franklin, I think your lack of access situation makes this more challenging. Although it might be interesting to see how you might involve students in planning instruction – perhaps they could still curate videos to be shown in class instead of at home. “Video Friday” with a student led lesson?

  3. Hi Peter,

    I have recently discovered your blog and am really enjoying what I see here.

    I find the idea of a flipped classroom to be very intriguing and am looking at it for my high school Social Studies classes this year. How did you find the initial response to be from students? How do you find it to work when students don’t do their “homework” (i.e. watch or read the material)? This is an area where I have struggled with, especially with my “non-academic” classes. I’m excited about the potential for much greater engagement with the concepts and higher level thinking.

  4. Nikki,
    In my experience, students take slowly to changes in routine. (They even noticed when I got a haircut).

    As you are aware, flipping the class isn’t about watching videos at home. It’s about freeing up class time to do something more thought provoking than lecture. So when you consider flipping, begin by asking yourself if there are some lower-order info transmitting you’re doing in class that could be off-loaded to homework.

    Of course kids will often resist the challenge of higher-order tasks. My students would sometimes say. “Mr Pappas, do we have to think today – give us a worksheet instead.” But with properly-scaffolded tasks, flipping can open up class time for much more engaging work.

    And as far a kids not doing their “flipped homework” I guess I’d ask myself if they were doing their old homework? (chapter checkups 3, 4, 7).

    You might check out my post The Flipped Classroom: Getting Started for more ideas.

    Hope this helps … and have a great school year. ~ Peter

  5. I was on mentormob for a different purpose. I stumbled acrosss the “Flipped Classroom” playlist and watched a series of these playlists. This is awesome! Great stuff. As mentioned previously some of my students are without the means to watch clips online. Nor am I tech savvy. But the idea in Peter Pappas “7 Steps” in having the kids produce and present is very intriging. I am excited to put together a plan with my classes and see how far they soar with taking ownership of their learning. Thank you!

    1. Angela,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. This is just another way to help students take responsibility for their learning. A skill that will carry them through life. I realize that they may not be used to being asked to take such an active role. But it’s something that we always need to strive towards.
      Hope this helps,

  6. Hi Peter,

    Flipping is something I’ve recently begun to investigate for my classroom and I’ve found a lot of your links and ideas very helpful but I question the idea of having students design their own classroom content based on a set of criteria provided by the “teacher”. It seems like an opportunity for students to reinforce their own misconceptions if we relinquish the role of guide/expert to our students. In this vein, I think having teachers produce at least some of their own video material would be extremely helpful in maintaing teacher-to-student/parent/administration relationships.

    1. Hi Laura,

      Thanks for the comment. I see your point and it’s well taken. I think responsibility for learning is shared between teacher and students and needs to be fine tuned to specific situation. Best of luck with your exploration of flipping.

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