Launching (or Upgrading) Schools’ Flipped Classrooms
The 21st century has introduced an encyclopedia of educational trends, frameworks, and innovations. Collectively, they have attempted to impact nearly every aspect of the K-12 educational experience. Predictably, some initiatives have gone by the wayside. Others have endured. What makes navigating this landscape even more complex is the variety of adoption and implementation levels of districts. In short, schools are “all over the place” in regard to 21st-century education.
One practice that has retained its relevancy among the list of initiatives is the “Flipped Classroom” or “Flipped Teaching.” Thankfully, despite the dynamism of education, some valuable definitions of this model exist. The Flipped Learning Network uses this wording: “A pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter” (2014). Likewise, the International Society for Technology in Education offers this brief explanation, “It’s about maximizing class time for deeper student engagement.” Having these two definitions readily available when you are supporting schools is powerful. Still, an answer to another question regarding the Flipped Classroom needs to be part of your approach – “Does it work?”
The answer to that question is “yes… and.” In the district I work in, the flipped model became a supported practice as a way to innovate instruction and the student experience. We built a cadre of teachers who were expressing success with the approach and developed professional learning with them as facilitators for other teachers. Thankfully, since 2010 research literature on the impact of the flipped teaching model has grown beyond our local field tests.
The Hechinger Report published their conclusions of 114 studies in 2020. As part of that report, they shared this insight, “My takeaway message is that it could be better,” said researcher David C.D. van Alten, referring to a flipped classroom, in an email interview. “But only when it is appropriately designed.” Three years later, in 2023, Ed Surge summarized a “meta-analysis” of 173 studies on the flipped classroom done across K-16 settings. The report noted, “While many of the studies showed gains for learners in some cases, the researchers concluded that flipped learning isn’t living up to its promise.”
Reviewing these studies in detail will be valuable for your understanding. However, there is an important caveat at the core of any instructional approach – the success of the strategy depends on how it is designed. Therefore, as you work with schools to introduce or upgrade their flipped learning strategies, I encourage you to 1) ask what they are currently doing and what their instructional model is and 2) have clarity on what design principles are essential for a flipped classroom to be successful.
Your value rests in that second point. Emphasizing how your service or product facilitates effective flipped learning design is key. As a starting point, explore what ISTE, Edutopia, and The E Learning Industry promote as their pathway to success. Connecting these educational leaders to your flipped learning support elevates your reputation as an innovator in the field.
Written by: Craig Perrier
Educational Thought Leader and Practitioner
Craig is the High School Social Studies Curriculum and Instruction Specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools in Fairfax, VA. He also is an online adjunct professor of education for Framingham State University and the teacher certification program, Educate VA. Previously, he taught at American Schools in Brazil for six years and for six years in public schools in Massachusetts.