Effective Strategies for Flipping the Classroom

Effective Strategies for Flipping the Classroom

In many traditional classrooms, teachers deliver lectures and students then work on problems or skill-building outside of school. The idea of flipping the classroom turns this structure around. In a flipped classroom, students watch lectures outside of the classroom and then engage in collaborative problem solving or critical thinking in the classroom.

In their paper, “Applying ‘First Principles of Instruction’ as a Design Theory of the Flipped Classroom: Findings from a Collective Study of Four Secondary School Subjects,” authors Chung Kwan Lo et al. present empirically tested design methods for running a successful flipped classroom. They note that to date, the majority of studies on flipped classrooms have focused on higher education rather than K12. So, for this study the authors focused on how to best flip the classroom at the secondary level.

The study involved two parts: a pilot study with 2 Grade 12 classes, and the main study with 5 teachers across four different subject areas in grades 8 to 10. Overall, 382 students participated in the studies, with 207 students in a flipped classroom setting and 175 students in a non-flipped (traditional) classroom setting (155). The pilot study served as testing ground for the authors so they could better understand and refine their conditions for the main study. The main study examined the how the application of M.D. Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction to a flipped classroom setting affected student learning compared to students in traditional classroom settings. Subjects in the main study included mathematics, physics, Chinese language, and communications technology (155). To assess student learning, the authors examined pre-and post-tests for students in both the flipped and non-flipped settings.

“To successfully apply the flipped classroom approach, teachers need to develop a robust framework for the design and implementation of flipped classes” (151).

The Take-Away

  • Out of class learning usually involves students watching video-based lectures.
    • Each video segment should be no longer than 10 minutes (154).
    • For each flipped lesson in this study, students watched 1-3 videos that were about 6 minutes each and answered 3-6 follow-up questions after watching each segment (157).
    • A major benefit to watching lectures outside of class is that students can replay videos as many times as needed until they fully grasp the material (162).
    • It is important that students have access to review-videos before learning new material: “Making revision videos available could help the students to review prerequisite knowledge, which facilitated the learning of new concepts” (156).

Previous studies have shown that, for students, “the bearable length of all combined video segments is about 20 minutes for each flipped lesson” (154).

  • After watching video segments, students should answer online follow-up questions.
    • The authors note that previous studies have shown that students who are tested after watching video segments have better performance and information retention than non-tested students (154).
    • “These exercises had the functions of (1) guiding student learning and (2) informing the teachers’ designs for in-class activity” (163). 

Teachers should choose “flipped” material carefully. Basic or more easily understood material lends itself best to out-of-class lectures.

  • Lo et al. explain that in previous studies, “not all course materials were suitable for students’ independent study through instructional videos… the effectiveness of flipping complicated learning items was found to be unsatisfactory, and some amount of face-to face re-teaching was required” (154). Indeed, Lo et al. argue that complex material is best given in class where the teachers can assess student understanding and tailor their explanations. Not all material lends itself to out-of-class lectures, so teachers should still use in-class time to cover complex material.
  • In-class learning (following the out-of-class video lectures) should focus on three things: (1) a brief review of the out-of-class lecture, (2) a short in-class lecture to cover more complicated material, (3) cooperative problem solving and critical thinking tasks for students.
  • Teachers should use students’ online responses to video segments to inform their in-class review sessions (154).

“By analyzing the students’ responses to the questions, these teachers were able to identify misunderstandings concerning the out-of-class learning materials” (154).

  • With most of the lecture time taking place outside of class, in-class time can be mainly devoted to students’ application of learned concepts, especially to real-world problems (155).

“During class meetings, students can solve the presented problems in groups with the teacher’s guidance…share, discuss, and even defend their new knowledge or ideas” (155).

The results of the authors’ study reveals that these guidelines contribute to increased student learning. They found that “among the four subjects examined, the flipped classroom approach promoted greater student achievement than the non-flipped approach in mathematics, physics, and Chinese language courses” (162). They argue that the students in the flipped communications technology course did not out-perform their counterparts in the non-flipped section because both conditions were highly interactive and hands-on to begin with. Moreover, Lo et al. argue that the success of the flipped classes was attributable to two main factors: (1) students’ ability to replay videos as many times as they needed in order to gain understanding of material, and (2) the collaborative and interactive in-class learning environments (162). They also mention the added benefit of students having increased access to the teacher in class when lectures are moved to out-of-class time.

As teachers consider the design of their flipped classroom, Lo et al. stress the importance of having students work collaboratively on real world problems in class. Not only do students find collaboration fulfilling, but, as Lo et al. argue, “solving real-world problems is important to promote student learning [and] is one of the most essential elements for 21st century learning environments” (163). Finally, the authors explain that flipping the classroom is no easy task. It requires substantial effort on the teacher’s part. So, Lo et al. recommend that teachers allow themselves plenty of time to flip their classes and approach flipping the classroom as flipping lessons at first. Over time, lessons will accumulate and, eventually, a successfully flipped class will emerge.

Chung Kwan Lo, Chi Wai Lie, and Khe Foon Hew


Paper Title:  Applying “First Principles of Instruction” as a Design Theory of the Flipped Classroom: Findings from a Collective Study of Four Secondary School Subjects

Authors: Chung Kwan Lo, Chi Wai Lie, and Khe Foon Hew (Faculty of Education, the University of Hong Kong)

Full Paper: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131517302609

Published: Computers and Education, Volume 118, 2018, Pages 150-165

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