Flipped Classrooms

Peak of Inflated Expectations
UMN Assessment
Time Frame
Less Than 2 Years
Last Updated on Sep 12, 2014

A "flipped class" is the popular name for a variety of pedagogies that invert or "flip" the traditional roles of the class lecture and homework or time outside class.  Rather than lecture, classroom time is used for "active" learning opportunities such as discussion, problem sets, peer instruction, etc., while time out of class is utilized for readings or viewing recorded lectures.

Flipped classroom benefits
There are many accepted benefits to the flipped approach. Long time flip and peer-instruction proponent Eric Mazur of Harvard often says that a traditional class lecture is a way to "transfer the notes in the professor's notebook to the student's notebook without going through the minds of either." In a flipped class the student need not busily take notes: the lecture is available to be played and re-played as much as necessary. The student can pause the lecture at any time to digest a concept or reflect on the content. Video may be made accessible, students who are not native speakers of English can slow down the delivery to help their comprehension.

Instead of having 100 students in a large lecture hall three times a week, three smaller groups of 1/3 of the students can meet once a week, for technology-aided labs, peer instruction, or Q&A discussion or other activities.

At this point (2014) the flipped classroom has a critical momentum. While there is no single approach, often lectures are recorded while the class is still in its old lecture format. Subsequently, the long lecture segments are edited into shorter pieces, suitable for accompanying readings or viewing at home. Missing or badly recorded sections are supplemented. In a subsequent term, the components are ready for use. Formative assessment exercises may be added to the out-of-class assignments. At the same time the instructor can plan the activities for the new flipped in-classroom time.

Nevertheless, preparing for a flipped version of a class requires significant work. Students are often resistant to the loss of their easy and passive lecture, and part of preparation involves explaining the benefits of such an approach.

Flipped classrooms at the University of Minnesota
Most departments at the U of M have faculty who have experimented with, or are using a flipped approach in their classes.  Cheryl Olman, Steve Engel and Thomas Brothen, early adopters of this pedagogy in the Department of Psychology, say:

"The [flipped classroom] format has clear advantages and effectively reduces the student/teacher ratio without increasing instructional staff. Students spend more time with faculty and instructional staff engaged in research‐like activities where students learn from each other during discussion, and the additional scheduling flexibility of online lectures makes the material more accessible to non‐traditional students."