Flipped Classrooms Are A Gateway Drug To Intentional Pedagogy

At the outset of this post, I feel the need to freely admit a bias against the term "flipped classroom." The term feels like an attempt to re-invent something that was already there, as many teachers had been inverting the typical class structure for decades under various names: project based learning, student-centered learning, student-paced learning, or just good teaching.

But I digress.

Another Flip

The practice of inverting a classroom, and reserving class time for more quality interactions with and among learners is obviously a great pedagogical practice. The strongest advocates of doing what they call "flipping" a class are doing this as a change from their current teaching style, or pedagogical approach. These starting points are not always clearly defined, but an important element to consider here is that transforming one's pedagogical approach to what some people are calling flipped requires an increased attention to how time is used inside and outside the classroom, how activities should be paced, how activities and learning should support one another, how support structures can be used inside and outside the class, and if or how various elements of work should be assessed.

In other words, the transition to something new requires an attention to detail. Is anyone examining the possibility that some of the benefits currently attributed to what people call flipping are really attributable to more intentional pedagogy, and an increased focus on the craft of teaching?

If the construct of a flipped classroom is what we need to make the transition to student-centered and student-paced learning, then hey, by any means necessary. But my dissatisfaction with the term "flipped" has little or nothing to do with the practice, and everything to do with how a buzzword minimizes the work and skill of practioners focusing on the skills required to meet the needs of every student. Intentional pedagogy is hard work, and time consuming. Attention to detail requires a significant amount of planning time, and significant work after the fact to determine what was effective, and what wasn't. Flipped classrooms, the construct, feels like the Atkins Diet of the educational world. The work of skilled educators is better than that.

Image Credit: "Another Flip" taken by Hc_07, published under an Attribution NonCommercial license.


I couldn't agree more with your take on the potential real benefits of the classroom inversion movement. We've all watched fads come and go. Some fads come equipped with built-in means of using classroom time, and not all are good uses. Any time a teacher is in the position of doing something besides delivering content, there is opportunity to provide the best learning for each student at his particular place in his learning and in the setting provided by peers, information, and a responsive, accomplished teacher. It would be interesting to see how many teachers who are "flipping" are actually making good use of this classroom time and how many are providing means for students to watch a video that they couldn't or wouldn't watch. And how many teachers just flip out a worksheet (and maybe an answer key) at those students who dutifully watched?
Luann Lee

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