Learning, Innovation & Tech

Bombs & Breakthroughs

Are You Ready to Flip?

CJ Westerberg, June 24, 2011 10:01 AM


" . . .not all material is suitable to be taught through a video lesson."

Are You Ready to Flip?

Part 2 of 3 of "The Flipped Class"

by Dan Spencer, Deb Wolf and Aaron Sams

Recently there has been increased interest in "best practices" of the flipped classroom
in education.  During the recent Flipped Class Conference at Woodland Park High School in Woodland Park Colorado, a team of experienced "flipped teachers" collaborated to create a three-part series for The Daily Riff concerning the nature of the Flipped Class. 
This second article "Are You Ready to Flip?" attempts to help interested teachers.  Be sure
to check out
Part 1, "The Flipped Class:  What it Is and What it is Not,"  Part 2: What Does a Good One Look Like?" and other related links below this post.

Begin with the end in mind.  A good teacher always knows where they're headed, and
that is never more important than with the flipped classroom and for Mastery Learning.
Ask yourself exactly what do you want your students to know and be able to do.  What are
the essential objectives that your students MUST master?  What will "mastery" of that
objective look like?  It may be that some of these decisions are already made for you. 
But, you absolutely must begin by first deciding what the end product looks like.

After determining what you want your students to master and how that should look, begin creating (or collecting) quality learning resources.  These collections will look different depending on the teacher and class.  It is important that these be accessible outside the classroom and be available whatever-whenever-wherever (WWW), so students can have ownership of the pace of their learning, and review as needed. 

In this process, consider the idea of student choice when creating and collecting these
learning resources.  As we all know, different students learn well in a variety of ways, and
the resources we supply should provide multiple avenues for students to become engaged
with the content.  Ideally, resources should be teacher-created, or at least tweaked to relate directly to the student's class environment.  Resources created by those outside the
classroom may also be used but should be reviewed carefully to assure they meet the
learning objectives.

If content is delivered outside of class time, it is up to the teacher to provide the students
with opportunities in class to place the content they learned into context.  Many teachers struggle with the "extra" class time that is created by removing direct instruction from the classroom, and do not know exactly what to do with their students.  These in-class
"activities" (for lack of a better term) must:

1)  help support the student understanding of the stated learning objectives,
2)  be designed to help students process what they have learned and place the learning
into the context of the world in which they live,
3)  be engaging to the students, yet flexible enough to allow students the ability to process
and produce in a way that is meaningful to them.  Possible in-class work could include:

  • student created content
  • independent problem solving
  • inquiry-based activities
  • Project Based Learning

Some teachers have asked us why videos are necessary if they have engaging class work
for their students through which students can learn.  Our response is that not all material is suitable to be taught through a video lesson.  If you have something for the students to work through that does not require direct instruction through a video, then do not make a video. 
We should never use a tool (in this case a video) just for the sake of using the tool; we
should use the tool because it is the right tool for a particular job.

If you have some of the following goals or priorities for your class, then flipping might be
a good option:

  • Interactive questioning
  • Content and idea exploration
  • Student content creation
  • Student voice and choice
  • Effective differentiation in instructional strategies
  • Collaboration with other professionals with the same goals

The third article in the series, coming tomorrow in The Daily Riff, addresses the question of what a good flipped classroom "looks like".


Dan Spencer is currently the educational technology consultant for the Jackson County (MI) Intermediate School District.  Before that he taught at Michigan Center High School (MI) and American Fork Junior High (UT).  He has actively used the Flipped-Mastery model along with iPod Touches for the past three years in his chemistry classes.

Deb Wolf is a science teacher and instructional coach in Sioux Falls, SD.  She has been teaching for 23 years.  She first flipped her class in 2008 in both chemistry and AP chemistry.  This past year Deb coordinated a federal grant, "Teaching Smarter in the 21st Century" the focus of which was to train 40 middle school and high school math and science teachers in the flipped-mastery model and 21st century skills and tools.

Aaron Sams is the co-creator of the flipped class model and the co-author of the book on the flipped class.  He has been an educator for 12 years. He currently teaches science at Woodland Park High School in Woodland Park, Colorado. He was awarded the 2009 Presidential Award for Excellence for Math and Science Teaching. Aaron recently served as co-chair of the Colorado State Science Standards Revision Committee.

Originally published The Daily Riff June 22, 2011

Related posts The Daily Riff:

Part 1, "The Flipped Class:  What it Is and What it is Not" by Jon Bergmann, Jerry Overmyer and Brett Wilie

Part 2: "The Flipped Class: What Does a Good One Look Like?" by Brian Bennett, Jason Kern, April Gudenrath and Philip McIntosh

How the Flipped Classroom is Radically Transforming Learning by Jon Bergmann

Teachers Doing the Flip to Help Students Become Learners

Private School Math Teacher Flips Learning by Stacey Roshan

  • John Burrell

    Its no wonder that teachers focus on the video aspect of the 'flipped classroom' after all this has been the sales pitch. The name 'flipped classroom' draws attention to the 'flip' and does nothing to indicate the richer content that can be made possible through this simple method.

    Notice that after the 'flip' we go on to debate classroom management and that this is the same debate that occurs everyday in every school. So flipping is away to allow a restructuring of the classroom activities. OK...now can we move on.....

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