Everybody’s Doing the Flip


So there’s a Big Exciting Idea that’s been whizzing around the educational oxygen recently. It’s called “flipping the classroom.” Bill Gates is a fan; so is Nobel Prize winner Carl Wieman, an advisor to President Obama.

Here’s how it works: In regular classrooms the teacher stands at the front of the room and explains, the kids listen and absorb. Then they go home and do homework — the problem sets, the paper-writing, etc.

In a flipped classroom, the situation is reversed. First, the learners absorb the lecture at home, often via a video. Classroom time is devoted to doing the homework — grappling with the material, solving problems. Instead of being a sage on the stage, the teacher is a guide on the side, roving like a personal coach, spotting problems, giving individualized attention and guidance. Class time is about active construction, productive struggle and exploration.

Proponents of flipping make the point that video is a more efficient way to deliver lectures, because, unlike teachers, they can be rewound and watched until they’re understood. Doing homework in class works better because teachers can help students struggle through problems they might otherwise abandon, if alone at home.

The interesting thing about flipped classrooms isn’t just that they seem to work, especially for hard skills like math and science. It’s that the concept is flexible enough to be applied to other situations. Such as:

  • In sports — why not flip the locker room? Coaches could deliver theories, strategies, game plans, and fundamentals via video, and spend practice time actually working on the skills.
  • In music — why not flip the music stand? Teachers could deliver music theory over video, and spend the practice time putting it to use.
  • In the workplace — why not flip training session? Instead of listening to lectures, time could be spent practicing real-life on-the-job skills.

I like flipping because it’s a nice way to highlight a home truth: sitting still and listening to someone talk is a demanding and inefficient way to learn. Learning is ultimately about doing — about struggling and reaching, often with the guidance of a good coach — and the highest goal of a teacher is to design a space that makes that happen.

In other words, teachers aren’t really teachers — they are designers. As Einstein put it, “I never teach my students; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they learn.”

So the next question is, what can you flip in your world?

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16 Responses to “Everybody’s Doing the Flip”

  1. Wes Porter says:

    I’m flipping the classroom in legal education and trial skills training – http://www.youtube.com/user/wporterable. The videos can convey the foundational, redundant lessons and class time can be saved for more student presentations (learning by doing) and pointed critique – our deep practice and subtle coaching adjustments.

    Love flipping the instruction, love the Talent Code – look forward to the next book!

  2. djcoyle says:

    Thanks, Wes — really appreciate your sharing that. Watching the vids now! Best, Dan

  3. Mark Upton says:

    Hi Dan,

    Nice summary and ideas on this concept. If you or anyone else is interested in an example from a sporting context, I have a blog post on my experiences doing this in the sport I am involved in coaching (Australian Football) – http://www.teamsportcoaching.com/flipping-player-learning-process-coaching/


  4. Alex Banks says:

    In theory this could be a efficacious adjunct to education. The real issue is: who will develop the videos? It is inevitable that legal and political issues will arise resulting in a more centralized production of these videos resulting in yet further progress in the destruction of the American educational structure. Teachers will have available yet another cop out for responsibility, as they claim they have no say over the video content. The end result will be to allow the progressive teachers union to continue to produce the most ignorant and unprepared graduates in this nations history.

    This is yet another example of one of America’s biggest mistakes: relying upon technology instead of humans to provide solutions.

  5. djcoyle says:

    Great point, Alex.

    Khan Academy is doing a lot of this (I believe they’ve got 2,800 videos so far — check out khanacademy.org). Does anybody else know of organized efforts to produce videos for flipped classrooms?

  6. Lisa Cooley says:

    Flipping the classroom is an OK idea, can be exciting, but it’s still working with the fact that homework is acceptable. Those of us who think kids shouldn’t have to work a second shift disagree with having kids watch a lecture at home on video or audio or whatever is provided. I’d prefer kids do all their schoolwork at school and have home for themselves and their families.

  7. Rob Weddell says:

    I see great value in creating “hands on” learning. I believe good educators are already engage students in learning by making it meaningful to the individual. Bottom line is if the learner cannot see the value in the learning subject then there is a lack of motivation to learn. I am infavour of an active/ problem solving classroom that empowers the learner but I would agree with Lisa that we do not need more homework for our students, and especially sendentary homework that promotes screening time over physical activity, play, and family time. Traditional lecture styles needs to change but I am not sure Flipping has totally nailed it. Cheers!

  8. Amor Vieira says:

    Lisa may be looking at it from a Primary school perspective. I agree that children should have time off, but some of the independent tasks and preparatory reading can also be done in classrooms using school computers. The great advantage of having guidance notes, powerpoints, etc on the web is that students will be looking at them when they feel they need to check or learn something. Personalised learning or what?

  9. Tony DeMeo says:

    As a football coach for over 35 years – I always did exactly what your thoughts were. I sent the Quarterbacks their Quarterback Syllabus to them at the beginning of the summer so they would know every part of their plays prior to the start of practice. Thus their practice time was purely about execution.I also used my own version of “deep practice” & actually found a way to quantify it.

  10. liz garnett says:

    Interesting this idea that video is the appropriate medium for delivery material for individual absorption and reflection. Video is great for communicating visual content of course (and there are some fabulous educational videos out there these days, e.g. http://www.artsjournal.com/gap/2011/08/playground-bullies-musician-edition.html), but for reviewing/cogitating, the printed word is much more effective. It’s much more flexible for adjusting pace of delivery and repetition to your speed of comprehension. Easier to put a question-mark in the margin to remind you which bit to ask your teacher about.

    Straight lectures on video have the problem that they can’t adjust to the needs of the listeners. If you are talking to a group in person you can see in their eyes when they’re excited, when they’re lost, when they’re with you but having to pedal hard to keep up. The reason why face-to-face lectures have any value is the same reason why getting-your-hands-mucky sessions are valuable – the teacher can adjust to the learners in real time.

    Not arguing with the basic premise that active learning is better than passive learning. Just pointing out that replacing a teacher’s explanation with a video of a teacher’s explanation is unhelpfully simplistic. Use video as a medium in its own right, and encourage reading as a way to access and reflect upon knowledge.

  11. Antony Lewis says:

    I think that the flip method of teaching is another useful teaching strategy (which can be used effectively in combination with other methods). However, to view the flip method as a panacea/solution to all learning – is a mistaken view (in my own opinion).

    Why? First, I am a High School Mathematics Teacher (just making my background clear). I would love to prepare videos for all of my students, so that they could watch them at home etc. However, as all of you teachers know – we don’t have the time to prepare videos like this, even though I would love to (and have thought of doing this many times – but just don’t have enough hours in the day). Accordingly, videos like those prepared by the Khan Academy are incredibly useful (in their place) as he explores concepts from a more intuitive and deeper level (at least in Mathematics). They are an incredible resource – if you haven’t used them already – you really should, I highly recommend them 🙂

    Nevertheless, I would argue (from my experience) that getting the majority of students in an average class to watch them at home in their own time is going to be extremely difficult (as it is extremely difficult to get them to do anything in their own time re schoolwork). In my mind, it is a concept which can be used sparingly to good effect, but not something which can be feasibly expected of students every day in your standard class.

    Nevertheless, I would also argue that they would be most effective in honours/extended classes where students are passionate about learning that particular subject – and wouldn’t even think twice about watching a video which would help them obtain an even deeper understanding of the concepts and connections involved! I have a class or two like that – and think I could definitely use them quite effectively (more often with them).

    Thanks for posting this article for everyone, greatly appreciated 🙂

  12. Adam says:

    Great article! ArtistWorks has been “flipping the music stand” for a few years now with our online music schools much as you describe, but with a twist. Each school is taught by a master musician, and subscribing students have access to a comprehensive video lesson library curriculum. The twist is that they can submit practice videos to their teacher and receive a video response with constructive feedback on how to progress. Both the student and teacher’s video are paired together for the online community to view and learn from. Everyone learns from each other this way, because the advice the teacher gives the student will also benefit the other students viewing the Video Exchange. We are firmly convinced this is the future of education, and a much more effective use of a teacher’s time.

  13. Ricardo says:


    isn’t it like the case-study method used in many business schools? You prepare the cases at home and discuss them in the classroom guided by the professor.
    I agree these methods help students to, at least, develop a more proactive mind-set; get used to prepare themselves in advance, learn to listen to others, be openminded to different options and participate in the discussions.

  14. djcoyle says:

    Hi Ricardo, Great point on case studies and biz schools. How silly would it be if students used class time to read the case for the first time? Yet that’s what’s happening in some places. Shoot, that’s what happened in most of my classes in high school and college!

  15. Daisy says:

    This is the first time I’ve heard of flipping… would like to see more ‘teachers’/schools implement this. It’s very Pro Active

    plus.. more students will be getting better grades for getting the homework done and turning it in on time~

  16. Greg says:

    A few years back, I taught with an art teacher that has since retired. She video taped herself teaching lessons and then had the children watch the video while she walked around the room and helped them with each new project. While a bit different than flipping the classroom, she found a way to free herself to attend to the kids who needed the most help in the moment. The outcome, I think, was similar. She had more time to focus on the individual needs of her students. I am excited to see what the next generation of teachers will teach us old dogs.

    In my own teaching, I am using youtube to give my kids variable practice ideas for upper-body and core strength that they can do at home. The percentages of kids hitting our district benchmarks for both are excellent.

    Greg Thompson
    Physical Educator- Farmington Public Schools, MI

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