Photo: Pexels
Photo: Pexels

Have You Considered Flipping Your Classroom?

Effective educators raise learners in ways that allow them to discover their path.

North American April 12, 2017

Traditional lecture-based education models continue to dominate the teaching and learning landscape, but the person doing the talking is usually the person doing the learning. Also, lectures may be less effective today than they were in the past, as sociological studies suggest that today’s millennial college students have more pervasive narcissistic attitudes and shorter attention spans.

More than two decades ago, educational psychologist Alison King lobbied for a student-centered active learning process. She said an educator should be a “guide on the side” and not a “sage on the stage.” Traditional lecturing is not generally considered “active learning.” In contrast, the “Flipped Classroom,” the roots of which many trace to King’s work, actively engages students.

The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model where students study course content ahead of time (asynchronous learning) and come to class prepared to actively develop what they have discovered along with their classmates (synchronous learning). It is called a flipped classroom because instead of the teacher presenting information and then sending students home to practice applying the material, the students study the information before coming to class and apply the material in class together with their teacher and classmates. In the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Loma Linda University, we have fully embraced the flipped classroom in the neurology curricular track with good results.

Thoughtful craftsmanship of synchronous and asynchronous activities is required for successful outcomes when flipping the classroom. It is not enough to simply “flip” a classroom and place self-directed learning on students. One of the early challenges we faced in flipping our classrooms was time management during the face-to-face lecture sessions because of increased discussion; flipping the classroom creates informed students who have had time to consider content and develop more thoughtful questions. Another challenge was the considerable time commitment required to develop and refine various synchronous and asynchronous learning activities.

Despite these challenges, students have responded positively to classroom flipping. Student assessments including laboratory practicals, examinations, and standardized course evaluations have overwhelmingly encouraged us to stay the course. In particular, qualitative feedback from our standardized course evaluations shows that many students appreciate the thoughtful discussions and organization of the flipped courses.

With a growing body of literature supporting active learning course designs across disciplines, traditional educational models are rapidly losing their foothold in higher education. The “flipped classroom” provides opportunities for educators to engage students in ways that foster deeper learning. However, because of the challenges, it is wise to slowly integrate aspects of a flipped classroom, learn from any mistakes, and build upon early success.

The word “educate” is etymologically derived from the Latin “rear or bring up,” and the word “learn” is attributed to Old High German language meaning, “to find the track.” Effective educators raise learners in ways that allow them to discover their path. As we explore ways to best educate our students, whether this means classroom-flipping or other techniques, we can be confident the Master Educator is at our side.

Tools for the Flipped Classroom:

Live Audience Response Systems


Fish Bowl


Note: Article written and posted in English


Eric Johnson

Eric G. Johnson, DSc, PT, MS-HPEd, NCS, is a Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at Loma Linda University School of Allied Health Professions, USA. He was the 2014 recipient of the Loma Linda University Kinzer-Rice Award for Excellence in University Teaching.

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