Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Questions and Answers about Flipped Learning

Today, I presented about flipped learning at my school. As part of the planning process, I sent a survey to find out what the participants wanted to know about flipped learning. As I began to plan, I realized I would be unable to answer the range of questions within the constraints of the workshop. Below is a copy of the document I crafted to answer some of those questions.

1. What was your and/or your students' biggest challenge at the beginning of introducing the concept of a flipped classroom?
  • There was some resistance and some scapegoating. If a student struggled in my course, it was because “of the flipped thing.” I’ve found students who struggle in my class, struggle in several courses.
  • The other challenge was organizational. I moved early to an asynchronous course so managing the organization of the materials, videos and keeping track of students was tough. Students were genuinely confused.
  • Finally, making enough videos to be ahead of the students was hard. Ideally, the first unit of videos should be made during the summer. I wanted perfection, so I spent several hours making just one video. I no longer strive for perfection because there are diminishing returns on making great videos. The videos are to convey information or demonstrate something, so they don’t need to be perfect -- just good enough to make the point.

2. Is the flipped classroom something for a certain age-range, type of learning? Is it applicable to any kind of subject?
  • The easiest answer is to say that flipped learning is appropriate for all disciplines and age ranges because there are teachers from different grade levels and disciplines flipping their courses with success. The movement started with science teachers in high school and it has spread to all disciplines and age ranges. There is a social network where you can connect with other teachers in your discipline and division -
  • The difficult answer is to say that a teacher needs to be aware of what works best for their students. You may not want to assign any homework or your course may not benefit from offloading direct instruction to video.

3. Have the students' performances improved, since the inclusion of flipped learning?

4. Are teachers doing a lot more work outside of school preparing lessons than you once did? What are the downsides?
  • In the beginning (first school year of flipping), there was a lot of work. But there isn’t as much prep time anymore. In fact, there is less prep work now than before flipping. I show up to class to help students, not to put on a performance. My stress levels are way down!
  • More important, I take home significantly less grading. I give students feedback mostly in class, which result in better products. These better products are easier to grade.

5. How does it flow? How do you organize it especially since it's asynchronous? Are there times where you need the entire class to be at a certain time in terms of their understanding and how do you get them to be there? What hasn't worked so well and why?
I’ve written a lot about asynchronous or mastery learning on my blog - here is the link that has all of the articles tagged with asynchronous learning -
I am working on a 2nd year of asynchronous learning blog post, so check my blog later in the week for the most up to date post -

6. How can I introduce self-paced learning without making it too hard on students who have little motivation, don't function well independently, or those who just produce little output?
I still struggle with this part of the course. It is the single biggest source of struggle for me. I did a better job this year. I scaffolded asynchronous learning. The first unit was synchronous. In the second unit, I shared a suggested timeline. By the third unit, I let students work asynchronously but mandated a plan for each week outlining the homework and classwork for each day. A detailed blog post about the process I used to help students with asynchronous learning -

7. If you are not creating your own videos, where are the best places to find streaming media to use?
Youtube, teachertube,, Vimeo, and are sites that come to mind. There is also Khan Academy but the videos aren't particularly engaging.

8. How can videos help me teach grammar and pronunciation for US language classes?
A few ideas...
  1. Any direct instruction that you currently do in class about grammar and pronunciation can be offloaded to video. Have the students watch it and complete a quick accountability check as homework. Even have kids prepare questions before class.
  2. You can ask students to create videos where they record their own lessons, pronounce words, etc. Have students collaborate to make videos, perhaps recording a conversation in the language or performing a skit.
  3. The biggest benefit is if students watch your videos for homework, then class time can be saved for more application. Students can spend more time reading, writing and conversing in the language during class where you can support them and give “in the moment” feedback.

9. Are there ways of doing flipped learning that are not too demanding of teacher preparation time?
Using pre-made videos made by others can save tons of time. See question 4.

10. I have heard some students say that they do not always learn the material as well when they're doing it on their own because they're not able to ask questions when content is introduced. What have people who have incorporated flipped learning experienced?
I’ve heard the same from some of my students when I first started. (See question 1). However, I don’t hear that concern anymore. It is especially not a concern anymore because students are allowed to watch videos in class. But even as I have made that change, I don’t get many questions from students during video viewing in class.

11. I understand the filming yourself lessons as HW part, but I'm more curious as to what class time is used for then.
The simplest answer is to just flip what you normally assign as homework becomes class work.
But that would make class boring if every lesson was just classwork. My question to you is,
“what are the things you would do if more time was added to your course?” I would start by incorporating those activities into the class time.

Some immediate ideas come to mind:
  • more discussions
  • more projects
  • students creation of content like videos, posters & presentations
  • hands on activities
  • one on one conferences with students
  • portfolio work
  • collaborative-group work
  • more writing, blogging
  • peer evaluation
  • reflection
  • games

12. Techniques & technology to make the videos as visual appealing and accessible as possible.
It’s attractive to worry about making excellent videos but my experience is making excellent videos takes a lot of time and effort - probably more so than what they are worth. Think about your experience with making PowerPoint presentations. There is always room for improvement but there are diminishing returns when making the “perfect” presentation, if such a thing exists. Rather, the focus should be on making “good enough” videos. There are best practices for making videos, some of which we will briefly discuss during the workshop. However, students don’t ultimately learn the content exclusively through the video or even a live lecture/presentation. It is during the struggle to apply the content that students begin to learn. I would focus more energy and time on making effective assignments, learning opportunities and assessments.