Is ‘Flipping’ a useful concept?

As part of the OER Research Hub my colleague Bea De Los Arcos has been working with the Flipped Learning network in the US. If you don't know what 'flipped learning' is the basic idea is that you use classroom time for peer interaction, discussion, interaction, and homework for instruction (often via online video). From the OER perspective it's an interesting group because open education is related to what they do, but it doesn't come from the open education world.

I've just written a section on Flipped Learning for this year's Innovating Pedagogy report, so I've been thinking about the whole approach. I've heard people dismiss it as 'that's just another name for blended learning'. Jonathan Rees doesn't like it at all, and thinks it puts too much onus on the learner. There is also something about the way the US system operates in that approaches like this become a brand to be promoted, which can seem quite odd outside of that context.

I would also say, that like OERs, hard evidence is often lacking of its benefits, but there are some persuasive case studies. And the people who take it up do seem genuinely converted and enthusiastic (96% of those who had flipped saying they would recommend it), which indicates there is something there. I have a feeling that those in educational technology (particularly in higher ed) can be a bit sniffy about such things: 'we've seen this before', 'where's the evidence?', 'what solid pedagogic theory are you basing it on?', etc. While Flipped Learning can certainly be seen as a form of blended learning, I've come to see it as a useful way of framing it for teachers. Blended learning can be a bit vague: use the best mix of media for pedagogic effect. That can leave you floundering, what media for what purpose? Flipping gives this more structure. What do you spend your time explaining that could be effectively delivered online? And what could I do in the classroom that's more engaging than simply delivering information.

One criticism of flipping is that it kind of assumes that all teachers are just standing there lecturing anyway, and this is far from the truth. So when you scratch the surface you'll find plenty of teachers have done elements of flipping, without even knowing the term. And there is also an emphasis on video, indeed some people seem to view it as being about online video, whereas the interactive element in the face to face session is the more important aspect.

Overall though I think it's a useful way of approaching the possibilities that the internet offers for education, while still recognising the value of the teacher and the human interaction. By asking the question "how could I flip my classroom?" it gives a way of thinking about the best affordances (klaxon!) of online and face to face. And that seems like a good thing.

(Here is a nice little sheet Bea produced for the Flipped Learning Network to help explain CC licences):


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