The flipped classroom – everyone is talking about it, but what exactly does it mean? Derek Bruff, in his Flipped Classroom FAQ defines the flipped classroom as

a teaching approach in which students get a first exposure to course content before class through readings or videos, then spend class time deepening their understanding of that content through active learning exercises

Active learning during class can be much more effective than lecturing during class time (for examples, see Farewell, Lecture? by Eric Mazur, recommendations from an NSF committee for transforming Biology education, and published reports comparing learning in a large enrollment course and reducing an achievement gap).  Renewed interest in “flipped classrooms” is a result of the combination of evidence for the effectiveness of active learning, and the availability of free learning materials online (Coursera, edX, Khan AcademyUdacity, Udemy, open textbooks and other educational resources, online repositories of learning objects, etc). If students can get basic information online, what are faculty doing in the classroom? Here are some examples of what faculty do in flipped classrooms at Duke.

For Laura Lieber‘s first year seminar, “Feasting and Fasting: Food in the Jewish Tradition,” students walked into her class on the first day and were asked to line up according their agreement with the statement, “I’ll try anything once!”  She then directed the students in the line to count off to create teams of students with diverse attitudes towards food.  In her course, which employs a modified team-based learning method to accommodate the open-ended, discussion-oriented nature of pedagogy in the humanities, students are responsible for completing readings and then posting essays in response to writing prompts to the course blog before class. When students come to class, they have already written about their initial reactions to the topic, and they have read the reactions of their team mates.  In class, guided by Professor Lieber, and the course learning objectives, students craft a team statement integrating the student ideas and materials from the reading.  Students also assess each other’s contributions to the team.

Professor Lieber is excited by how the students enter the classroom, ready to discuss the day’s topics, and the energetic, focused quality of the discussion is “addictive.” She credits the work students do on the topic before class as well as the lively team dynamics. Some students even prepare a “minority report” for their team, going well beyond what is required.

Richard Lucic and Robert Duvall are teaching their acclaimed Computer Science course “Apps: From Concept to Client” by giving students experience with the entire program development project cycle. The faculty do not teach by lecture; instead, students are assigned active learning activities (both in class and as homework), readings, and learn to work with real clients on real projects that solve a real-world need. Professors Lucic and Duvall have pulled together expertise from Duke’s campus to help students learn. For example, Duke Improv will run a class aimed at giving students experience working with others. For another class, Duke professionals in web design will meet with students to demonstrate designing for usability. Students also work with local experts for their written reports via the Reader Project , where outside experts read student reports and provide feedback. This course leverages local expertise to “flip the classroom” so that students can be prepared to work with experts when they come to class.

Here are more examples of flipped classrooms that we’ve featured previously:

Steve Craig taught Honors Chemistry in Fall 2011 without lectures or a textbook. He’s teaching a larger course in a similar manner this semester.

Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel has taught Statistics 101 using clickers for Peer Instruction and leverages student interactions for increased student learning.  She is using even more active learning in the current semester.

More and more Duke faculty are turning to team-based learning for flipping the classroom. We’ve described several faculty who have used team-based learning to flip their classes in past years, including Len White, Pelan Volkan, Craig Roberts and Sandra Stinnett. Len White explained why he uses team-based learning in this video. Currently, 18 faculty are  participating in a CIT fellowship to redesign their courses for team based learning, and many of these courses are underway during the Fall 2012 semester. We’ll have more descriptions of these redesigned courses in the coming months.

To learn more about using team-based learning to flip your class, join us for workshops with Larry Michaelsen, inventor of team-based learning on November 6th, 2012.

Andrea Novicki

Andrea helps faculty use technology effectively and efficiently in their teaching. She works primarily with scientists, using her biology background, love of science and teaching experience. Her current enthusiasms include online science education, active learning (especially team-based learning) and assessment.

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One Response to What Is “Flipping the Classroom” and Who Is Doing It?

  1. Jerry Waxman says:

    I teach ESL in a university in Thailand.
    This is the first I’ve heard of “class-flipping.” It seems to be a mechanism to motivate in-class involvement.
    I have used some form of this throughout my course-designing career. I don’t usually assign homework, but always have in-class assignments. They take the form of little projects that the students complete, individually or in groups, during class time.
    Actually I came to this website with an interest in using technology in the classroom. I have mixed feelings. Is there a danger of teachers becoming too dependent on technology?
    Feel free to contact me at my website (Click my name).