I’ve been reading a lot about the flipped model of classroom instruction, where students watch instructional videos for homework, and then do the practice and problem solving during class time. Here’s a video of the process being explained by Aaron Sams.


Some of the questions I have are pretty much the same as the ones posted as responses to the YouTube video so I’ll just quote them:

I’m curious as to what you do with kids who don’t have the internet or a computer at home? I see someone else asked this question below, but I don’t see where that was answered. This seems to be just another way to divide classroom success socioeconomically. Rubyfreckles78 

What if you don’t believe in homework? What if you believe a child’s time outside of school should be their own, to explore the other adventures life has to offer outside the formal academic arena?katiramom 

"What to learn, how to learn it, when to learn it and how to prove to me that they learned it". I can see that the times of learning has changed but is it not still teacher-cetred in this respect? Yes, a different modality – online and video (great!) but what underlying structural changes in terms of power and student-centredness? "We’ve changed the place in which content is delivered". In what ways are the pupils negotiating content?audhilly

This is great, Aaron. Unfortunately, some school districts–like that one I work in–do not allow their teachers to access Youtube.l2spanishteacher

It seems to me that there is no good answer to the first question. Students without parents at home, who are homeless, or who do not have access to technology at home to view these videos are out of luck. They’ll have to stay at school to watch the videos in the library.

As for the question about homework, this to me is the biggest question I have about the flipped model. It assumes that the time kids spend outside of the classroom should be taken up watching videos. In essence, the flipped classroom model assumes that the instructional time schools are given is insufficient for kids to learn the material. Perhaps we there is simply too much content for kids to learn effectively?

The third question is mostly about pedagogy. Should kids learn in a teacher-centred way, or a student-centred way? While our curriculum is bloated and filled with content, it seems impossible to switch to a more constructivist model, particularly in the upper grades. Constructivist teaching methods take more time than more traditional methods of teaching (but hopefully lead to deeper understanding). 

The fourth question is similar to the first question as that both of them are about access. Clearly the solution here is for the school to self-host the videos, but if this becomes a common instructional strategy at your school, the costs incurred to host what could be thousands of videos is enormous. Now we have an issue that the schools with the money to afford the hosting (or at least the policies in place to allow YouTube and other video hosting sites) are a further advantage to the poorer schools.

Some more questions I have are:

  • What does this approach look like for someone who is a novice to teaching?

    One of the valuable pieces of feedback a novice teacher gets about their instruction is the questions students ask during class. Students will often share misconceptions they have about whatever is being taught, which helps improve the teacher’s delivery for the next time. While I think an emphasis on lecture based instruction is not the best possible pedagogy, it certainly is an easy place for novice teachers to start during their career. Flipping the classroom could reduce the feedback the teachers get on their instruction, but see my next question.

  • How do students ask questions?

    Students need feedback during learning as well. One of the points of practice problems, and of problem based instruction, is to maximize the number of opportunities for feedback during learning for students. Lecture based instruction typically fails in this regard, and so many instructors have switched over to discussion based instruction. The flipped classroom model, without a way for students to actively ask questions, moves instruction back to a purely lecture based format. One way to counteract this a bit would be to provide space for students to ask (& answer) questions underneath the video lecture as comments, but then the job of the teacher will be to moderate and join into these discussions. While students can obviously record the questions they have (which is a useful learning strategy), this requires organizational skills and self-management skills not every student possesses.

  • How much time does it take for teachers to make these instructional resources?

    Preparing for classes and assessing students are the two tasks, other than administrative paperwork, that take the most time for teachers during the course of their day. Preparing high quality instructional videos has certainly become much easier for teachers to do, but it is also time-consuming. Sal Khan might be able to create 8 videos a day, but teachers do not have their entire day available to devote to making videos, and would like to produce videos which include images and animations to clarify some concepts. We could rely on the videos from sources like the Khan Academy rather than making our own videos, but we’d need to search for and preview all of the resources we use, which in itself is time-consuming. There is also the additional time spent during our evenings responding to questions students might have about the videos.

  • Will class time be used more productively?

    Aaron’s video above shows some great examples of what I think should be happening in more science classes. The students look like they are getting more chances to experiment, and more chances to interact with and actually do science. Is this what happens in every flipped classroom? If students really understand the concepts being taught by the end of a unit, how can we tell if it was the instructional video, or the time spent actively experimenting that made the biggest impact on their learning? One comment I had from a student was that although his teacher assigned videos for homework, he rarely watched them, but made sure to actively participate and learn during class time. He loved the flipped model because "it meant [he] had less homework."

Although I have these questions, there are some things which I really like about the flipped model of instruction.

  • It forces teachers to really think about their instructional strategies and the potential questions students might have.

    You can’t create these videos without putting some serious thought about what you will be teaching for that lesson. This particular type of teaching is much more difficult than turning to page 27 in the textbook and selecting some questions for students to do.

  • Students can potentially access a variety of different explanations for different concepts from teachers all over the world.

    Not every student has access to a specialist in their subject area. In British Columbia, for example, there are many teachers teaching math outside of their specialty. I can remember tutoring math when I was in grade 11 in the PE teacher’s classroom (who was not a math specialist, or trained to teach math) and frequently helping the teacher understand the math he was "teaching".

  • It provides more class time for more student centred instructional strategies.

    This is the best reason to implement the flipped classroom model since many teachers aren’t ready to give up on teacher led instruction. Students need more time processing the concepts to which they are being exposed. If they do this at home, as is unfortunately too typical in many classrooms, they struggle. In the flipped classroom model, that struggle can happen with their peers and an expert facilitator.
  • Students can now more easily opt out of rote memorization.

    Richard Feynmann, one of the best physics lecturers of all time, investigated Brazilian science education, which was heavily dominated by memorization, and discovered that almost no one from this system actually understood science. Since students do not learn well from memorizing information, one can conclude that lecturing is not sufficient to produce students who understand concepts at a deep level.

Does anyone have any answers to these questions?