By: Emily Hudson

As yet another school year has closed, there seems to be a reverberating sense that age-old teaching strategies aren’t engaging kids quite like they used to. Many Gen Z and Gen Alpha students are checked out of the classroom long before summer break. It comes as no surprise; they’ve faced a storm of challenges that have forever altered their learning styles, social norms, and perceptions around school. For that matter, so have educators.

“Teachers are asking, ‘What can I do differently to get my students checked in instead of checked out?’”

Looking ahead to fall, many teachers are contemplating, ‘What can I do differently to get my students checked in instead of checked out?’ Maybe it’s time to FLIP your classroom.

Some educators might say the “flipped teaching model” is old news, but sometimes the past is our best teacher! Amidst the changing tides of education, the fresh start of fall could be a perfect opportunity to FLIP your classroom. Students are already used to utilizing technology for learning. Why not use that to your advantage?

If you Google “flipped classroom,” you’ll probably feel seasick in an ocean of terms like “pedagogical approach” and “procedural fluency” that make you want to disembark—fast. Contrary to how the vast expanse of teaching terminology makes it sound (ahem, dull), the flipped model is all about increasing classroom engagement.

“The flipped model is all about increasing classroom engagement.”

At its core, flipping your classroom means reversing the order of lectures and homework. In the traditional education model, students attend school, where content is delivered by teachers, and go home to work on problems. The flipped classroom says, “Turn Bloom’s Taxonomy upside down!” Using this strategy, students engage with pre-planned digitized content and online lectures at home, then work on problems in the classroom.

The concept was originally brought to life in 2012 by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, two former high school chemistry teachers, in Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day. In their approach, the teacher makes a range of content available to students to dive into prior to class. They can stop, pause, play, write down questions—essentially, they can engage with the content and learn at their own pace. When they enter the classroom, they’re already primed to ask questions, engage in conversations with each other and the teacher, apply concepts, and take individual- or group-work time to dive deeper.

The four pillars of the flip model require the teacher to lay the foundation…and stick to it:

  • Flexible Environment
  • Learning Culture
  • Intentional Content
  • Professional Educator

For some teachers, flipping makes the classroom come alive with conversation, concept application, and even the sunken treasure of education: student-led discussions. When it works, it works—and teachers who have successfully implemented the flipped model shout its benefits from the rooftops:

  • Flipped teaching puts students in the driver's seat of their own learning.
  • It increases student-student and student-teacher engagement.
  • Perhaps most notably, flipping falls outside the traditional methods. If you feel like traditional methods aren’t working, it may be just the ticket.

On the flip side of the coin (pun intended), less engaged students may fade further into the background, and it may not be realistic to implement for teachers with bigger classes. John Fodge, M.Ed., is a social studies teacher with an average class size of 30 students. He found that “the flipped classroom model is excellent in theory, but it’s critical to have a small enough class size to be able to implement it, track student engagement, and measure results. If there are kids in my class who are already less engaged, it’s not likely they’ll hold themselves even more accountable for work outside of the classroom. The flipped model is student-centered, so it truly relies on each student being responsible enough to learn on their own and come to class prepared.”

“Flipping does involve curating online content.”

Another reason flipped learning may not work for every educator is the Digital Divide. Fodge added, “Although flipped learning is not entirely “virtual learning,” it does involve curating online content. For it to work well, all students would need to have equal access to any devices required to engage with your content at home. In some districts, like the rural area I teach in, that may not be possible or realistic.”

Whether you’re intrigued or skeptical, you may be wondering, how do you actually FLIP your classroom when you’re used to traditional teaching methods? It all starts with buy-in. Flipping has a higher chance of success if the model is adopted systemically in your district. When students are trained in this learning style from an early age, flipping will be far more effective.

If you read that and thought, “That all sounds like a heavy lift,” you’re right! But could the reward be worth the effort? The best way to find out what works for you is to give it a trial run. Truth be told, it's not every teacher’s favorite framework…but it might become yours!