Defining flipped learning

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An important first step for flipping a learning environment is to define what flipped learning is in the given context. How flipped learning was defined among the many instructors that were involved in the FLiP project varied significantly between countries and schools. When asked about how they understood the concept of flipped learning, the most common responses were:

  • Recording lectures to video and making available online.
  • Instructors use one or many technologies to facilitate instruction.
  • Creating opportunities for collaborative learning in the classroom.

Although there are certainly connection between the three views, in terms of where the emphasis is placed, they differ considerably. Despite the differences in instructors’ understandings of the concept of flipped learning, what proved most important for successful implementation was that instructors working together had a shared understanding of what the concept means to them. This was an important factor in their being able to work together and support each other as they flipped their learning environments.

Some of the factors that need to be considered when defining flipped learning include:

  • Learners’ access to technology (in their group and individual spaces)
  • Instructors’ access to technology
  • The subjects to be flipped
  • The expected learning outcomes
  • The target age group

Included in learners’ and instructors’ access to technology is their capacity to use the necessary technology.

Flipped learning is most commonly associated with recording direct instruction to video for learners’ to watch on their own time and in their individual spaces. But, this is by no means a requirement. Other forms of delivery of direct instruction may even be more suitable, depending on the circumstances.

For example, a group of instructors in Italy, who taught very young learners, flipped their learning by using engaging digital resources with groups of learners in the classroom. This way, they were able to ensure that all learners had equal access to the necessary direct instruction and could focus on more individualised learning activities afterward. Although this type of activity is likely not compatible with common definitions of flipped learning, since it all occurred in the group space, this group of instructors had defined flipped learning in a way that was wholly appropriate for their context. Thus, they were able to work as a supportive team to develop an innovative instructional approach that was consistent with their goals and their learners’ needs.

Flipped learning is a flexible approach to education that is intended to create opportunities to do things differently. As such, the concept accommodates a range of definitions depending on the context in which it is implemented and the desired outcomes. Therefore, a critical starting point for any implementation of flipped learning is for all involved to be clear about what flipping means to them and why they want to flip. There are a lot of websites that describe how others have defined flipped learning for themselves that can serve as a useful starting point. See in particular the Flipped Learning Network.