Skip to main content

The Flipped Classroom for Improved Learning: Pros and Cons

Linda Crampton has an honors degree in biology. She has taught high school biology, chemistry, and physics as well as middle school science.

Videos are an essential component of flip teaching, no matter what type of device is used to view them.

Videos are an essential component of flip teaching, no matter what type of device is used to view them.

What Is a Flipped Classroom?

An educational model called flip teaching, flip learning, or the flipped classroom is growing in popularity. In the traditional model of education, the teacher stands in front of a class and gives a lecture to transmit information. The students then do homework to reinforce what they learned in class. In the flipped classroom, the process is reversed. Students obtain information from an instructional video at night. They spend their day doing reinforcement work inside (or outside) the classroom with the teacher's help.

In the best flipped classrooms, "flipping" assignments is not simply a matter of switching traditional class work and homework. The videos that are watched at home are interesting and enjoyable. The class activities or field trips not only reinforce ideas but also provide enrichment and teach valuable skills. Proponents of the system say that flipped teaching helps their students learn. The system is used to teach various age levels, but this article applies specifically to the education of high school or secondary school students.

In a flipped classroom students often do hands-on activities, such as art projects, in class.

In a flipped classroom students often do hands-on activities, such as art projects, in class.

J. Wesley Baker created two phrases that are often used to describe flip teaching: the teacher becomes the "guide on the side" instead of the "sage on the stage".

Role of the Teacher in a Flipped Classroom

In flip teaching, the classroom teacher serves two functions.

  • He or she guides students in hands-on, enrichment, and reinforcement activities. Examples of these activities include performing lab experiments, completing creative projects or challenges, working in groups, solving practice problems, and answering practice questions.
  • The teacher performs the role of a tutor by helping students when they have problems and giving them individualized attention.

One thing that the teacher doesn't do in a flipped classroom is give a lecture to the whole class, apart from describing procedures for an experiment or introducing a project.

Learning how to play an instrument of some type is a valuable and often enjoyable skill.

Learning how to play an instrument of some type is a valuable and often enjoyable skill.

Students need to play an instrument when they are learning about music. This type of hands-on activity would often be performed in class when flipped learning is employed.

Potential Benefits of Flip Teaching

Videos Can Be Paused and Replayed

One advantage of flipped classrooms is that when students are obtaining information by watching a video, they can pause or restart the video as often as they want in order to understand it. This isn't possible during a teacher's lecture. Some teachers ask their students to make notes based on a video, just as they would do if they were listening to a lecture in class. This is not only helpful for the students but also enables the teacher to decide whether the students actually watched the video.

Class Activities Can Provide Enrichment

Ideally, the class activities performed in a flipped classroom give students an interesting, clearer, and richer understanding of a topic. If they have already covered the basic facts about a topic at night, the activities during the day can be more challenging. Problem solving, analysis, and application, and creative, practical, and field work are all valuable activities for a flipped classroom.

Teachers will need to choose class assignments carefully in order to promote enrichment for all students. In addition, the assignments must be interesting as well as useful. It would be a shame if the students are willing to do homework but dislike what is done in class. Creating or choosing suitable assignments may be time-consuming when a flipped classroom is first created.

The mere imparting of information is not education.

— Carter G. Woodson

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Owlcation

Additional Benefits

Students Can Work at Their Own Pace

Proponents of flipped classrooms say that they allow students to work at their own pace. If the students are studying a topic that is easy for them they can move ahead rapidly or be challenged by harder or enrichment assignments. When they reach a difficult section they can slow down and get extra help. Some students may need deadlines for assignments in order to complete them within a reasonable time span, however.

There may have to be exceptions to the "work at your own" pace plan if it's used. For example, in some lab experiments safety is very important. All members of the class may need to perform the experiment at the same time so that the teacher can direct and monitor the students' activity and point out potential problems to everyone at once. In addition, it’s important that the teacher isn’t distracted by students performing other tasks in the room during an experiment.

Different Learning Styles Can Be Accommodated

In flip teaching, teachers spend a lot of time interacting with their students and giving feedback. A teacher and student may develop a better relationship because of this interaction. Teachers also have more opportunity to accommodate the different learning styles of their students in a flipped classroom. Students can be given individualized assignments.

I am not a teacher, but an awakener.

— Robert Frost

Watching lab experiments on the Internet is fun and educational, but students need to do their own experiments, too.

Watching lab experiments on the Internet is fun and educational, but students need to do their own experiments, too.

Possible Drawbacks to Flip Teaching

No Teacher Is Available During the Video Presentation

One disadvantage of obtaining information from a video with no teacher available is that the student can't ask a question to clarify any information that they don't understand. Teachers in flipped classrooms often encourage their students to write down any questions that they have about the information presented in a video so that they can discuss the problems in the next class.

Students could also check on the Internet or in their textbook for answers to their questions. It might be a good idea for teachers to give students a list of suitable websites related to the topic being studied or a list of relevant pages in a textbook. This will help the students to find reliable information quickly if they need to do so.

Lack of Student Compliance

Another problem may be student compliance. In a flipped classroom, the students need to view the educational videos at night in order to participate in class activities during the day. There is probably a higher commitment to viewing videos at home than to completing conventional homework. Some students may ignore the videos, however, especially if there is no check up done in class to assess whether they watched them. They could watch a missed video at school during class time, but this will slow their progress in a course. The teacher in the video below discusses this problem.

More Potential Drawbacks

No Student Internet Access

Another problem is that some students may not have a computer or Internet access at home. In this case, flip teaching may not work. Some teachers solve the problem by giving students without a computer a handout that covers the material in the video and suggesting that students watch the video on a school computer before or after school. However, this may alienate the students who don't have computers or electronic devices because they are being treated differently from their peers. Using a public library computer could help, but this would require a student to repeatedly go to the library after school hours. Students with a computer at home and no Internet access or with a video player but no computer could be given flash drives or DVDs containing the videos.

Students May Be at Different Places in a Course

If the students in a flipped classroom have to master topics in a specific sequence, they may end up working at different rates. It's important that there is no stigma attached to students working on a topic that others have completed. Teachers need to stress that all students can finish the course requirements and that it's fine if some students need to get more practice in a certain topic before they move on. The best flipped classrooms have a collaborative and supportive atmosphere that is created by both the teacher and the students.

Students who have completed and understood a section of a course can be great helpers for those who are struggling. In addition, the act of explaining a topic to someone else reinforces and clarifies the information in the helper's mind.

Educational Videos on the Internet

Even without having a flipped classroom, teachers can still make use of Internet videos by incorporating time on the school's computers into their classes. The number of free educational videos on the Internet is huge and is growing rapidly. It's important for teachers to choose videos that are both interesting and educational and that cover the curriculum properly. The length of the videos and the dates when they must be viewed is an important consideration in flipped courses, especially when more than one of a student’s courses are flipped. Teachers in a school should coordinate the timing of at-home assignments so that a student is not overwhelmed with homework.

Some teachers create their own videos, but at least in the topic that I teach—science—there are many suitable videos on the Internet that would be time-consuming or impossible for me to create myself. For example, the videos may show blood flow through blood vessels, the behavior of microscopic creatures in a greatly magnified view, animals that students may never see in real life, chemistry experiments that involve expensive equipment that the school can't afford or that are too dangerous to perform in a school lab, and animations illustrating complex processes in the human body. Other videos may be more like lectures, but these may be useful too.

Some people have argued that watching a video in which a person lectures and draws on a board is no different from listening to a teacher lecturing in front of a class. The fact that students can replay a section of a video is an advantage, though. In addition, by looking at videos that present factual information in the evening, students are free to do practical, analytical, and interactive work during class time. It's a better learning experience for students if the videos are as interesting as possible, however. Enjoyable videos may promote compliance with the flipped classroom concept.

The choice of videos is important in a flipped course. Some excellent ones are available in some subjects. For biology (my main subject), videos such as the ones below may be useful. Each is part of a series.

The Khan Academy

Salman Khan is the creator of a large, popular, and free collection of educational videos that he has placed on his Khan Academy website and on his YouTube channel. The videos show Khan (or other people) writing and drawing on a black background. He or a colleague narrate the videos, but the narrator's face is never visible.

Khan's videos are relatively low-tech, the drawings are simple (but in my experience, accurate), and the videos aren't very colourful. These features might be considered a drawback. The explanations and presentation have captured people's interest, however, and are being used as homework in flipped courses. The videos cover a wide range of subjects. Suitable versions are available for elementary, high school, and college students. They provide a wonderful opportunity for the general public to learn new things as well. Thousands of videos are available on the website.

A large number of content specialists are part of the Khan Academy and present some of the videos. The academy also presents specialized content from organizations such as NASA and MIT. Khan's goal is to establish a free virtual school in which "anyone can learn anything". I enjoy watching the academy's videos. There are other good science videos on YouTube, though.

One popular series known as "Crash Course" is available at the Khan Academy and on its own on YouTube. The videos in the series are informative and the presenters give a lively presentation that probably appeals to many viewers. The videos include narration and illustrations. They are mostly about science, but the series includes videos that cover other topics.

We can all become better learners. We just need to build our brains in the right way.

— Khan Academy

The Future for Flipped Classrooms

Some educators are very excited about flipped classrooms and say that they have greatly helped their students. Others are more cautious and want to see data showing that flipped classrooms actually work. Some people have criticisms of the system and don't like it. The interest in flipped learning is growing, however. The model is being incorporated into university and college causes as well as high school ones.

When an investigator is reading about the apparent success of the model in a particular course, he or she should examine all of the details related to how the course was run. Different teachers have different ideas about how best to flip a course and about what procedures to follow for their class. This could affect learning outcomes. Someone who is thinking about teaching a flipped course could flip just one section at first to see how it goes.

The flipped classroom is an educational model that involves a change for both students and teachers but could offer important benefits. I suspect that we'll be hearing a lot more about the topic in the near future.

References and Resources

  • Information about the flipped classroom from the University of Texas
  • Flipping the classroom facts from the University of Washington
  • Flip teaching information from Western Washington University

Questions & Answers

Question: What is the basic framework for a flipped classroom?

Answer: In a flipped classroom, activities that convey new information and are traditionally performed in class while students are passive (such as listening to lectures and watching videos) are done at home. Tasks traditionally performed for homework, such as answering written questions, are done in class.

Other than the definition given above, there are no rules in order for a course to be considered “flipped”. The teacher can use their creativity to design the course as they wish and as seems most helpful for their students. The teacher needs to consider whether their students have the required equipment for activities performed at home, however. For example, if students have to listen to lectures at home, they need the correct device for doing this.

© 2013 Linda Crampton


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on May 15, 2016:

Thank you for the interesting comment, LouiseTeach. You've raised some good points.

LouiseTeach on May 15, 2016:

The success of flipped classrooms purely relies on the self-motivation of the students. If this is implemented when no students have been prepared, or told, about the expectations ahead of time, the school is holding an unfair expectation on them. If the school has educated every student, and parent, on this before the first day of school, then each student has chosen that type of education. I agree with one of the above comments that this model is not for everyone. This model would never work in a school that already has a significant amount of incomplete homework assignments, however, if implemented correctly, it could be quite successful in a setting such as a college preparatory school.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 06, 2013:

Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment, DDE .

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on November 06, 2013:

Educational Technology and The Flipped Classroom useful and sounds a great idea

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 04, 2013:

Thanks for the visit and the comment, StellaSee. Yes, there are both good and bad points about flipped teaching. The soap bubbles experiment was interesting!

StellaSee from California on February 04, 2013:

This is a neat idea but I think I'd still prefer the more traditional way of teaching. I like watching my enthusiastic teachers. But everybody learns differently, and maybe this is a good way to prepare students for independent learning that's going to come up in college. Nice topic, Alicia.

On a random note, I didn't know you could set fire to soap bubbles that was cool!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on January 20, 2013:

Hi, b. Malin. Yes, there are potential problems as well as benefits to this system of education. Time will certainly tell! Thank you very much for the comment.

b. Malin on January 20, 2013:

How different and Challenging and New...I see the Good, in this type of leaning for both Teacher and Students and the many possibilities... Some children will excel, but it's not for all Students. Time will tell. Some kids will goof off and be left behind. Discipline will be the secret to its success.

Thanks once again Alicia for a most informative Hub.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on January 20, 2013:

Hi, Deb. Thanks for the visit. Yes, the educational videos that are available online are great for home schooling! One of the advantages of flip learning is said to be the ability to accommodate the different learning styles of different students, because the students are being helped individually and don't have to work on the same assignment. The system certainly has potential advantages if it's managed properly. It would take commitment from both the teacher and the students, however, as Dianna says.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on January 20, 2013:

I love this. This is especially helpful for students that cannot go to school for whatever reason, or even fore home schooling. Everyone learns differently, so this could be more successful in teaching methods for some students.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on January 20, 2013:

Hi, Dianna. Yes, commitment is certainly important in a flipped classroom. Good luck with your online teaching - it should be interesting!

Dianna Mendez on January 19, 2013:

I can see how convenient this would be for teacher and student, getting the commitment from both is another story. As I transition to online teaching this year, this hub will help me to understand the pros and cons and how to navigate a little better through the waters. Thanks for bringing this topic to light.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on January 19, 2013:

Thanks for the visit and the comment, Eddy.

Eiddwen from Wales on January 19, 2013:

Interesting and so useful.

Thanks for sharing.


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on January 18, 2013:

I agree, drbj. The idea does have merit, but we do need to see more evidence of its effectiveness. Thanks for the comment!

drbj and sherry from south Florida on January 18, 2013:

Hi, Alicia - the idea of a flipped classroom has merit but the jury is still out on its efficacy. Time will tell. Thanks for this heads up - verrrry interrresting!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on January 18, 2013:

Hi, Kathi. Flip teaching is an interesting concept. The idea is that the part of the course where students often need the most help - the questions and problems section - is done at school where the teacher can help them. It will be interesting to see how popular this system becomes. Thanks for the visit!

Kathi Mirto from Fennville on January 18, 2013:

Wow . . . I hadn't heard of this, but i think it's a good idea because students can work in the solitude of their own home, or bedroom, etc. and replay parts they don't understand. In the end, it works the same way as when the teacher introduces the material and then its applied. Only they are doing the first part at home. Very interesting!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on January 18, 2013:

Hi, Bill. I've investigated this idea in theory but haven't tried it in practice. I think it sounds like a good idea, but like you I have a few reservations. I'll be following the news about this topic with great interest, especially if statistical data is available. What worries me most of all is the fact that not all students have computers and Internet access at home - and in some areas hardly any do. This teaching method would put those students at a disadvantage. Thanks for the comment.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 18, 2013:

Honestly I don't know how I feel about it. As a former teacher I tend to hesitation in making judgments about new technology and methods. If you had seen as many methods fail as I have over the years you would understand why I am reserving judgment on this. Good information my friend.

Related Articles