3 Myths of Flipped Learning

Catherine is Director of Learning Technologies at an Independent School in Melbourne. She manages and directs the integration of EdTech, Digital Citizenship initiatives, and a Learning Technology Peer Coaching program, across K-12. Catherine is a Science Teacher who believes in the importance of empowering Educators to be progressive in the 21st Century.

We live in the 21st Century. We have students learning subjects through online lessons, quite frankly, all the time. We live in a society that boasts pervasive mobile technology and low cost, user friendly Web Tools. We have access to credible and compelling educational research data describing the significant impact that Flipped-Learning has on student achievement.

Despite all of the above, the term Flipped-Learning seems to ignite fiery debate, sometimes it’s even strongly opposed. When analysing the opposition to Flipped-Learning, we find there are three dominant misconceptions. Consequently, these myths result in a habitual debate about whether Flipped-Learning works, when this is no longer a question we need to be asking.

It’s important that we understand the reasons why these myths are incorrect. This may help to progress innovative, transformational Flipped-Classroom approaches, by curbing unnecessary dispute into whether or not direct instruction in an individual learning space is a good thing for students.

 

Myth 1: Flipped Learning Is A Specific Teaching Method.

The phrases Flipped-Learning, Flipped-Classroom, Inverted-Classroom, Hybrid-Learning, Blended-Learning, and Blended-Instruction (just to name a few) are sometimes seen as representing a specific method of teaching. They are often thought of as a method that involves video or audio recorded lessons being studied at home, and traditional homework being given in class.

Flipped-Learning doesn’t represent a particular methodology. It’s not a description of an instructional method, such as lecturing your subject content in a video and working through application problems during classes. In fact, it’s not a term that describes what you should do in your lessons at all! This is by far the biggest misconception about Flipped-Classrooms.

It’s a broad pedagogical approach, to the point where it’s more of an approach to your thinking about Education. It’s an approach that says “students can learn information in a time and place that doesn’t require the physical presence of a teacher”. Flipped-Learning is a 21st Century mindset, which provides the skeleton for a teacher to hang their own instructional practices on. It describes an ideological framework from which an Educator can build their own processes, techniques and methodologies, specific to their unique contexts.

Flipped-Learning is a philosophy, not a method of teaching. It simply provides an approach to the reality that “students can learn information in a time and place that doesn’t require the physical presence of a teacher”.

What is the main experience you have had with using a Flipped-Learning mindset? Do you meet resistance from your students or colleagues? Please contribute your experiences in the comments section below!

Flipped Learning Approach - Catherine Newton 2014

 

Myth 2: Flipped Learning Is All About Video Lessons.

Along with being seen as a teaching method, Flipped-Learning is often mistakenly thought of as being predominantly about video lessons; how to make them, what tools to use, how they should be structured, where they should be published, and so on. This most likely stems from the misconception that Flipped-Learning is just the giving of video or podcast lessons at home, and the giving of homework-style tasks in classes.

Flipped-Learning could have nothing to do with videos, if that is what suits a particular context. A teacher who plans and undertakes a Blended-Learning approach to their teaching may never touch, use, create or publish a video in their lifetime. Indeed, they may never touch, use, create or publish a podcast either. Videos are not the important part of the Flipped-Learning story.

The methods developed and employed for the creation of online lessons are important (of even more importance are the approaches used for the face-to-face classes). However, there’s really an unlimited number of ways to create online lessons. The programs, Web Tools, devices, Apps and software chosen for the making of an online lesson depend on your students, year level, subject, school, sector, country, age, culture, and so on. Video creation is not the only part, let alone the most important, of the Flipped-Classroom ideology.

Do you have a predominant method of online instruction? Please tell us your experiences and methods in the comments!

Videos are not the important part of the Flipped-Learning story.


 

Myth 3: It’s One Approach That Won’t Work For Everyone.

The misconception here is that Flipped-Learning is describing an approach to teaching, when in reality it’s a thinking framework from which a teacher can build their own instructional approaches. Flipped-Learning doesn’t claim to be any particular practice or method. It is the belief that “students can learn information in a time and place that doesn’t require the physical presence of a teacher”.

It is the specific way in which an Educator goes about providing online instruction, along with their face-to-face teaching practice, that will be judged for its success, not the fact that online instruction was provided in the first place.

Will non-face-to-face instruction blended with face-to-face classes be optimal for all students, at all times, in all areas of Education? In some extreme cases the answer will be no. However, in the vast majority of contexts, there is no question that learning information in a non-face-to-face space will be possible and significantly beneficial.

Do you have a situation, or know of a situation, where Blended Instruction is undesirable? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Final Comments…

Flipped-Learning is not replacing a lecture with a lecture; it’s getting rid of the lecture. It’s not about the videos or the podcasts; the most important part of Flipped-Learning is what happens in the classroom. It’s not always simple; it can be a process of difficult trial and error at times. It’s not a method that will either work or not work; it’s a philosophy of teaching that will inform the way a teacher develops their own methods, according to their own context. It’s not the answer to all of the problems that arise in teaching; it’s a relevant and important mindset you can take on to reach those answers. It’s not implementing technology for the sake of it; it’s designing pedagogy that is generationally meaningful and has transformational impacts on student learning outcomes. It’s not a debate anymore; this is the 21st Century and this is happening now, for the good of our students.

On a final note, I refer you to the Flipped Learning Network (FLN) for their widely accepted definition of Flipped-Learning. They aim to defuse the misconceptions of Flipped-Learning through the distribution of their specific definition. The FLN also actively distinguish between Flipped-Learning and Flipped-Classroom. Their resources are highly recommended and I encourage you to see their Research Releases.

What do you think? What are your thoughts on the FLN definition of Flipped-Learning?

  • Niels Jakob Pasgaard

    Thanks for clearing things up. After reading your post, I understand that flipped learning is what Dewey did and what most teachers already do. Let’s stop using the words Flipped Learning, and just call it teaching again… :-)

    • Catherine Newton

      Thanks for the comment Niels! I guess in my mind, it’s the new technology we have available these days that allows us to really take advantage of the web in order to get Flipped Learning happening with ease in our schools. -Catherine

  • Mark

    I don’t agree that it is what we call teaching. Sorry, Niels. There is too much out there that passes for teaching in the name of efficiency. Too many lectures, too many lamo PowerPoints, too many multiple-choice quizzes and too many standardized tests. There are too few chances for students to engage with and discuss what they are learning. Teachers are still at the front of too many classrooms.

    • Catherine Newton

      I agree with you Mark – I feel that this is a good summary of the point I’m attempting to make about why we need direct instruction in the individual space. -Catherine