Flipping the Classroom

Written by Alexis Alexander
September 18, 2017 • 3 minute read

“Flipping the Classroom” has become something of a buzzword in the last several years, driven in part by high profile publications in The New York Times (Fitzpatrick, 2012) and The Chronicle of Higher Education (Berrett, 2012). In essence, “flipping the classroom” means students gain first exposure to new material outside of class, usually through reading or lecture videos, and then use class time to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge, perhaps through problem-solving, discussion, or debates. 

Diagram of the seven components of Bloom's Taxonomy

In terms of Bloom’s revised taxonomy (2001), this means that students are doing the lower levels of cognitive work (gaining knowledge and comprehension) outside of class, and focusing on the higher forms of cognitive work (application, analysis, synthesis, and/or evaluation) in class, where they have the support of their peers and instructor. This model contrasts from the traditional model in which first exposure occurs via lecture in class, with students assimilating knowledge through homework; thus the term flipped classroom

The flipped classroom provides new opportunities for creative assessment. 

For example, instead of the typical approach where conceptual questions are posed informally and answered by student “volunteers” in the traditional classroom; in the flipped classroom all students must answer the conceptual questions. This may be facilitated with the use of “clickers,” or handheld personal response systems, that allow students to answer anonymously and that allows the instructor to see and display the class data immediately. 

If a large fraction of the class (usually between 30 and 65%) answers incorrectly, teachers can address that immediately. For example, students might reconsider the question in small groups while instructors circulate to promote productive discussions. After discussion, students can attempt to answer the conceptual question again. The instructor provides feedback, explaining the correct answer and following up with related questions if appropriate. 

(Excerpted from Vanderbilt University – Flipping the Classroom)

The following are some essential elements to keep in mind when attempting to “flip” your curriculum: 

  • Provide an opportunity for students to gain first exposure prior to class. 
    The mechanism used for first exposure can vary, from simple textbook readings to lecture videos to podcasts or screen-casts. These videos can be created by the instructor or found online from YouTube, Khan Academy, MIT’s OpenCourseWare, Coursera, or other similar sources.

  • Provide an incentive for students to prepare for class.
    To incentivize students to complete the out of class work, instructors usually prepare some type of online assessment. The assignments can vary, ranging from online quizzes to worksheets to short writing assignments, but in each case the task provides an incentive for students to come to class prepared by speaking the common language of students: points. 

    In many cases, grading for completion rather than effort can be sufficient, particularly if class activities will provide students with the kind of feedback that grading for accuracy usually provides.

  • Provide a mechanism to assess student understanding.
    The pre-class assignments that students complete as evidence of their preparation can also help both the instructor and the student assess understanding. 

    Pre-class online quizzes can allow the instructor to tailor class activities to focus on the elements with which students are struggling. If automatically graded, the quizzes can also help students pinpoint areas where they need help. 

    Pre-class worksheets can also help focus student attention on areas with which they’re struggling, and can be a departure point for class activities, while pre-class writing assignments help students clarify their thinking about a subject, thereby producing richer in-class discussions. Importantly, much of the feedback students need is provided in class. 

  • Provide in-class activities that focus on higher level cognitive activities. 
    If the students gain basic knowledge outside of class, then they spend class time promoting deeper learning. Again, the activity will depend on the learning goals of the class and the culture of discipline. 

    In other contexts, students may spend time in class engaged in debates, data analysis, or synthesis activities. The key is that students are using class time to deepen their understanding and increase their skills at using their new knowledge.

  • Optional: Utilize Clickers in the classroom.
    Some colleges are using tools for instant response in the classroom, these tools are sometimes called clickers, and resembles a TV remote. Clickers are used to poll students about specific questions, for example questions about the lecture, or to gauge understanding of particular topics. 

    Here at USF we offer teachers access to Poll Everywhere, which allows students to use their phones to respond to class polls or questions. 

Exploring the Teaching Toolbox

Dr. Diane Woodbridge, a professor in the School of Management's Master of Data Science program, flipped programming courses for students earning degrees in the intensive one year master's program. For homework, she assigned video lectures – each containing narrated slides and screencasts that walk through operations step-by-step – allowing students to learn at a comfortable pace and review difficult concepts.

Students came to class prepared to work through more complex problem sets, allowing Professor Woodbridge to teach higher level concepts and customizing class time to address gaps or areas of confusion. In her live classes, she uses PowerPoint and Poll Everywhere to conduct polls and assess student learning. Professor Woodbridge also holds virtual student conferences using Zoom, allowing students to share computer screens and work in collaboration.

Case Study: Exploring the Teaching Toolbox in Data Science

Reimagining In-Class Time

Dr. Brandi Lawless, a professor of Communication Studies, used Canvas in her qualitative research methods course to digitize lectures. Students could then prepare materials outside of class and come to class ready to practice methods.


Fully Flipping Nursing Courses

Dr. Greg DeBourgh, professor emeritus in the School of Nursing & Health Professions, shared in a podcast with the Center of Teacher Excellence his rationale for "fully flipping" his nursing courses, drawing from a visual model by Jackie Gerstein.

CTE: Greg DeBourgh on Flipped Classrooms

Are you or someone you know finding success with flipping your courses? If so, we'd love to hear from you! Email instructionaldesign@usfca.edu.

Here are some educational technologies you can incorporate in your flipped classroom:

To learn how to use these technologies effectively in your course, contact Instructional Design to request a consultation.

Contact Instructional Technologies & Training to schedule a training session and access self-guided training materials.



Request Instructional Design Workshops
Our Instructional Designers offer a one-hour workshop (in person or via Zoom) on creating a flipped class. Discover how to shift classroom time for application and learning activities while students prepare themselves by independently viewing lectures.

For more information, email the Instructional Design team.