The flipped classroom has become an exciting new method of delivering educational content, but is it simply the same experience shown from a different angle? A sheep in wolves clothing? Does the theory even hold up as well as those who idolise its uniqueness believe it does?


Traditional vs flipped


To understand the flipped classroom, we must first clarify what the inverse of it is, the “traditional” classroom. In a traditional classroom, the teacher represents a figurehead at the front of the class, delivering the information the classroom needs to learn for that day, and at the end of it all, the pupils will go home and complete their homework. There are two primary changes in the flipped classroom:


  • The teacher becomes more interactive, acting as an instructor, not a director.
  • What once was taught in the actual class becomes the content of the students’ homework, usually through online video lectures.


What once started as an aid for children who were too sick to make it into class has now become a practical classroom method, being used by a number of schools in a variety of different locations. Lectures would be posted online, and it would be the student’s imperative to watch the lectures and discuss topics at home through discussion forums, as they would do with their teacher if they were present in front of them. Classroom time is replaced with more discussion and project-based learning, making the whole process a lot more interactive.


The risk of complacency


Cynics would simply say that although homework and classwork seem to have switched places, eventually homework will simply become watching the video lectures, and classwork will just become whatever is done in class. It seems an odd concept to have such a dramatic effect on the education industry, but it certainly seems to have captured the hearts and minds of a lot of teachers and students alike.


Of course, what we may be seeing with the improved results straight away is just that people are reacting positively to something which presents itself as an alternative to the status-quo, and students are just glad to have something different at the moment. Ultimately, school systems that force one particular style of learning are always going to struggle to cover every base a child requires, as the ‘one shoe fits all’ system can have its own risks. However, one clear benefit that comes from the flipped classroom method is that you are able to better monitor how a child is doing with the tasks they are set. Whereas before you had no idea how stressful they found the actual content of the work, or how much time and effort they would have to put into it, in the classroom there is nowhere to hide, and you can identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses a lot better.


Whilst a program that caters to every child’s specific learning needs is going to be the dream scenario, until a system that offers that can become financially viable, the flipped classrooms seeks to fix certain issues the traditional method causes, but also raise some concerns of its own.