flipped classroom

3 ways the flipped classroom leads to better subject mastery

Flipping is more than a buzzword. It helps teachers personalize lessons, assessments, and reporting

Now that the buzz about flipped learning is calming and the novelty is wearing off, the time has come to dig a little deeper into the natural outcomes of flipping. Specifically, flipping can change the type of work students complete and the way in which class time will be used; it can modify the nature of assessment, and it can alter the way in which teachers will report student work.

First and foremost, we should define some terms. On the most basic level, flipped learning occurs when instructors make use of video lectures outside the class in order to bring what was being done in the homework space back into the classroom. In short: lecture at home, homework in class.

Much of the conversation about flipping has focused on using teacher-created video as an instructional tool, but the real benefit of flipping the classroom does not come from video. The true benefit comes from using videos as a teaching tool to deliver direct instruction at home so teachers are free to reinvent classroom time.

Truly personalized learning

Inevitably, a teacher who is new to flipping will use materials from previous years. In fact, beginning flippers often change only the time and space in which content is delivered and practice is completed. One main benefit of this basic form of a flipped classroom is that, instead of students completing homework assignments outside the observation of the teacher, they now complete all work under the direct supervision of the classroom teacher. Thus, in a flipped class, the time that a teacher once spent delivering new content can be used catching and correcting each student’s misconceptions.

One way to foster student engagement and to facilitate active learning is to give students the opportunity to choose what they will do to learn and practice. But teachers should also use professional judgement in the extent to which they offer choice. Limited choices are more appropriate for most learners than absolute autonomy. One practical way to facilitate limited choice is through choice boards or selecting from a list.

Flipped classrooms give students the time to explore what they need to learn, and new ed tech programs are helping teachers give students choices both in and out of the classroom. For example, software like ClassFlow allows educators to create and deliver lessons, assignments, and assessments. When students have anytime, anywhere access to content, learning can take place beyond the classroom and become truly personalized.

Next page: Bringing student choice to assessment


Following a reevaluation of what students are working on, flipped class teachers are also reconsidering how to evaluate students. Does every student need to take the same test or performance evaluation for the instructor to assess them fairly and accurately? Or can each student participate in the process of deciding how they will be assessed?

Some students who do not know anything outside this paradigm may choose to take a traditional exam, but others (especially students who may not typically express their comprehension well through a tightly constructed exam) may elect to demonstrate their content knowledge or skill competence through some other project or product.

Teachers concerned with fairly assessing a traditional exam versus a project could use the same evaluation rubric to assess both the exam and the project. By abandoning the [POINTS SCORED]/[POINTS POSSIBLE] approach to grading a test and instead looking at each answered question as evidence of mastery of a particular objective, teachers can evaluate any form of assessment fairly and with confidence that the reported score is reflective of the student’s understanding of the material.

Reporting mastery instead of points

When learning, rather than point acquisition, becomes the goal, teachers face a difficult reality. To put it bluntly, compliance does not equal learning; point acquisition does not equal learning; busyness does not equal learning. To report these things as if they do reflect learning is unfair and inaccurate. The natural consequence of this reality is a move toward a standards-based grading system. When the grading system’s focus shifts to students’ mastery of objectives—rather than compliance with arbitrary scoring systems—the classroom focus shifts toward learning.

Transitioning away from a compliance-based and points-driven learning culture is not a necessary consequence of flipping, but it is a natural consequence. This transition in assessment practice causes both teachers and students to reevaluate the motivating factors behind school, making learning, rather than scoring, the focus.

A reader may note, at this point, that this article has been less about a flipped classroom than it is about rethinking student work and its assessment. So, why bring up flipped learning at all? Is flipping a necessary step to implementing active learning, objective-based planning, or standards based-grading? Or are these outcomes simply logical results of flipping a class?

The latter is the obvious choice. Many schools successfully use standards-based grading without flipping. Many classrooms are active and engaged without being flipped. Many teachers plan using objectives and would never consider flipping their class. However, if any school leadership is facing resistance to any of these classroom approaches, they should consider the flipped approach as a first step to facilitating the transition.

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