The flipped classroom is a growing movement in both K-12 and higher education that forces educators to rethink the learning environment and how best to use precious class time with learners. The term “flipped classroom” was coined by two high school chemistry teachers from Colorado, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams (2012), who began flipping courses in 2007. The flipped classroom model has since spread to many other teachers, professors, and professional development educators nationwide. Bergmann and Sams (2012) defined the flipped classroom as “that which is traditionally done in class is now done at home, and that which is traditionally done as homework is now completed in class” (p. 13). They further described the flipped classroom as offering students a personalized, individualized education. This is done by providing learning resources to address the varied learning needs of students and transitioning classroom time to engage students in the application of content, formatively assess student progress, and work individually or with groups of students as needed. The fundamental principles of the model are not complicated, but the opportunities created by the small adjustments around when certain instructional activities occur significantly alter the type of learning that is possible.
Although the term may be relatively new, many of the underlying principles and techniques often used in a flipped class, including active learning, self-directed inquiry, student-centered instruction, and constructivist learning theory, have been thoroughly researched and used successfully in a variety of educational formats for years (Bergmann & Sams, 2012). The flipped classroom has a unique approach, combining these same learning strategies with increasingly available technologies used to create short video lectures (e.g., podcasts or vodcasts). Hence, more time is allowed in the face-to-face classroom setting for application-level teaching strategies, engaging collaborative activities, and group discussions on content.
Many of the key benefits of flipping the classroom identified by Bergmann and Sams (2012) that apply to high school students also apply to adult learners in the professional development setting. This model puts more onus on learners to actively learn and individualizes the experience so students learn what is pertinent to them and their learning needs. Providing education to nurses in a classroom setting is challenging, given their varied shifts and often limited access to educational resources. Flipped classes work well for learners who are extremely busy, as videos can be viewed at a convenient time. All that is typically necessary to view video recordings is an Internet connection; thus, this can be done from work, home, or mobile device and while traveling. Although access to the videos is convenient, nurses should be encouraged to view all organization-mandated training materials during paid work hours to address any specific labor laws. These videos also help learners who are struggling with a concept because they can stop, pause, and replay them as many times as needed. Prerecording essential content topics also provides a greater level of transparency and specificity into what content is being delivered to students; thus, a higher level of consistency exists across multiple instructors involved in the delivery of professional development sessions.
Bergmann and Sams (2012) also defined the term “flipped mastery classroom.” This is an extension of the flipped classroom where all students move through content at their own pace to meet the requirements for the learning objectives. This strategy uses the techniques and tools implemented in the flipped classroom, but mastery learning does not require all students to watch video content or complete other instructional activities on the same schedule to prepare for group class activities that are offered at a specific time. Each learner progresses through the content in a self-paced manner and may complete the necessary requirements at different time frames. This model provides unique advantages for the professional development arena, where greater levels of flexibility and scheduling are valued by learners with other time commitments and varied schedules.
Hamdan, McKnight, McKnight, and Arfstrom (2013) identified four pillars that are essential for educators seeking to implement either the flipped classroom or the flipped mastery classroom into their courses:
- Flexible learning environments, with students selecting when and where they view video lectures and classroom time becoming more collaborative, active, and engaging compared to typical in-class lectures.
- A shift in the learning culture, “where in-class time is meant for exploring topics in greater depth and creating richer learning opportunities” (Hamdan et al., 2013, p. 5), thus focusing on student- versus teacher-directed instruction.
- The use of intentional content and active methods of instruction selected by instructors to maximize both the out of class time, when instructional materials can be viewed as many times as needed, and the in-class time, when students can benefit from the expertise of instructors and peers as they work to apply their learning to real-world situations.
- Professional educators who are skilled at observing and monitoring learner progress. Educators in a flipped classroom have a less prominent role than traditional lecturers, but must possess critical competencies in assessing students and facilitating class sessions.
A variety of resources can be used to create video materials for the flipped classroom. It is becoming easier to create high-quality video recordings with commonly available software programs and devices such as tablets, smartphones, and video cameras. Many computers now include webcams and microphones that can be used to create prerecorded instructional material. Educators should also repurpose existing instructional material for use with the flipped classroom. Recorded conference presentations or workshop sessions could be used in a flipped classroom. Learners are asked to view the recording on their own time prior to a live interactive session where the topics are discussed in detail in a group. Additionally, professional webinar sessions are often recorded and could be repurposed. Webinars may be internal presentations that were not available to all learners in an organization, or external sessions that showcase outside experts who could not travel to specific locations to deliver sessions live. A wide variety of materials exist on the web that are useful to share with learners as a primer to a forthcoming classroom topic. Although many educators begin employing the flipped classroom by creating their own video materials, existing resources freely available on a given topic that are of equal or better quality should be considered, saving time and money.
In the nursing professional development setting, the flipped classroom can provide nursing staff 24/7 access to consistent instructional content prior to the in-class session. Bergmann and Sams (2012) described this model as more efficient than delivering a lecture and assigning homework to students. Educators can then use the classroom more efficiently as a means to assess student understanding of the prior learning and elevate the learning experience to application activities such as case studies, problem-based learning, or simulation. In the professional development setting, a flipped classroom can deploy content elicited from subject matter experts, clinical grand rounds, safety alerts, new product demonstrations, consumer health education, and professional continuing education in a way that maximizes the learning experience in the classroom. The flipped classroom supports adult learning processes through self-directed inquiry with students controlling the timing and direction of learning (Russell, 2006). This allows adult learners to construct knowledge in the classroom based on the shared real-world experiences the collaborative group can bring to the classroom experience.
The flipped classroom has the potential to increase access to and provide greater efficiencies for individualized delivery of instruction. The student-centered approach allows learners to master content as the director of their learning and educators to deploy teaching strategies in the classroom that facilitate active learning.
- Bergmann, J. & Sams, A. (2012). Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.
- Hamdan, N., McKnight, P., McKnight, K. & Arfstrom, K. M. (2013). The flipped learning model: A white paper based on the literature review titled “A review of flipped learning.” Retrieved from http://fln.schoolwires.net/cms/lib07/VA01923112/Centricity/Domain/41/WhitePaper_FlippedLearning.pdf
- Russell, S. S. (2006). An overview of adult-learning processes. Urologic Nursing, 26(5), 349–352.