Thoughts on the flipped classroom

This year I had hoped to teach a couple of my courses using a flipped classroom approach. I’ve always incorporated a bit of ‘active learning’ into my lectures so going completely ‘flipped’ was a logical progression.

But if flipping the classroom is to work, the students must buy into the whole concept and must come to class well prepared. But they don’t, at least in my experience. Flipping requires students to change the habits of a lifetime and essentially study continuously from the start of the semester right up to exam time.

Actually, when you think about it, flipping the classroom is essentially a way of organising a student’s study. In the traditional mode of teaching, the purpose of the lecture was to deliver content and the student was expected to drive their own learning by delving deeply into the material during their private study time. I think flipping the classroom is one of those ideas in education that is very much influenced by the whole ‘working in groups’ fixation. There is a very strong tendency these days to favour approaches to teaching and learning that demand and reward classroom interaction rather than solitary study and reflection. But there are many individuals, myself included, who, when they want to tackle a challenging problem, prefer to do so free from distractions. The traditional mode of teaching actually suits a lot of us. (Incidentally, Republic of Noise is a very eloquent book that discusses the value of solitude in education.)

Anyway, the upshot of all of this is that I’ve gone back to my usual approach – a blend of content delivery and active learning.


About Greg Foley

A lecturer in Biotechnology in Dublin City University for more than 25 years. Trained as a Chemical Engineer in UCD (BE and PhD) and Cornell (MS). Does research on analysis and design of membrane filtration systems.
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