What the Heck is a Flipped Classroom, and Why Bother?

Posted May 4, 2015

By R. Eric Landrum


When you are in the midst of it, it is difficult to know when an idea is a fad and when an idea is a lasting, good idea. Although it might seem like the concept of a flipped classroom is new (the term is certainly new), some of the basic principles of flipping the classroom have been around for long time. For example, the notion of minimizing lectures during class so that students can actively engage in hands-on class activities has been around for decades. Good evidence-based outcomes about lecturing are emerging—lecturing is not evil, but chronic lecturing can be disadvantageous for your students (Freeman et al., 2014). So if you like the idea of still delivering content and you also like the idea of actively engaging your students during class time, then the flipped classroom approach may be an option to consider.

What is a flipped classroom? The essence is this—some of the traditional in-class activities (such as lecturing) are moved to outside-of-class time, and some of the traditional outside-of-class activities (such as reading or working on homework) are moved to in-class time. I teach a 300-level Research Methods course at Boise State University, and for about 4 years I have been flipping my Research Methods course. The traditional version of my “Tuesday-Thursday” course may have looked like this:

Now, in my flipped classroom, the same week of my Research Methods course might look like this:

As you can see, my “lectures” are now all on YouTube, and students are to watch the YouTube lecture prior to coming to class. In fact, all of my videos are available on my YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/rericlandrum/videos). If you are really bored, you can go there now and find some wonderful sleep aids. I use clicker questions at the beginning of each in-class session as my version of readiness assurance, and these clicker questions cover both the textbook readings and the YouTube videos. As for creating these resources, I’m a big fan of Camtasia (http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.html?gclid=CIL92oOexsMCFQ8paQodwTIAZw) for creating the YouTube videos and Turning Technologies (https://www.turningtechnologies.com/) as my choice for clicker hardware and software.

Although I still expect my students to do the bulk of the reading outside of class, sometimes I will bring short journal articles or other items for them to read in class and then discuss in small groups following by reporting out to the class (and me). I suppose I could tell students to read this article or that report prior to class and tell them we are going to have a class discussion, but that has not worked well for me in the past. This way, with the flipped classroom approach, I know they have read the article prior to discussion because I gave them time, in class, to read the article.

Some educators have expressed concerns that the flipped classroom approach is about replacing teaching with videos and students doing work without structure (Bergman, Overmyer, & Wilie, 2011). But I will tell you that this approach allows me to see the benefits of active engagement firsthand. I truly have transitioned from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side.” I will share with you that this transition was challenging for me and was challenging for some of my students. I love to lecture, and with 20+ years of practice, I believed I had become good at it. Although my students still listen to my lectures on YouTube, I miss that classroom activity where I was center-stage and where I knew I had a great example in my hip pocket in case some students ran into a troublesome concept. Some of my students are uncomfortable with the flipped classroom because they enjoy a great lecture and they also enjoy the passive nature of absorption through listening to lecture taking notes; the flipped classroom causes more active interactions with peers and the instructor.

After some explanation and practice, most students positively embrace the flipped classroom. They appreciate the chance to work on homework, together, during class. They like working on tasks during class that they know they will need to master outside of class – to them, it feels like a good use of our time together. In fact, I think much more carefully (now) about our classroom time together and how I need to make the most of that time. Given the wealth of information freely available on the Internet, I believe that our chief role as undergraduate educators is no longer content delivery; our chief role is to help students develop skills (e.g., critical thinking, oral and written communication, ethical reasoning, problem solving) so that they can apply the content of psychology to their future workplace and everyday life. I’m passionate about skill development and how we need to do a much better job assessing our student’s skills—especially at graduation—but that’s a topic that will have to wait for another blog invite from Noba (but see https://thebluereview.org/teach-like-its-2099/). I do encourage you to think about the study habits of your students in and out of class. To paraphrase Gabriel (2008), someone who is teacher-centered thinks about what he or she will be doing during class; someone who is student-centered thinks about what his or her students will be doing during class. I encourage you to strive to be student-centered!


Bergmann, J., Overmyer, J., & Wilie, B. (2011). The flipped class: Myths vs. reality. The Daily Riff. Retrieved from http:// http://www.thedailyriff.com/articles/the-f...

Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. PNAS, 111, 8410-8415. doi:10.1073/pnas.1319030111

Gabriel, K. F. (2008). Teaching unprepared students: Strategies for promoting success and retention in higher education. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Suggested Readings (if you want more information)

Albert, M., & Beatty, B. J. (2014). Flipping the classroom applications to curriculum redesign for an introduction to management course: Impact on grades. Journal of Education for Business, 89, 419-424. doi:10.1080/08832323.2014.929559

Estes, M., Ingram, R., & Liu, J. C. (2014, July 29). A review of flipped classroom research, practice, and technologies. The Higher Education Teaching and Learning Portal, 4. Retrieved from https://www.hetl.org/feature-articles/a-review-of-...

Wilson, S. G. (2013). The flipped class: A method to address the challenges of an undergraduate statistics course. Teaching of Psychology, 40, 193-199. doi:10.1177/0098628313487461

[R. Eric Landrum is a professor in the Department of Psychology at Boise State University. His research is chiefly concerned with college student success and what educators can do to facilitate that success. He is Past-President of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (Division Two of the American Psychological Association) and he is the co-editor of the APA journal Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology.]