Flipped classrooms: isn’t that the way around it should have been anyway?

There is considerable buzz around universities at the moment about the “flipped classroom”. In essence, this is where the delivery of content is carried out online, leaving the face-to-face time available for discussion, interaction, group work and activities to promote higher level learning.

This is in contrast to what many term the ‘traditional teaching approach’, which in practice means racing through the content in lectures and leaving the students to make sense of everything in their own time.  Somehow, over the years the traditional approach has been seen to have gained some mystical credibility (almost acting as a rite of passage) and has allowed academics to make crass claims about how much harder it was in ‘their day’, and how lecturing is in some way a grown up form of teaching that separates universities from schools. One of the arguments that has sustained traditional teaching within universities, is that large classes require a more formal approach, and lecturing at them seems to be the most economical method available. Observers have noted that this traditional approach also provides a mechanism to promote non-learning (Kinchin et al, 2008), and if we were to be really cynical, to keep  students at arm’s length. Advances in digital technology over the past decade have produced mechanisms whereby the previously held objections to moving from the ‘traditional method’ have been made redundant.


The flipped classroom and Bloom’s Taxonomy:     Blooms flipped

There are serious Pedagogical implications of flipping the classroom. Look for example at the annotated depiction of Bloom’s Taxonomy in the figure above. In the traditional classroom, it seems that the teacher is engaged in the lower levels of the taxonomy (remembering and understanding), whilst leaving the students to fend for themselves when it comes to engaging with the higher order thinking skills (creating and evaluating) – the time when they need most support. It seems the flipped classroom is the more sensible approach that offers students most support when they need it, and one that reflects more closely what might happen in compulsory education.

Maybe we should talk about the ‘flipped-back classroom’ to reflect this?

In their book, Bergmann and Sams (2012) consider in detail many aspects of the flipped classroom, including reflections by teachers who have experienced a move from the traditional to the flipped:  “Teaching under a traditional model is draining. I feel like I have to ‘perform’, which requires energy, enthusiasm, and a “you are on-stage” effort at all times. … When I switched over I felt free. I was able to go in and watch my students work. I stayed busy interacting one-to-one.”

Perhaps we should have more discussion about the pedagogy of the ‘flipped-back classroom’ ?


Bergmann, J. and Sams, A (2012) Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. Alexandria, VA, ASCD.

Kinchin, I.M., Lygo-Baker, S. and Hay, D.B. (2008) Universities as centres of non-learning. Studies in Higher Education, 33(1): 89 – 103.


8 thoughts on “Flipped classrooms: isn’t that the way around it should have been anyway?

  1. Marco Piantola

    Hello Prof. Kinchin,

    I read your post, and like the idea of “flipped classroom”, but I have one question. Students that had a traditional formation, where they didn’t need to explore higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, but only memorize, like the majority of students in Brazil and I think more countries have the same painel. Maybe those students think “This teacher give more work to do” and those students hate the class, when our aim is do better for they?

    Best Regards

    Marco Piantola


    1. ikinchin Post author

      You make an important point, Marco

      Two things:

      We have to be explicit in our expectations to students and explain the rationale for the flipping.

      We have to be consistent. If all my colleagues in the department teach in the traditional manner and I am the only one to teach in a flipped manner, then students will see my classes as harder.

      There are challenges ahead.


  2. Mirela

    Dear Mr. Kinchin,
    firstly we would like to thank your contributions to education and learning. We are Brazilian students and studying ways to improve teaching and learning we came across with that text about flipped classrooms.

    When we discuss about the change of tradicional classes, based on the idea that the students must make sense about the contents by their own and in their own time, to flipped classroom, where the teacher must support the students to develop skills to learn; it’s impossible not to think about the interactivity that must be built between students, teacher, technology, knowledge in a environment where is possible to learn in meaningful ways. The interactivity, that could be built in virtual ou presences classes, can be considered the key to attribute sense to knowledge and empower the students to make their own future.

    ]The second question is: knowing that college students should have a consolidated learning and learning methods also consolidated, this method of flipped classroom could be applied in universities having changes in learning (empowerment) in people who follow traditional patterns for years?
    Best regards,
    Mariana and Mirela


    1. ikinchin Post author

      Where students have become used to a certain pattern, it will be difficult for students to change. It is best to lay out expectations early in a student’s career, if possible. Either way, staff need to be agreed on the pedagogy to be employed and to keep to it.


  3. Stephanie Crispino

    Dear Prof. Kinchin,

    Thank you for sharing your ideas on the concept of “flipped classroom”. I found it really interesting and your post made me reflect about problems underlying the unfolding of flipped classrooms.

    I consider a key point to be engagement. Not only teachers should be engaged in the process of learning, students should also have an active role in this process so that it is possible to achieve meaningful learning. Perhaps the main issue is that they lack seeing themselves as protagonists when learning. “Traditional teaching approach” may have led them to think of learning as a one-way direction practice in which only teachers are responsible for delivering their knowledge to students. Instead, in my view, beyond just being flipped, classrooms should promote a real partnership between teachers and students throughout the whole process of learning for whom both are responsible and ought to be actively engaged.

    So maybe a good follow-up question is how to engage students in order to construct this partnership. I wonder if you have any insights about student´s motivation towards learning.

    All the best,

    Stephanie Crispino


    1. ikinchin Post author

      You are right, Stephanie.

      Student engagement is key, and thanks for raising this as an issue.

      I will try to write some ideas about this in future posts.


  4. Maria Carolina Cossi Soares Barretti

    Dear Professor Kinchin,
    I agree that we should have more discussion about the pedagogy of Flipped Classroom. It is known that students have a proper way and time to connect new contents with previous knowledge and most of the time we, teachers, are not able to consider this fact – maybe because it is too difficult to plan more than one sequence of contents if we understand that students learn only when we talk and explain.
    I think that one of the most interesting things about the Flipped Classroom is that it permits us to adjust the levels of complexity of tasks and makes possible to create an ambiance where each one of the students can learn, considering their own possibilities. This is for sure something that requires much more time and energy, but is this not what every teacher should want?
    In Brazil, unfortunately the debate between traditional and progressive education has lead many people to think that to teach is not important and the contents can be chosen by the students.
    Thank you for your help!


  5. Alexandre Passos da Silva

    Hello, Prof Kinchin.
    It is very good read on your blog about “Flipped Classroom”. Your text made me reflect and consider the class that takes a traditional approach thereby minimizing the significant learning and the opportunities for students.
    The classes that allow students to seek information, discuss with other students in class discuss their ideas, develop arguments, take your questions with other classmates and with the teacher, expands the potential to be developed in a course.
    Place the learners to develop their own thoughts, based in scientific knowledge, and position themselves on the information they receive from texts, colleagues in debate, and also the teacher makes more than short-term memory occurs a deeper reflection on the which studied causing a real learning and not a non-learning.
    I liked a lot of what I found on your blog. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    Alexandre Passos



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