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Understanding Flipped Learning

Defining Flipped Learning 

A flipped classroom, sometimes referred to as an inverted classroom, is one in which learners are exposed to the material prior to a live class session so that they can apply the concepts from the material with greater depth within a live class session (Brame, 2013).  

Elements of a Flipped Approach 

The following elements are outlined by Brame (2013): 

  • Expose learners to content prior to a live class session – This may be through readings, videos, podcasts, graphics, infographics, screencasts, etc. Though many think of flipped learning as just a presentation of lecture videos prior to class, that's only one of many ways to approach the method. 
  • Provide an incentive for learners to engage with that content – This may be a written assignment, an outlining or mapping activity, a simple quiz, or a note that there will be a classroom response system activity using this knowledge at the start of the live session, etc. Typically, there are points associated with such activities to further incentivize preparation. 
  • Assess learner understanding of that content – The tools, tasks, or activities you use to incentivize preparation should also provide you as the educator with real-time data on learner understanding so that you can address areas of need and misconception in your live session, building to more rigorous processing/application of concepts. 
  • Focus on deeper processing/application of that content during a live class session – For instance, you might transition into case studies, lab activities, data analysis, debates, collaborative dialogue, etc., once learners have mastered the foundational knowledge. 

Benefits of Flipped Learning 

Many of us are familiar with Bloom's revised taxonomy, which aids us in differentiating between lower levels of cognitive work (remembering and understanding) as compared to higher levels of cognitive work (applying, analyzing, evaluating, etc.) (Anderson, 2013). In the flipped model, the lower cognitive work happens outside of class, allowing time for higher cognitive work in class under the guidance of a knowledgeable educator. Research suggests that flipped models, when leveraged effectively, can produce significant learning gains (DesLauriers, Schelew, & Wieman, 2011). 

Challenges of Flipped Learning 

That said, we also know that it's sometimes difficult to get learners to engage with course content, which is the reason for the focus on connected activities and incentives in the elements indicated above. If learners feel they can still get by without preparing, many will be tempted to do so, and the learners who did prepare will be irritated by any course time spent remediating non-compliance, lessening their motivation to prepare. Bottom line: It's critical to build a culture of clear expectations and follow through when attempting flipped learning. 

Additional resources

For further assistance with developing a Flipped Learning classroom, connect with CIS staff for ideas and support.


Anderson, L. (2013). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Abridged Edition. Essex, UK: Pearson.

Brame, C., (2013). Flipping the classroom. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved from  

DesLauriers L, Schelew E, and Wieman C (2011). Improved learning in a large-enrollment physics class. Science 332: 862-864.