What is the 'Flipped Classroom'?

The flipped classroom describes a reversal of traditional teaching where students gain first exposure to new material outside of class, usually via reading or lecture videos, and then class time is used to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge through strategies such as problem-solving, discussion or debates. (Vanderbilt University, Center for Teaching).

The term "Flipped Classroom" was popularised by teachers Bergmann and Samms at Woodland Park High School, Colorado, in 2007 where they adopted a strategy to reverse the timing of homework and lectures. Video lectures were provided for students before class and then exercises (homework) was done in class under supervision.

Predating this was the "The Inverted Classroom" (Lage, M. J., Platt, G. J., & Treglia, M. 2000) for microeconomics students at Miami University. Lectures took place outside of class and class time was devoted to group and individual problem solving, discussion, critical thinking and experiments. (Lage et al. 2000).

Harvard Physicist, Eric Mazur has been teaching a similar technique to the flipped classroom called peer instruction using ConcepTests for over 25 years.

Influential educator and philosopher Dewey (1915) continually argued that education and learning are necessarily social and interactive processes as did Chickering and Gamson that "Learning is not a spectator sport" (1987).

The recurring theme is "active learning" a term coined by Bonwell and Eison that, simply put, "engages students in two aspects - doing things and thinking about the things they are doing" (1991).

There is no set formula for the flipped classroom. Each implementation will differ because of wide variables such as class size, discipline, teaching style, technology and resources. A common theme is that there is a greater focus on students' concept exploration, meaning making and demonstration with more opportunities for discussion, formative assessment and feedback.

Structure of flipped classroom

Diagram 1: Learning opportunities of the flipped classroom (adapted from Gerstein)


Some educators argue that the flipped classroom is a technique that can be conducted without digital technologies (Mazur ; Lage and Platt, 2000). However, the affordance of technologies can help to:

  • capture content for students to access at their own convenience and to suit their pace of learning (e.g. lecture material, readings, interactive multimedia),
  • Curate content for students to gather their own resources.
  • present learning materials in a variety of formats to suit different learner styles and multimodal learning (e.g. text, videos, audio, multimedia),
  • provide opportunities for discourse and interaction in and out of class (e.g. polling tools, discussion tools, content creation tools),
  • convey timely information, updates and reminders for students (e.g micro-blogging, announcement tools),
  • provide immediate and anonymous feedback for teachers and students (e.g. quizzes, polls) to signal revision points,
  • capture data about students to analyse their progress and identify ‘at risk’ students (e.g. analytics).


In the 'Flipped Classroom : What is it?' video, University of Queensland academics describe what the flipped classroom means in their context.

This video can also be viewed here.

Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 39(7), 3-7.

Hughes, H. (2012). Introduction to Flipping the College Classroom. In T. Amiel & B. Wilson (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2012 (pp. 2434-2438). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Abstract: 'Flipping the classroom' is a pedagogical concept and method that replaces the standard lecture-in-class format with opportunities for students to review, discuss, and investigate course content with the instructor in class. There are many ways that a classroom can be flipped, but the underlying premise is that students review lecture materials outside of class and then come to class prepared to participate in instructor-guided learning activities. This paper provides an introduction to classroom flipping and the instructional design strategies for flipping the college classroom developed at one university.

Lage, M. J., Platt, G. J., & Treglia, M. (2000). Inverting the Classroom: A Gateway to Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment. The Journal of Economic Education, 31(1), 30-43.

Abstract: The ability of instructors to vary teaching styles in introductory economics courses is seemingly limited by time constraints. If an instructor wanted to lecture for those students who learn best via lecturing, conduct experiments for the experiential learners, give group assignments for the collaborative and cooperative learners, and oversee self-directed study for the independent learners, then he would need to increase student contact time fourfold. However, both the proliferation of students' access to multimedia and the advances in ease of multimedia development for faculty have created an environment where these layers of learning can be integrated without inordinately increasing contact time or sacrificing course coverage. We outline a strategy for teaching that appeals to a broad range of learning styles without violating the constraints typically faced by instructors at most institutions. In addition, we present student and faculty perceptions of such a course.

Sankey, M.D, & Hunt, L. (2013). Using technology to enable flipped classrooms whilst sustaining sound pedagogy. In H. Carter, M. Gosper and J. Hedberg (Eds.), Electric Dreams. Proceedings ascilite 2013 Sydney. (pp.785-795)

Abstract: This paper initially provides an understanding of what constitutes a flipped classroom model. It then provides a series of four case studies that describe the application of some different flipped classroom approaches to university courses, largely mediated by the use of online learning technologies. It demonstrates that these flipped classrooms are informed by constructivist pedagogy and highlights the role university teachers can play in facilitating their students’ engagement with learning. It also highlights that to be successful in this transition to a new mode of learning requires both a holistic institutional planning approach, one based within a coherent student learning journey model, and sustained development by a team of centralised support staff, including technology experts, librarians and learning designers. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications associated with adopting a flipped classroom approach.

Zappe, S., Leicht, R., Messner, J., Litzinger, T., & Lee, H. W. (2009). 'Flipping' the Classroom to Explore Active Learning in a Large Undergraduate Course. Paper presented at the American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon.

Abstract: This paper discusses an instructional technique called the 'classroom flip' model which was assessed in a larger, undergraduate architectural engineering class. In this model, lecture content is removed from the classroom to allow time for active learning, and the content that was removed is delivered to students via on-line video. This approach 'flips' the traditional use of lecture and more active learning approaches. Lecture occurs outside of class, and more active learning, such as problem solving, happens during class. Assessment data was collected to examine students’ use of the video lectures and perceptions of the classroom flip. The students’ feedback suggests that while the active learning and additional project time available in class improved their understanding, they would prefer that only about half the classes be flipped and some use of traditional lectures should be maintained.