Flipped, Backwards and Every Which Way – What’s all this talk about “flipped” classrooms and backwards design?

Signs Pointing Every Which Way - Confusion

Uncertainty And Confusion. Depositphotos Inc., USA. July 9, 2012.

Have You Seen or Heard People Talking About Flipped Classrooms and Wondered What They Were Talking About?


According to Wikipedia, “Flip teaching is a form of blended learning in which students learn new content online by watching video lectures, usually at home, and what used to be homework is now done in class with [the] teacher offering more personalized guidance and interaction with students, instead of lecturing. This is also known as backwards classroom, reverse instruction, flipping the classroom, reverse teaching, and the ‘Thayer Method.'” Colonel Sylvanus Thayer is known as “the Father of West Point” and was an early superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point. When he took over at West Point in 1817, Thayer “upgraded academic standards, instilled military discipline, and emphasized honorable conduct.” He also created a teaching method, which emphasizes self-study and daily homework. In short, the cadets (or students) are responsible for their own learning. They study the material prior to attending class. The learning is then reinforced in class through a combination of group learning and active learning exercises, done then primarily at the blackboards. This method has come back in to the limelight of education models since the 1990s where instructors noticed that by getting away from the traditional model of teacher = lecturer, they were allowed to help more students, more acutely.

With Salman Khan’s creation of Khan Academy in 2004 and the explosion of ‘how-to’ videos on YouTube, as well as tons of electronic and technological resources widely available, the possibilities of creating a classroom where the educator can work more one-on-one with students is endless.

For instance, if you’re teaching math concepts, you could have students watch a video of you or one you found that you like that explains or overviews the concept. Then you assign the homework. The students can start the ‘homework’ on their own outside of class and then come to class to get help on applying and practicing the concept they watched in the video.


So, the big question is, how could this be helpful to you? According to The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Teaching and Learning, some benefits include students having specific questions in mind when they come to class, the instructor’s ability to anticipate where students need the most help, students practicing performing the skills while the teacher is in front of them and can guide the process with feedback and mini-lectures, the instructor can post any additional explanations and resources as needed, students are equipped to seek help where they know they need it, and the instructor continues guiding students toward deeper understanding of the material.

Our state board is currently doing a webinar series on teaching practices and sharing ideas, and they had a presentation on “Integrating Technology to Create Truly Collaborative & Active Learning in the Flipped Classroom.” Presenters include a physics professor, a biology professor, and a nursing professor with 72 students in their class talking about their experiences with creating flipped classrooms, including their challenges, triumphs and lessons learned. Here is the link to that presentation: click here to view the recording  (If you have any troubles accessing this video, just ask for help)

Tons more information is available on the internet as well as colleagues on campus who have done this or are thinking of doing it now.


What is Backwards Design?


Backwards Design is an instructional design theory created by Grant Wiggings and Jay McTighe that proposes starting the design of curriculum with the end in mind. The end can mean many different things, but usually refers to the end goal, standard or objective. In this theory, the instructor or instructional designer starts with the desired results and then derives the curriculum from the evidence of learning asked for in the standard or objective and the teaching needed to equip students to perform.

Another way to think of it is to start with the end result in mind, consider what evidence would show the end result was achieved (or not achieved) and then plan a lesson or activity that would give the aforementioned evidence. You could then use this method to map your whole class directly to your objectives.

Again, lots more information and resources are available on this and other instructional design theories on the internet and from other colleagues on campus.

I hope you have fun learning more about turning education on its head!


One thought on “Flipped, Backwards and Every Which Way – What’s all this talk about “flipped” classrooms and backwards design?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s