Flipping the classroom

You may have heard the term ‘flipped’ used in relation to unit delivery. The flipped approach seeks to reduce cognitive load, and increase student motivation and engagement (Abeysekera & Dawson, 2014).  Abeysekera and Dawson (2014, p. 3) define the flipped method as:

a set of pedagogical approaches that:

  1. move most information-transmission teaching out of class
  2. use class time for learning activities that are active and social and
  3. require students to complete pre- and/or post-class activities to fully benefit from in-class work.

For more information about the rationale behind flipped classroom approaches, view this video of a Flipped workshop delivered by Senior Teaching Fellow, Stuart Schonell.

How are classes arranged?                               

In a flipped class, all students (regardless of study mode) interact with recorded lectures, readings and other content online. Students absorb unit content at a pace that suits them, within a given period of time (e.g. within a week or fortnight). These online activities act as preparation for a workshop or tutorial.

Students submit weekly content-related assessments, for example Just In Time Teaching (JITT) tasks in the form of 3 or 4 short and/or long answer questions. These assessments aim to encourage students to complete the necessary self-study activities. They also provide the teaching team with valuable data regarding concepts that students are struggling with, as well as a means of formative assessment.

Face-to-face workshops (held after content-related assessments have been submitted) help students tackle concepts identified as difficult. The workshops also provide an opportunity for students to ask questions and engage with unit content using higher-order thinking skills, especially during group activities.

To see an example of a flipped teaching schedule, click here. Alternatively, you can learn more about how other staff at UTAS have introduced the flipped method to their classes by reading this article by James Allison and Christopher Chin from the Australian Maritime College, and TSBE’s own Belinda Williams. It provides an overview of the use of one fully flipped and one partially flipped approach to teaching in two AMC units.

Can this model work for different study modes?

Yes. You can give Distance students the option of attending workshops via live streaming (for example, via Online Rooms or Collaborate) or via discussion forums.

What student or unit characteristics does this model suit?

This model can suit a wide variety of cohorts. Experienced students will have more flexibility to skip through content they already understand, while others can progress through materials at a pace that suits them, possibly engaging with the same piece of content several times to gain understanding.

However, this will be a new way of studying for many students. This method will confront some students with the responsibility of completing their work in advance of class time. Some students may take a while to adapt to this methodology. Therefore, it is important to make the rationale for using this approach, together with expectations of students, very clear from the beginning. Online content must be clearly and logically structured to make it obvious to students how to approach their self-study tasks.

Other factors to consider

  • This model may be ‘new’ to many students. Consider having a get-together in the first week of semester, to familiarise students with the unit structure and expectations of them as learners.
  • Practice makes perfect: allow students to treat the first content assessment task as a practice task so that they can familiarise themselves with the chosen technology without fear of failure. If they get a higher mark on the first task, it can be used to replace a poor mark on another low-scoring task (if any).
  • A logical structure – in terms of the order of topics and the way content is presented online – will help students approach their self-study activities in an efficient and effective manner. Consider organising online content into modules, as well as numbering each content item in the order that it should be approached.
  • To further reduce cognitive load and increase engagement, consider providing mini lectures and short readings, interspersed with short reflective activities, memory games, quizzes or even surveys. This resource outlines a range of online tools that you can use to embed activities in your unit: Activity options – choose your tool [PDF]

Useful resources


Abeysekera, L & Dawson, P 2014, Motivation and cognitive load in the flipped classroom: definition, rationale and a call for research, Higher Education Research & Development, viewed 5 October 2014, <http://www.tandfonline.com.ezproxy.utas.edu.au/doi/pdf/10.1080/07294360.2014.934336>


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