It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly
~ C. J. Cherryh
Carolyn Janice Cherry (born 1942), known by the pen name C. J. Cherryh, is a well-known science fiction and fantasy writer. Among numerous awards she has received are Hugo Award, Lotus Award, and John W. Campbell Award.
Emerging in the 1980s, the concept of the Flipped Classroom Model (FCM) is that the fundamental content instruction is introduced prior to class and reinforced in class with the support of peers and teachers in a collaborative setting. Although its efficacy as an instruction method was highlighted by several educators (e.g. Baker, 2011; Ojalvo & Doyne, 2011; Rycik, 2012; McLaughlin et al., 2014; Deng et al., 2014), the FCM's emergence in the past few years as a revolutionary educational influence is due to recent advances in technology and multimedia resources.
The FCM is now the preferred form of instruction in K-12 schools in the United States, where educators' enthusiasm for its adoption has become epidemic. Consequently, it has enjoyed an enormous impact in international academia and is motivating many teachers to seek flipped classroom training in order to effectively use this method of instruction (Lambert, 2013). In line with this trend, more and more schools in Taiwan have demonstrated interest in and the ambition to implement the FCM in compulsory education, and in some cases even in higher education levels (Tsai, 2014). However, while much of the literature has suggested the positive role of the FCM, the haste in adopting this method has created misjudgment in both its purpose and complexity (Bergmann, 2011; Liu, 2013). Some may be misled into the simplistic claim that the FCM is simply a means for reversing classwork and homework, while others may inflate its efficacy out of immediate merits. This article urges a need to carefully examine the FCM's role as an instructional method and specifically address its potential limitations and challenges.
Flipped Classroom Model
Baker pioneered the concept of using electronic means to deliver instruction outside of class and publicly presented his idea at conferences between 1996 and 1998, which he called "The Classroom Flip" (Baker, 2011). Another commonly recognized term, "Flipped Learning," was named in 2007 by two Colorado high school science teachers Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, who claimed that this new way of teaching could help them to spend less class time lecturing and more time working on experiments while interacting with their students (Bergmann & Sams, 2011). Though different names have been given, in each of these proposals one can observe a similarity in characteristics and beliefs. The act of inverting the classroom means that "events that have traditionally taken place inside the classroom now take place outside the classroom and vice versa; the use of learning technologies, particularly multimedia, provides new opportunities for students to learn" (Lage & Treglia, 2000, p. 32).
The FCM has been applauded by many educators and practitioners. Rycik (2012) and Ojalvo's (2011) praise the FCM for allowing more individualized attention due to the availability of in-class time to practice learned contents through problem solving and skill development with peers and teachers as facilitators. Brooks and Brooks (1999) consider the flipped classroom as a constructivist one, for students are viewed as thinkers and knowledge is generated in class via the joined efforts of collaborations. Jarvela, Volet, & Jarvenoja (2010) and Stahl (2012) echo Brooks and Brooks' argument by further stating that the FCM is motivationally and cognitively beneficial for learners through the enhancement of collaborative tasks and cooperative learning. Thus, the pedagogical beauty of the FCM lies in its ability to provide a mechanism to upgrade and assess students' learning quality by shifting the instructional focus to higher level cognitive activities (Tsai, 2014; Stahl, 2012; Brooks & Brooks, 1999). This focus is valued as one of the primary learning objectives in Bloom's Taxonomy, also known as the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001) (see Illustration I).
The FCM, in terms of Bloom's revised taxonomy proposed by his colleagues in 2001—in which the taxonomy was revised to six tiers and verbs were used instead of nouns—initiates the mastery of the bottom layers of cognitive work outside of class, whereas the facilitation of knowledge and skills at the higher levels of the triangle is enforced in class with the support of peers and teachers. More specifically, instead of using class time to convey basic information and having students work on more difficult learning tasks alone, the FCM requires students to come to class prepared with the foundational information so that they can work on the challenging tasks of analysis, evaluation and creation with peers. This distinguishes the FCM as an innovative tool empowering instructional revolution.
The rapid increase in popularity of the FCM suggests that it is playing a revolutionary role in contemporary forms of instruction, yet this haste also reveals a lack of a mature pedagogical approach and preparedness of its advocates. There are still concerns over its immaturity as a means for instruction. In addition, considering the educational cultural background in Taiwan, it would be a reckless decision to implement this pedagogical approach nationwide without careful examination of its risks. In other words, if the FCM is to be promoted at different school levels, the proponents should heed the potential challenges discussed below and, even more importantly, continue seeking possible solutions or alternatives to diminish the risks.
Potential Challenge 1: Implicit Teachers' and Students' Roles
As noted by Bergmann and Sams in their book, Flip Your Classroom, "Students are helping each other learn instead of relying on the teacher as the sole disseminator of knowledge" (2011, p. 27). The new roles both the students and teachers play are crucial to the success in implementing the FCM, yet explicit instructions of how individuals can function and interact effectively as team participants and how teachers can serve as a facilitator or monitor have yet to be clearly explained. This accounts for much of the misconception about the FCM, and its oversimplification as a reversal of classwork and homework. For this reason, more explicit guidance, such as a "how-to" kit, should be provided.
Another challenge troubling its practicians is the lack of clear guidance on how the pre-assigned tasks complement the in-class activities; without this realization, most lessons may easily lead to repetitions or incoherent instruction, thereby limiting the learning and teaching effects. Moreover, owing to the conventional "lecture-teaching style", many teachers' unfamiliarity with "student-operating discussion" has caused a problem in designing effective in-class tasks with appropriate levels of difficulty, leading to the major issue of inefficient in-class time management. Therefore, more attention and investigation should be paid to the designs of the FCM learning activities and discussions.
Potential Challenge 3: Limited Explanation of the Essential Ingredients of Successful Multimedia Materials
Toto and Nguyen (2009) point out one fundamental issue in implementing multimedia materials for instruction. They found that students were more easily distracted when watching video lectures, and concluded that videos should be different in both length and style from traditional lectures. Designing materials which clearly deliver instructional messages and motivate learners is a challenge faced by many FCM advocates.
Potential Challenge 4: Insufficient Flexibility and Variation in Assessment
Most importantly, since the FCM puts heavy emphasis upon students' autonomous learning, evaluation of learning is a major concern (Tsai & Lin, 2014). Despite innovative attempts to apply the FCM, many domestic teachers have failed to integrate flexible assessment methods that allow for comprehensive investigation of multi-layers of teaching and learning. To evaluate students' performance under the FCM, more attention needs to be brought to the kinds of out-of-class learning tasks and in-class collaborative tasks assigned, and how these two types of tasks complement each other to achieve intended academic outcomes.
The FCM is not a synonym for online teaching; in-class deliberations and interactions are the crucial elements in its decipherment of learning. Therefore, in addition to the sufficient preparations prior to class, much attention needs to be placed upon what is taking place in the classroom. If the foresaid concerns are not well dealt with, however, the FCM is unfortunately doomed to fail. While some are complaining this era to be a tough one to teach in due to the bombarded temptations in learners' life, it is also fair to say that it is a great timing for learning, for modern technological advancements enable learning to be faster, easier, and richer—a promise made under the premise that they are pedagogically-utilized wisely.
Brooks, J. G. & Brooks, M. G. (1999). In Search of Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Jarvela, S., Volet, S. & Jarvenoja, H. (2010). Research on Motivation in Collaborative Learning: Moving Beyond the Cognitive-Situative Divide and Combining Individual and Social Processes. Educational Psychologist, 45(1), 15-27.
Lange, M., Platt, G. & Treglia, M. (2000). Inverting the Classroom: A Gateway to Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment. Journal of Economic Education, 31(1), 30-43.
McLaughlin, J. E., Roth, M. T., Glatt, D. M., Gharkholonarehe, N., Davidson, C. A., Griffin, L. M., & Mumper, R. J. (2014). The Flipped Classroom: A Course Redesign to Foster Learning and Engagement in a Health Professions School. Academic Medicine, 89(2), 236-243. < /li>