Flipped Learning and Continuous Improvement go Hand in Hand

Doing What They do Better is a Primary Motivation for Teachers who Have Flipped Their Classrooms and Courses

The topic for the August 16 (2017) #flipblogs post and chat asks us to write about changes we’re working on or considering for the upcoming school year. This is a great topic and I’m glad to share my thinking, but first a brief reflection on something that this brings to mind for me: I can’t help but reflect on how flipped learning and a spirit of continuous improvement go hand in hand. 

I’ve interviewed and spoken with lots of teachers who have used the flipped learning approach in their courses and their classrooms, and I’ve read, listened to, and watched countless articles and videos exploring the construct. One key theme that emerges from these dialogues is the fact that so many teachers who flip their classrooms are doing it because they are always looking to improve.

Improve the student experience.

Improve student ownership of learning.

Improve learning outcomes.

Improve relationships with students.

Improve student expectations of what school and learning can and should be.

Continuous improvement.

While there have been a steadily growing number of publications and studies indicating that the flipped classroom can improve outcomes, engagement, etc., here are a few excerpts from educators who have written and share their thinking about the relationship between flipped learning and improving what happens in our classrooms: 

  • In the Flipped Educator Spotlight interviews we do here on the FLN, we often ask, “What are some of the successes that flipped learning has helped to bring about in your classroom?”, which of course often provides insights into improvements. For example, in this spotlight with 8th grade math teacher Mickie Gibbs, she explains how both students and parents like that she is with the students when they struggle with math problems. This is clearly an improvement over the scenario in which students would attempt to struggle with difficult problems at home and end up feeling quite frustrated (I’ve certainly seen that with my own kids)!
  • This TeachThought article explains (in the first item under “Pros” section) how the flipped classroom, “can not only improve student achievement, but improves student behavior in class as well.”
  • In this article about resistance to the flip, teacher Troy Faulkner noted that, “Some teachers are so busy just trying to keep their head above water that they do not have time to think about ways to change; Response: If you are so overwhelmed, then you should look at ways to change and improve, that make you more efficient with your time and effective in both teaching and your students’ learning.”
  • From the same article above, “Some teachers are not comfortable having their lessons online where anyone could look at them including their principal or fellow teachers. In other words, they are insecure about their own teaching ability or lessons; Response: What better way to learn, and improve our lessons and teaching, than from the critique/feedback of other professionals? Plus, you have the opportunity to view other teachers’ lessons and learn from them.”
  • Kathleen Fulton wrote this article titled, “Upside Down and Inside Out: Flip Your Classroom to Improve Student Learning“, which is clearly focused on improvements.

So What About my Classroom? What am I Hoping to Improve This Year?

Here are a few of the main things that come to mind when considering this question:

  • Getting my students to ask more questions: Wow, this can be challenging. I teach mostly entry level college students, many of whom are not necessarily very well prepared academically. Getting most of them to come out of their shells, to speak up and ask questions, can be really difficult. I find this to be my problem much more than theirs … many of these students simply have not been taught how, or expected to, contribute much. Too many teachers in K-12 schools find it too easy to let marginal students be marginalized, so many students show up at our door expecting to just sit and (hopefully) listen, and hope to just “get by”. No. We have to do our best to pull them out. Teach them that their opinion is important. Teach them that the best way to learn and grow is ask questions! (I like to say, “the only ‘dumb question’ is the one you don’t ask”). Of course, techniques like the WSQ help to teach students to ask questions, and I use this tool regularly, but I want to build on this stepping stone and continue to find more ways to encourage questions. 
  • Encouraging my students to think on a larger scale, connected to the word they live in: I teach a Digital Literacy course, with a purposeful added focus on the ever-evolving nature of technology. We discuss some of the exciting emerging digital technologies on the horizon at the start of the course, and then we do a final project focusing on one that each student picks. They need to do a little research and think out into the coming decade about the impact of this technology on the world around them. What I would like to change is to get them to start thinking about this from day one and build their knowledge and identify resources steadily throughout the course, as one way to get them thinking on a larger scale than just ‘day to day’ or ‘here and now’. 
  • Develop more connections between different assignments and course outcomes: I am always looking to connect ideas together. For example, throughout the course we see so many examples of how different technologies follow a life cycle. We also see how businesses that do not innovate and try and stay ahead of the curve can easily fall behind and suffer or perish. Many different topics and assignments support these larger ideas. These ideas also support course outcomes. I am constantly looking to continue to build these connections, as I believe it helps to drive home the learning outcomes and the concepts that I hope they take with them when they complete the course. These are concepts that can help them to think ahead and draw connections in their continuing education, their careers, and their lives. 
  • Deeper connections with individual students when I teach online: I may or may not teach this course in a purely online modality during the coming year. I’ve done so before, and was frustrated with how difficult it was to really connect with students. I am hoping to try to leverage an asynchronous threading video chat tool to help with this. I think being able to see and speak to each other at times that are convenient (hence the asynch requirement), can go a long way towards establishing what feels like more of a ‘social’ and connected presence than traditional discussion forums, while still providing for a threaded conversation (versus the largely one-way nature of a recorded video served up via YouTube). 



  • Wow, this is like 3 blog posts in one!! There’s so much here…. Mickie’s spotlight video IS really good, and I don’t even teach math!

    Flipgrid might offer what you’re looking for on the last point. I haven’t used it at my school, but it seems popular for the personalized asynchronous connections you’re looking for.

  • I have to agree on the continuous improvement. It’s not unique to flippers, of course — during my practicum, my host teacher (who was close to retirement age) made a change to one of her handouts, and as she printed it off and replaced the old version in her course binder, she joked, “Well, I guess I have to teach another year!” It is reassuring to know that my feeling that I have to keep striving for “better” is not because I am a struggling teacher by any means; rather, knowing that we need to grow can itself be a mark of professionalism and self-knowledge. Maybe by the time I get my praxis perfect, I’ll get to retire!

    • Thanks Joy – couldn’t agree more re: “knowing that we need to grow can itself be a mark of professionalism”, and we’re modeling this life-long learning and more for our students!

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