Do NOT Flip Your Classroom (Unless … )

–Originally published at Flipping Awesome Teaching

I have been drafting this post in my head for the past few months, and recently got the push and the time I needed to type it up at last.  I used to believe that every teacher should follow this technique, and felt disheartened when it didn’t widely catch on. However after some reflection, I have realized that some teachers are not flipping for very good reasons. If you are not ready to re-consider some essential aspects of your teaching, then you’re not really ready to do this. That is OK, but you must be honest with yourself before you try.


1. DO NOT FLIP unless… you are doing this to solve pre-existing problems (not just to be cool, or tech-savvy, or because you really like HipHughes and CrashCourse). The method appealed to me for various reasons including: a crappy textbook, a very heterogeneous student population, general ed-special ed communication issues, and a desire for students to produce meaningful research projects that don’t suck (or get made by tutors, nannies, and well-intentioned parents). 

2.  DO NOT FLIP unless… students have appropriate technology access. In the district where I work, over 90% of kids have computer access at home, and some use their cell phones to watch videos. The small minority of others can use school resources like the library and study-hall laptops. (I always give at least 2 nights for each video-based assignment.)  If my school had 1:1 devices, I would flip differently; if fewer students had tech access, then I might not flip at all.

3.  DO NOT FLIP unless… you are prepared to stubbornly demand that your students attempt to learn from the flipped instruction. (This is a corollary of #2: you gotta know that this is a fair expectation.)  If you bend or break by providing direct instruction during class to replicate the videos, then your system will quickly fall apart. What’s the point of the homework?! However, you can and certainly should remedy students’ misunderstandings during class time. That’s the point!

4.  DO NOT FLIP unless… you have an accountability system to verify students’ learning from the videos. Or else again, what’s the point?! I give short “Need2Know” quizzes for each video lesson, which can be retaken to show mastery of the essential content / skills. [see more about this in my Assessment category of blog posts]  You can develop your own system, but blindly expecting kids to watch your videos ‘for their own good’ is a sure path to disappointment and frustration.

5.  DO NOT FLIP unless… your learning objectives are rock-solid. Flipping will quickly expose your curriculum weaknesses. If the videos are presenting essential knowledge, you must define those basic facts/skills!  Otherwise your videos might be 30-40 minutes long, and/or the class activities will be disconnected from the flipped videos of direct instruction. Then everything will collapse: kids don’t watch the videos, you’re pulling your hair out, quiz scores decline, and it’s too late to bail out. Nightmare….

6. DO NOT FLIP unless… you’ve considered the impact on your grading system.
“Homework = 30% of the term grade” probably won’t work anymore.  Homework assignments will serve a different function now.  “Classwork” and “Projects” are categories that also need revision in your mind, at least for report card grading.

Now you might feel like Jon Stewart —>
Your mind is blown. Flipping your classroom was supposed to be cool & easy: just assign videos for homework, become the “cool teacher who lets us watch Youtube for homework”, pat yourself on the back for a job well done…. 
​Sorry, but it doesn’t work like that. Real flipping is a full-scale paradigm shift that changes everyone’s classroom experience, your connection to parents & families, and students’ ideas about homework.


OK, if you still feel ready to proceed then here are some hopefully helpful links:

I will add more items as I think of them (or as readers suggest/request them in the comments below).


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