How to do a flip (and not land on your face)

At Bett 2016 Technology in HE Summit, I attended a very interesting panel discussion where Zoe Swan, Senior Lecturer in Law from University of Greenwich, talked about introducing the flipped lecture approach in her lectures. It was really exciting and refreshing to hear that the flipped classroom approach can work across a range of disciplines, including the more traditional, ‘lecture-heavy’ ones.

Interestingly, lecturers who have adopted the flipped lecture approach often claim to have done so in response to a growing frustration with their previous methods of teaching, be it traditional lecturing, the Socratic method etc. The flipped approach is very much based on the philosophies of problem-based learning and active learning: one of the the main premises is that learning should be interactive and collaborative. Notably, lecturers report that this approach allows them to “really teach” instead of engaging in a theatre-like performance.

The flipped lecture approach has also been seen as a response to the changing profile of the student body. It has been observed that due to all sorts of factors participation and engagement, especially in large groups, can no longer be taken for granted, and students respond to attempts to engage them directly (e.g. by asking questions) by hiding at the back of the class or skipping lectures altogether. Also, even if only anecdotally, students’ attention span seems to be shorter, which, coupled with the pervasive use of mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones, results in the lecturer’s frustration at not knowing whether students are taking notes or updating their status on Facebook.

There is quite a lot of evidence, from various disciplines from maths and science through law to social sciences and humanities , that the flipped approach does result in increased engagement. True, it requires a lot of time and effort at the start when producing the materials, however they tend to pay off quite quickly.

A word of caution: the flipped lecture approach may not be suitable for all areas or subjects, and may not fit in with everyone’s preferred teaching style. However, while studying the resources below, it is useful to see how lecturers who decided to ‘flip’ their lectures first reflected on their teaching practice and the frustrations and disappointments they faced in a traditional classroom.

Some ideas and case studies can be found here (if you don’t have time, read just those in bold):

Flipped Classroom

The Flipped Lecture

Flipping your class – a quick guide

Flipped classrooms at the University of Greenwich: our lecturers discuss (law and architecture)

Exploring how flipped learning supports students in developing problem solving skills [SHIFT2015] (law and architecture)

A path to the flipped institution?

The flipped law classroom: Retooling the classroom to support active teaching and learning (law – Canada) – excellent discussion of the concept, existing research and authors’ own experiences. Includes links to video materials one of the authors uses in his teaching. 

Crash Course on Flipped Classrooms – discussion of the concept and links to evidence confirming the approach works and countering misconceptions

Thoughts on lecture flipping (Michael Seery) and conference video

Blended Learning: A Flipped Classroom Experiment (law – US) – how to change your teaching practices after 36 years of teaching

What I wish I knew before I flipped my lecture (maths)

Taking the instruction of law outside the lecture hall: how the flipped classroom can make learning more productive and enjoyable (for professors and students) (law – US)

Flipped: Prof Models New Way of Teaching (law – US) – with great video example of a classroom activity for a flipped lecture

The flipped classroom (law – US)

Teaching advanced legal research in a flipped classroom (law – US)

Case studies from archaeology, engineering design, literary studies, critical thinking, paediatrics and veterinary science


ablconnect is a great website with examples of active learning activities from various disciplines that can be used in a flipped lecture.