The Flipped Classroom

More and more, you might hear about the flipped classroom. What is it? Well, the flipped classroom is a teaching model where students do traditional classroom activities, such as listen to lectures, at home via the Internet, resulting in more time for engaging practice activities in class. It’s a nice setup because students listening to lesson materials at home can set whatever pace they are comfortable with. For example, lower level students can view materials multiple times and higher level students can breeze through everything more quickly. In a traditional classroom, students of various levels all have to follow the same pace set by the teacher and this is less than ideal for many students. In flipped classrooms, teachers are more involved in practice activities which are done in class, rather than for homework. This allows teachers to see exactly where students struggle and adjust their teaching accordingly. Here is an infographic that explains the concept nicely. For ESL/EFL classes, the flipped classroom approach is wonderful because it maximizes the amount of time students speak English in class and minimizes the amount of teacher talk time.

One resource to help you flip your classroom, even for just a few trial periods, is Allthink*, which I introduced earlier this month in my TESOL Connections article, “4 Websites for Tech-Savvy Teachers.”

It is very easy to use and allows you to combine a lot of different types of media. The best place to start is at Engrade, where you register for a free account. I’ll talk about the many perks of Engrade later on but for now, just know that registering for Engrade is completely free and gives you access to Allthink, which is listed as “Allthink Lessons” under the Apps tab at the top of the screen. Once you are on that page, click “Create New Lesson” to get directed to the Allthink page.

From Allthink’s home page, you can watch a tutorial and view previously made lessons. You might even just choose one to use as is with your students, but if none of those are what you are looking for, creating a new lesson is simple too. Add a video, PowerPoint, document, image, or text to create the first page and continue adding material until everything you want students to view at home has been included, then create a short quiz. Although you can add quite a bit of material, it’s probably best to start small, especially if you are incorporating one or more videos into your Allthink mini lesson. Just give students the link so that they can access the material outside of class, and then you can view the results of the quiz to see how well students mastered the material before heading into the next class.

While Allthink mini lessons and the flipped classroom are great in many ways, there are also some drawbacks. Firstly, explaining to students how to use Allthink and other online resources at home if you lack the technology to demonstrate it in class could be quite challenging, especially for beginning ESL/EFL students. Additionally, some students may have limited computer and Internet access so it’s important to suggest alternate places students can access this material, such as in a school library or computer lab. Creating Allthink lessons could also be time consuming in the beginning, but it gets easier and the material will always be available online so you can reuse lessons year after year.

The extent to which technology is used in education depends a lot on where you teach and what resources are available to you and your students. If you think a flipped classroom approach could work for you, try Allthink to get started. It is simpler than you think.

*Note: Unfortunately, Allthink closed its doors on 30 June 2014. 

About Tara Arntsen

Tara Arntsen
Tara Arntsen recently completed her Master's degree in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California. She currently teaches in the Intensive English Program at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She has taught ESOL in China, Japan, and Cambodia as well as online. Her primary interests are communicative teaching methods and the use of technology in education.
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23 Responses to The Flipped Classroom

  1. Husnawadi says:

    Thank you. I am an Indonesian who is currently lecturing English writing in a state university on the island of Lombok Indonesian, east of Bali. I have employed Flipped Classroom (FC) for my writing classes since two years ago. I am now finishing my paper on it. Given the catastrophic impacts of the deadly earthquakes shaking the island last year, leaving the campus building inconvenient for the students and instructors to use, and resulting a reduced learning hour, FC was an alternative. I am now finishing my paper on it, investigating the efficacy of this learning approach married with TBLT in a post earthquake writing context.
    Thank you for the post

  2. ruth says:

    Hi I work with bilingual assistants who use mother tongue with eal learners (typically children aged 10-16). They would like to try the flipped classroom by: asking class teachers what their next topic will be/collaborating with teachers on their plan for this topic/preparing a podcast of the main teaching points in mother tongue for kids to watch before the class teacher begins the topic. This is new to us and I just wonder if you could tell us if we are heading in the right direction with this! Thanks: )

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Thank you for your question, Ruth! I think that the flipped classroom approach covers a fairly broad spectrum of ideas, so if what is being done at your school benefits the students, then it sounds like the right direction to me. As with any change, there will likely be some hiccups and maybe even opposition along the way, but it makes sense to me that if students are prepared for the content of the lesson they will receive in English using resources in their first language, that they will comprehend more of what’s done in the classroom and therefore be able to participate more fully with their peers. Let us know how it goes!

  3. Jinda Koocharoen says:

    Hello, I am conducting research about Developing English writing capability through the Flipped classroom for grade 11 ESL. Could you recommend a related website?

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Hi, Jinda. What an excellent research topic! Perhaps because it is still relatively new, there really is just not enough material out there about the pros and cons of the flipped classroom. Unfortunately, nothing specifically related to your topic comes to mind, however, I am sure that if our readers have suggestions for you, they will leave a comment. Good luck with your research!

  4. David Henebry says:

    Good Morning

    This methodology is similar to what was used on our SDSU online coursework and was excellent. The lecture becomes a resource we are able to go back to and play again when we want to check our thoughts on what we thought we heard. In the traditional model once the lecture is complete you only get what you walked out the door with. I can see a lot of marginally engaged students or easily distracted students gaining a lot through this model. Your early bird kids would watch the lectures in the morning and the night owls before they crash at night so kids would be receiving the knowledge when it works for them. When you combine this with the extra curricular activities children are engaged with the kids develop natural time management skills early on.

    Thanks for sharing and I hope to see this model as a standard sometime soon.


    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Thank you for your comment, David! It is great to hear you have had such success with this approach. Online courses are almost forced into this method of delivery, so with more and more courses being offered online, it seems likely to become even more popular, but it would be great to have more classroom teachers adopt it as well and that is not always an easy sell. Thanks again!

    • Tabby Riley says:

      I have used the “Flipped” classroom several times for a medical terminology course and the students that were surveyed all stated that they preferred it to the traditional atmosphere where the teacher does all the talking and simply reads from a Power Point. We played games, worked in groups, had prizes and even used iClickers to review for the final examination. It was a lot of work to get the activities put together, but worth it!

      • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

        That’s great, Tabby! It’s wonderful to hear success stories like yours. Besides the work put in to plan the activities, were there any other challenges you faced along the way? It would be interesting to know more about your experience and also how you managed to overcome difficulties along the way.

  5. 叶印祥 says:

    Hello! I am English teacher in China. Very glad to read your great ideas about flipped classroom. In China, large number of students who learn English for years are left behind, just because of being unable to catch up with the teacher and so called faster students. That really worries me—an ordinary teacher—have being teaching English for 20 years. I really hope to talk with you about the issue. Hope to contact by email !

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Hello and thank you for your comment! Unfortunately, I cannot respond via email because I do not have access to your contact information, but I am happy to discuss the issue with you here. I only taught in China for a couple years, but I can understand some of the challenges you face and I believe that many teachers around the world are worried about similar issues. In your situation, perhaps flipped learning could help those students who struggle with English because they would have more time to listen to or view the content of your lessons at home without being rushed by higher level students or the time constraints of the classroom setting. If you start flipping your classroom, I would be very interested to hear the results. Good luck!

  6. We at OES have been working developing a platform with an adaptive learning methodology known as Spaced Learning. This platform allows tracking every student on every studied object, and reinforces the object at longer intervals of time. Objects with more difficulties are reinforced with higher frequency that those learned or known. The objective is to guarantee that the student learns all the objects, but do not waste time studying objects that s/he knows. In other words, learn more in less time.
    The objects are grouped in lessons, but we do not evaluate the lessons but the objects. Every object has its own set of questions; as many as needed to satisfy the requirements to validate that the student has learned it. This avoid a memorization of answers and questions.
    The most attractive part of this methodology is the BIG data that we can accumulate with the reinforcing/re-evaluating process; It is a continuous evaluation. Students must take the reviews before they study new objects or lessons. A clock is monitoring the study time, cumulative and per session. The Teachers can know at any time the student’s performance; individual strengths and weaknesses; which are the most difficult objects for the class; which students are falling behind; which class is falling behind; average of study time; etc., etc.
    Harvard University has been researching this methodology (Spaced Education) and has concluded that it accelerates knowledge acquisition, increase long-term retention, and that it is neutral to the nature of content.

    After Bergmann y Sams adopted flipping the classroom some years ago, many other teachers have proved the advantages to have more homogeneous groups with much higher participation in class, which at the end it has transformed to have faster improvements on students-at-risks, and better outcomes in general. Flipping the classroom means to let the students discover and study the knowledge by themselves; out of the classroom, at home; and wait for them at the classroom with activities for applying, analyzing and creating with their knowledge. The results talk by themselves; in general the schools who have adopted this model have improved by 33% the outcomes of the previous years.

    Well, if Teachers under a Flipped Classroom Mode use a platform which can let them know the weaknesses and strengths of every student, they will be able to group them in class to be more productive; They know every individual’s deficiencies, and they could focus to help every student on their own problems; in other words, they should be able to come back to the individualized education, no matter how many students they have in the class.

    We have developed more than 45,000 objects for EFL comprised on vocabulary, grammar, reading and comprehension and listening and comprehension. An additional module allows students to develop writing skills completing the assignments created by the teacher. These objects have been developed for speakers of Spanish, Portuguese, Bahasa Indonesia, and Chinese. The objects are grouped in lessons to follow the teaching plan.

    It would be a pleasure to show you the platform at any time.

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Thank you for the comment, Arnaldo! It definitely sounds like the flipped classroom approach could be further improved with the spaced learning methodology you mentioned and I would be interested in learning more about what you have developed. Just out of curiosity, might it also be possible to develop a system that is not tied to a student’s first language?

  7. Joel Compton says:

    Our university in Turkey is pioneering the idea of the Flipped Classroom in Turkey. Of course, many other universities are doing this around the world–though not as many as one might think. Further, our university is also using a blended classroom approach in our English Preparatory Program–the first to do this in the country (and who knows, maybe the world?? if anyone has information on this, I’d love to know about it. Please feel free to contact me.) The Flipped classroom was a new concept to me as of six months ago. But, after researching it and working at MEF University in Istanbul, I know a little more than I did. Still, I’m no expert.

    We want our school to model the kind of learning environment that Generation X and Y seem to be the most interested in, which is learning on your own, with a “guide on the side” to help.

    At any rate, we’re having fun with our blended classrooms. We have a video and assignments that the students do before class (all online). Then, in class, students are encouraged to speak to one another and direct the class (to some extent–more of this happens in our tutorial sessions). Following class, the student is online again, following up with the day’s lesson and, ideally, coming to class ready to direct through questions and concerns that they might have . So, again, we are not a fully flipped classroom in the Preparatory Program. But the University (the specific faculties) is employing the method, and we in the English Preparatory Program are, hopefully, preparing them for the entrepreneurial style of learning which really encapsulates the genius of the flipped classroom.

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Thank you for your comment, Joel! It must be very exciting to be part of a program that has consciously made such a big change in its approach to teaching and learning. If you have any recommendations for research or tools to share, we would definitely like to hear them. Thank you again and good luck!

  8. Caitlin Hammond says:

    Hi Tara,
    I just took a workshop on flipped classrooms and am beginning to get some research off the ground to flip classrooms in a university TESOL setting. I read in a previous comment that this research isn’t prevalent for our curriculum area as of yet (which would explain why I haven’t found any papers about it), but I was wondering if you had any information/research that would be helpful in aiding my plans to conduct a study on the impact of a flipped classroom on ELL’s ability to improve their writing outcomes. Thank you for your blog! It’s great to see other people who are interested in this model of teaching.
    Best Wishes,

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Hi Caitlin,

      Thank you for your comment! I wish I had something for you here, but unfortunately, I have had the same issue when looking for research on this topic. It looks like the study you will conduct will have some much needed data and research. Good luck!


  9. Alex Bale says:

    Hi Tara, thanks that was informative. You should know that your link to Allthink now lo longer works, you may want to edit it!

    I’m enjoying flipping and am trying to build a community of people who might be interested in creating some quality videos especially for ESL – so far there hasn’t been much interest in flipping from our community but I don’t know why, it seems like a logical next step in improving our teaching methodology!

    A good place to discuss flipping with other like-minded professionals is The Flipped Learning Network – they have a large community of flippers from many areas and are active in promoting and helping people to flip.

    I recently blogged about flipping too, I am hoping to introduce it to more teachers – if you’re interested you can see the post here

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Thank you for your comment, Alex. I will get that link for Allthink fixed. It is too bad that Allthink is gone. It was really a nice tool. Thank you for that information and the links too. I will be sure to check them both out. While flipping may not have reached every community yet, it is definitely still gaining momentum. A number of presenters discussed this technique at the TESOL convention this year and I think that we can expect to see even more flipping methods in upcoming years. Good luck with flipping! Being a leader on this in your community will definitely encourage others to try it out.

  10. Carol Kubota says:

    I just checked the site Allthink and it no longer exists. I am very interested in techniques for flipping second language classrooms especially in higher ed intensive English programs. I would like to connect with others who have the same interests. I have been flipping for almost three years. Let’s share what we know.

    Carol Kubota
    Arizona State University Instructor

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Thank you for the comment, Carol! I am sorry to hear that Allthink is gone. I am happy that flipping has worked out so well for you. It was featured in a number of sessions at the annual convention in Portland this year. Do you have any tips for the beginners out there?

  11. Pascale Richard says:

    My name is Pascale and I am completing my Masters in Education with the University of Alabama. I was wondering if you know of any research on Flipping classes and second language learning?
    Thank you

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      That’s a great question, Pascale! Unfortunately, I do not seem to have any articles on the flipped classroom approach for second language learning. If you have access to Google Scholar, that might be a good place to search for such materials. Since the flipped classroom approach is still rather new, it could take a while for research to catch up.

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