Flipped Learning Approaches

Fall 2021 : Increased resistance to active learning?


  • In-person attendance reluctance
  • Habituated to online, viewing, passive experience
  • Active learning hesitancy to engage, take risks, speak, be a leader
  • Question value of in-person learning


  • Habituated or dependent to teacher-dominated class sessions
    • to slides, lectures, Socratic method, tech-for-engagement
  • Concerned about content coverage, un-scheduled class-time, managing and coordinating an “active” class of students

What to do?

What is flipped learning at MSU?

  • Using the unique tools of class-time, social interaction, and professor presence to clarify, extend, solidify, and complicate knowledge gained alone at home.

Three-step process

Step 1. Before class: First exposure

A. Provide engaging content to teach the lesson

  • The classic approach is a recorded video lecture: Powerpoint with a professor on the side, providing lecture.
  • Use professional video content from a publisher, other faculty, professional societies, public sources
  • Use written content — reading still counts!
  • Textbook materials
  • Podcasts

B. Engage the content to engage students’ minds and ensure completion

  • Discussion boards
    • Tip: group students to reduce reading/responding
  • Blog/journal: text entries to standard or varied prompt
  • Wiki/collaborative text
  • Textbook questions
  • Collaborative assignments

TIP: Quick grade — just complete/incomplete.

Step 2. During class: Practice with feedback

Do not:

  • Summarize homework content (why read if your prof will tell you all about it the next day?)
  • Review content that you will deliver via lecture and slides
  • Show a video that runs uninterrupted for more than a few minutes
  • Lecture while projecting or writing on board
  • Speak most of the time to the whole class — aim for just 10-20% of the entire time to be you speaking to the entire class while they listen

What to do instead?

Apply what has been learned, individually or in groups:

  • Develop examples of a concept discussed in reading or homework: call on some students to report, offering corrections to teach all how the examples are and are not successful.
  • Create in class: give a problem and have students solve it in class, on paper. or in another form.
  • Think/pair/share on a controversial or challenging question
  • Debate prep: prepare 5-6 points for one side of a debatable question, with different students assigned different sides
  • Present new problems/case studies for students to analyze or problem-solve
  • Do further research on a topic from reading/lecture
  • Thinking routines: a set of questions or a brief sequence of steps used to scaffold thinking (Project Zero)
  • Jigsaw exercise: student groups become experts on subtopics

Writing for active learning

Beginning of class — write then share

  • Freewriting: simply require writers to keep writing for 1-2 minutes. A short period of time to clear their minds, not for sharing. Simply write and don’t stop for a short period of time.
  • Guided writing: Ask students to write in their seats to an analytical question that asks students to synthesize, make a connection, or interpret an idea. The goal is to push knowledge gained from reading or lecture to fuller understanding. After writing, have students share in pairs and then ask a few individuals to report on their partners’ responses.
  • Focused Summaries: write out a paragraph for assigned reading, with specific directions; i.e., what is the argument & what are 3 supporting examples.
  • Annotations: write out key ideas of assigned reading and briefly evaluate strengths & weaknesses of the article’s argument or research.

Concluding Activities — write then use the next day or in Step 3

  • Teach others: at the conclusion of a unit, write out to an absent classmate the major themes, discoveries, and questions of the unit.
  • What did I learn? A focused quick detailing to self what one has learned, with an expectation of identifying a specific number of independent points.
  • Identifying the conflicts: Review the major issues or authors discussed during this class/unit, and identify conflicting opinions, stating the opinion of each side.
Step 3. After class: Additional practice
  • Problem sets
  • 1-page case study analysis
  • projects
  • create a 5-minute video lecture
  • identify and define 5 key terms
  • reflection post: explain how what you learned applies to real-life
  • another reading with questions
  • interview / find and report on an interview/article
    • complicate the perspective
    • give another view
    • deepen the investigation

Manage the teaching load

  • Don’t make your own videos!
  • Don’t mark-up & grade writing generated from engagement: Assigning writing ≠ assigned grading
  • For evaluated writing, utilize light evaluation:
    • explain light evaluation–improves learning
    • give credit for the number of words, frequency of writing
    • grade simply: complete/incomplete
  • Assign peer feedback: students write, students read, students comment
    • be directive in peer feedback. For example, “Read peers’ feedback and 1) Summarize in two-sentence; 2) Offer a countering perspective, and 3) Offer a suggestion
  • Vary the writing to learn activities, modalities, formats, etc.
    • e.g., On index cards by hand vs on a live google doc;
    • e.g., Instruct to write freely or write to a specific question, etc.

MSU instructors examples of successful flipped learning activities

  • Health assessment: each group is given a different body system to learn and present to the rest of the class; also, had to develop system to evaluate presentations. Complete/incomplete eval & peer critique. Highly engaged, worked hard, clever presentations, enjoyed by students.
  • Math: Weekly classes, pre-quiz and post-quiz. Pre-quizzes are on the week’s topic and assess knowledge & prime the pump. Post-quizzes are based on chapter and then the quiz was often a simple MC or short answer, or questions within video. Quizzes were part of the final grade. Quiz questions were answerable if students did the homework. While the instructor worried that students would not like it, they did! Reading and reading comprehension increased.
What is the value of writing in class?

Writing improves cognitive processing

“language provides us with a unique way of knowing and becomes a tool for discovering, for shaping meaning, and for reaching understanding”(James Britton)

A few research findings:

  • Writing to read: writing about material improves reading comprehension, reading fluency, and word reading (Graham & Hebert 2011)
  • 1st year Bio: Journal writing on processes and problems as a supplement to lab report increased scores on MC exam (McCrindle & Christensen 1995)
  • Gen Ed Bio students: writing about experiments increased critical thinking skills of analysis and inference (Quitadamo and Kurtz 2007)
  • Learners move from knowledge telling to knowledge transformation through increasing the complexity of writing tasks (Bereiter and Scardamalia 1987)


Flipped Learning Network: strategies to create a “group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.” (Kari Afrstrom)

Origins of Flipped Learning: Bergmann and Arfstrom, high school teachers, focused on providing content through video lecture prior to class to enable active, applied activities to enact that learning in class. Their book is Flipped Learning, and The Journal published an interview with them.

Thinking routines: Helenrose Fives’s Visible Thinking Routines and Harvard’s Project Zero.

Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching

WAC, Writing Across the Curriculum Clearinghouse: strategies to use writing to promote learning in any subject

Carnegie Mellon University’s Eberly Center


Alves, J. M., Yunker, A. G., DeFendis, A., Xiang, A. H., & Page, K. A. (2021). BMI status and associations between affect, physical activity and anxiety among U.S. children during COVID-19. Pediatric obesity, e12786. Advance online publication.

Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (1987). The psychology of written composition. the psychology of education and instruction series Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Publishers, Suite 102, 365 Broadway, Hillsdale, NJ 07642 ($24.95).

Bergmann, J., & Sams, A. (2012). Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. International society for technology in education.

Graham, Steve; Michael Hebert; Writing to Read: A Meta-Analysis of the Impact of Writing and Writing Instruction on Reading. Harvard Educational Review 1 December 2011; 81 (4): 710–744.

Lage, M, Platt, Gl, & Treglia, M. Inverting the classroom: A gateway to creating an inclusive learning environment. The Journal of Economic Education 31 (1): 30-43.

McCrindle, A. R., & Christensen, C. A. (1995). The impact of learning journals on metacognitive and cognitive processes and learning performance. Learning and Instruction, 5(2), 167–185.

Quitadamo, I. J. and M. J. Kurtz (2007). “Learning to Improve: Using Writing to Increase Critical Thinking Performance in General Education Biology.” CBE—Life Sciences Education 6(2): 140-154.

Smith, L., Jacob, L., Trott, M., Yakkundi, A., Butler, L., Barnett, Y., Armstrong, N. C., McDermott, D., Schuch, F., Meyer, J., López-Bueno, R., Sánchez, G., Bradley, D., & Tully, M. A. (2020). The association between screen time and mental health during COVID-19: A cross sectional study. Psychiatry research, 292, 113333. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113333

Xiang, M., Zhang, Z., & Kuwahara, K. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on children and adolescents’ lifestyle behavior larger than expected. Progress in cardiovascular diseases, 63(4), 531–532. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pcad.2020.04.013