Two Items On Flipped Learning

Scott Elias:

[Flipping your classroom] carries a load of assumptions, including (minimally) the fact that students (1) have access, (2) will bother to watch it, and (3) have the skills to process and make meaning of what they’re watching (note-taking, summarizing, and the ability to ask good questions about what they don’t understand for starters). In my experience, these skills often need to be explicitly taught and scaffolded for students.

Brian Stockus:

What is with the insistence on the lecture (direct instruction) model? Teachers appear to be loving the ability to offer more engaging, open-ended activities in class now that students are watching lectures at home. What was stopping these teachers from offering these kinds of activities before? Why do teachers think students have to be told what to do before they actually do any math?

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. This is what I’m talking about.

    “What is with the insistence on the lecture (direct instruction) model?”

    Not jumping on the “flipped class” bandwagon doesn’t mean one is insisting on all lecture, all the time. It’s a false dichotomy.

  2. The access is an issue. What I’ve done right now is I actually burn DVDs at the beginning of each unit of all the videos for the unit. Of course, my videos aren’t really lectures, they’re seeds. We did an activity about proportions and animal populations and mark and recapture, so the night before they watched a video showing how mark and recapture works. It got them thinking about it, and helped them buy in, and I got to see what questions they had before class started.

    I think if flipping mean putting Act 1 the night before to let it simmer, that’s a good use of flipping.

  3. Hey All,

    I am doing my best to learn more about traditional education and this is a new term to me: Flipped Learning. (Yes I am new to this field)

    Is there a simple explanation or a good resource I should check out to learn about it? Thanks!

  4. Has anyone ever looked at flipping the classroom as an act of appeasement towards parents? The first thing I’ve always gotten from parents when I don’t assign much homework is push-back. Perhaps flipped videos are an offering to the parental-gods, to satiate their desire for “MOAR HOMEWORK!”

    On the other hand, as I’m sure many of you will point out, there are lots of parents that could care less. This is also true. But in a realistic world where the kids who actually CAN flip, chance their parents are slightly more involved anyway.

  5. @Jeremy – I’m not so much worried about what Khan thinks about flipped classrooms as I am about the teachers I’ve met who are flipping their classrooms or being persuaded to flip their classrooms by other teachers. Many are convinced to make a switch in their practice based on a blog post they read or a speaker they heard at a conference.

    I’m happy that Khan is advocating for simulations. Unfortunately he doesn’t speak for all of the teachers who currently flip their classrooms. The term flipped class is quickly taking on a life of its own, and if there was a pure definition of how to do it at one time, it is quickly morphing to fit the needs and desires of those wielding its power. Very quickly I fear it’s going to become a loaded (and potentially divisive) term.

  6. Jeremy Arendt:

    This is only half true. Khan has actually directly said that simulations should often be done before presenting Direct Instruction.

    It’s 100% true that this post had nothing to with KA before you got here. If you want that quote and comment to stand, I’ll need a citation.


    The term flipped class is quickly taking on a life of its own, and if there was a pure definition of how to do it at one time, it is quickly morphing to fit the needs and desires of those wielding its power.

    This is true. I was on a flipped learning podcast recently and basically any criticism could be parried by saying, “Well that’s the old kind of flipped learning. That’s the classic model.”

  7. Dan:

    I didn’t realize flipping had been around long enough to have a “classic” model. That’s a new one for me, but not surprising. I don’t like to be a “contrarian,” but the usual response to any criticism or questioning by me has been that I must be “pro-lecture” or “all about direct instruction.”

    I’m just pro “let’s figure out what we can do to make an education accessible for more kids” and I’m not sure outsourcing lectures to family time is the answer.

    Thanks for the discussion.

  8. It’ll be fun in another 10 years when the new thing in education will be the “re-flipped classroom”, where new information is learned in class and is practiced at home!

    Scott’s point is well taken. There is a very serious access and equity issue with any attempt to take Internet-based learning to scale.

  9. I hate to be that guy that posts a blog post as a comment…but I’m gonna do it anyway. If Dan lets me. If I had a ‘thesis’ for this post, it would be something like “Flipped learning increases student learning simply because class time is used in ways that are more effective at helping students learn, rather than because of some videos or something.” I should probably shorten the thesis…but I would love some feedback on what people think of this.

  10. I don’t get it. Not one bit. Why is flipping always about videos? You can flip with a book. You already have a book. There are no access issues. There are no increased production costs. If we wanted to flip, we’ve had the tool since Gutenberg.

  11. @Jared: I had a language teacher in the mid-80s who was required to use one of those anthologies put together by the state board and she had us read at home and “talk” in class!

  12. @Jared: good point. In that sense, my classes were flipped almost as soon as I started teaching. However, my challenge was always to get the students to do the reading assignment before class which most of them didn’t do. I tried assigning questions from the reading, but found that they would skim to find the answer, but didnt really read the rest of the assignment. I think many figured out that the class time activity depended upon them understanding the reading, but then again, that wasn’t always enough to encourage them to always do the reading.

    I wonder if there is research showing whether students are more inclined to watch a video than to read a book, or if the content they learn from one is deeper or broader than from the other. Certainly, it’s easy for me to sit through a video for fifteen minutes, but that doesn’t mean I’m paying any attention to it. I’d guess that the effect sizes would be different for students with different learning styles and those at different levels.

  13. So, what are we thinking is best, basically I’m utterly lost. Please help me, should I be using videos at home? I do lots of discussion after about 10 minutes of scene setting. I also like to show the next lesson video as a plenary at the end of my lesson to allow the creative juices to flow! Why is teaching so frustrating.

  14. errrgh. I was thrilled with the two quotes Dan pasted, I wanted to come read comments and add in my own. But I always seem to be jazzed by thoughts that no one else comments on. Maybe because I’m a product of a different “flipped” generation of teachers. When we were trying to figure out how to do flipping before flipping was cool. As Brian Stockus said,

    What was stopping these teachers from offering these kinds of activities before? Why do teachers think students have to be told what to do before they actually do any math?

    Especially his second question. My sense of the “New Flipped” assumes students cannot do math prior to being told what to do, or how to think. …sigh [Dan, watch for it… … … #killmath]

  15. George Bigham

    October 6, 2012 - 4:30 pm -

    @Jarred, some students learn better reading, some learn better with visual and audio. There is no reason they need be an exclusive either or choice. The reason why video gets more attention is pretty obvious, its a new option that didn’t exist before. Why would people not be excited about new modes of delivery unless they don’t care about improving access to mathematical ideas?

  16. @George VARK has been debunked so many times that it’s a dead theory. Just a FYI, I’ll link some research in next post, if that is ok?

  17. Last spring I had the “that’s the old flip” line thrown back at me. I was told the mainstream media was to blame.

    Then, in June, I received an issue of ISTE’s Learning and Leading in which the flipped model was described as follows:

    “The ‘flipped’ part of the flipped classroom means that students watch or listen to lessons at home and do their ‘homework’ in class.”

    Seems the classic model was still in place as late as three months ago. Or, maybe the folks at ISTE just didn’t get the memo.

    Speaking of organizations whose goal it is to improve/transform learning & teaching, I’m curious what others think of NCTM President Linda Gojak’s recent column on this model (

    She writes, “Flipped lessons that simply demonstrate how to do a procedure do not encourage understanding, do not ensure that students will remember the procedure, and do not promote adaptive reasoning.”

    I think the NCTM comments (intentionally) leave the door wide open for the ‘yeah-buts’— “Yeah, but my videos are more than procedural skills. I also give students intuition” or “Yeah, but I’m doing the new flip.”

    So… what about flipped lessons that are more than do-this-then-do-this? If the introduction to a concept is an explanation (live or Memorex), can the NCTM process standards still be addressed?

    In the NCTM Standards, it says “Solving problems is not only a goal of learning mathematics but also a major means of doing so.” The flipped classrooms that have been described to me may address the former but certainly not the latter.

    [Aside— Okay, I get why the NCTM charges for professional resources that support high quality teaching, but the Standards??? Should these not be free and easily available to all teachers (NCTM member or not), administrators, and parents?]

  18. @george: your suggestion that I’m not interested in improving access isn’t very helpful.

    But to the point: @gwen has the crucial observation. It is hard to get kids to read, watch or view math at the right pace. My initial comment is centered around the excitement from enthusiasts saying things like “now with video kids can watch over and over again and kids can watch at their own pace!” Duh. You can do that with a book. Easier, in fact. It is easier to “rewind” a book. But how do a get a kid to watch and learn carefully? In the 90’s when computers were storming into education, people got excited about these “adapative programs” that Dan was also talking about. Guess what? It was really hard to get kids to pause and read the “advice” on the screen.

    If a student is frustrated and really wants to know how to do a certain homework problem or a problem for tomorrow’s test, they’ll watch that video over and over. And I think to George’s point, they might watch a video over reading. In part because we’re raising a video culture. In part because we don’t teach academic reading. But just because a student will use a tool when his back is against the wall doesn’t make it the best tool.

    @blaw: I’m with you. It is a great and awesome challenge to figure out how to get our students to actually be doing math. And what we say to them before anything starts (Act 1?) is crucial. This might be a caricature, but if flipped math is: “here’s a process you need to memorize. if you start memorizing it at home, things will be easier.” Maybe the best form of flipping I can imagine right now is my few, feeble attempts at getting kids to investigate geometric ideas using a geogebra set-up before we lay out the details in class.

  19. Chris Hunter:

    Speaking of organizations whose goal it is to improve/transform learning & teaching, I’m curious what others think of NCTM President Linda Gojak’s recent column on this model (

    I thought it was adequately skeptical. She admitted a certain lacuna in her knowledge base and then laid out the possible dangers of the model (one of which you quoted). Way better than the NCTM Smarter Brief mailing list which is totally unskeptical of all kinds of pseudo-innovations that deserve our skepticism.

  20. 2 things
    #1- Dan are you going to NCTM? I got to hear you talk at our Dupage conference math meeting two years ago and have had my teaching (and others) changed since.

    #2- I have been “flipping” my classroom since the start of this year and I cant emphasize enough that it is not about the video. it is about analyzing what you are doing with your in class time and making better use of it. Why waste time on direct instruction for 25 minutes when 70% of the kids know the basics after 10 minutes? There are days I make a video, days the kids read a book, and days the kids do “gasp” rote procedural problems at home. Bottom line is, I am seeing huge gains with my students in actual problem solving skills that they will need, as opposed to being able to solve the quadratic formula when I tell you what a, b, and c are.

  21. Hi Blake, I’ll be at NCTM giving a talk defining and describing my edtech mission statement.

    To your second note, I’m still unsure why we’d waste 25 minutes on direct instruction anyway? That’s 25 minute of teacher talking with no interaction from students, no questioning, no formative assessment. Whether that goes home on a video or it stays in the classroom, it seems like a misallocation of a teacher’s resources.

  22. The term “flipped” is being used a lot. How are the approaches being advocated any different than what the textbook or videotapes made possible many years ago?

    I have not read of many teachers reporting long term success after incorporating a “flipped” or partially “flipped” model into their practice. Of those that do seem to have found something that continues to work over the long term, they do not seem to credit either the use of video or students learning new material outside of class time for their success.

    I wonder if their achievements might be largely attributable to providing more timely formative feedback to every student in their class:

  23. Whit-

    I think that the “flip” is more than anything a shift in the mindset of instruction, something people have been advocating for years- the student centered classroom. We used to have this pretty cool curriculum- connected math- that accomplished some really good problem solving stuff, but we scrapped it for new and very traditional books. What am I doing? Using the old books, 3 act math, and our own experiments to give the kids real math experiences.

    Also- Formative assessment has taken a central role in my room.

  24. “What was stopping these teachers from offering these kinds of activities before?”

    For me, I’ve found, that with my AP level classes, my students struggle with not having a DI model of instruction. They’ve been trained so well in this method that breaking away from it causes a lot of strife.

    I guess this is the primary reason I should be breaking out those kinds of activities more often.

  25. Can someone explain why the flipped classroom model is something new? Didn’t teachers back in the day often assign us to learn lessons at home by reading books or sections in text books and then do labs/activities/discussions/take up problem sets in class? I get that the medium has changed – we can use videos now instead of just books – but it just doesn’t seem entirely new to me. And if it’s not entirely new, then we already have data and experienced educators that can tell us how and when to best use it in various types of lessons/subjects. I think we’d be better to discuss the actual differences (i.e. accessibility for students, offering more opportunities for audio/visual learners etc.) rather than trying to deal with problems we already have the answers for.