Flipped Learning: How to Keep It Simple

Out of the Box April 19 / April 17, 2019

–Steve Griffiths–

When I first started implementing Flipped Learning, I spent so much time and effort focused on creating the videos that I didn’t consider what I was going to do in class. On reflection, I realized that I needed to focus more on the in-class activities. So I have selected four principles to consider when planning every lesson, and when reflecting on the effectiveness of the lesson. These four principles are all from the Flipped Learning Global Standards.


  1. Provide differentiation within the group space

One of the many benefits of Flipped Learning is that it allows instruction to be tailored to meet the specific learning needs of individual learners. Flipped Learning supports differentiation of learning because it allows the teacher to provide the most help to the students that struggle the most. Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams said, “We think that this may be the single most important reason students thrive in the flipped model.” The students have ready access to support from the teacher and their peers in the classroom when they are doing learning activities to practice and deepen their knowledge. During lesson planning, I design active, collaborative learning experiences for the class and then consider how I need to modify the tasks to meet the individual learning needs of specific students. For example, I might provide more scaffolding or a memory aid, or I might partner-up students based on their learning needs, or I might provide more one-on-one support during the activity. I simply ask myself, “What do I need to do for these students, so they can to participate and benefit from the activity?”

Differentiating instruction is not just about catering for individual learning needs. Differentiation also involves understanding students’ interests and preferences and designing learning experiences to meet these. For example, when my Year 9 science class was learning about osmosis, I created questions about sports drinks and dehydration to cater to the interests of the football players, and I created questions about soaking raisins to cater for the students interested in cooking.


  2. Build positive relationships with students

Flipped Learning allows the teacher to spend more time interacting directly with every student, in every class, every day because less time is spent lecturing. In my lesson planning, I think about which students I need to spend the most time with. This might be based on my reflection from the previous lesson or because I predict a student might need more support for the planned activity. In class, I deliberately ensure that I interact with every student, multiple times. At the start of the lesson, I greet the students at the door and talk to each of them individually, and I do the same at the end of the lesson. During the lesson, I make sure that I spend time with each student to monitor their work, to check their understanding, to answer or ask questions and to get to know them better. When I reflect on my lessons, I think about whether I spent time with each student in each class each day. This principle is simple but very powerful.


  3. Allow learners flexibility and autonomy

Giving students some flexibility and autonomy over their learning can improve their academic achievement and their motivation for learning. (For more information on autonomy and student choice, see Ryan and Deci, 2000, or Zimmerman, 2002.)  When students watch the video lessons they have some control of their learning because they control the pace of the video as well as where, when and how many times they watch it. In the classroom, Flipped Learning can also provide students opportunities to have some choice and control over their learning. For example, students might be able to choose with whom they work, choose the learning activities they complete or choose the order of tasks they complete. Providing students with only a moderate amount of flexibility and autonomy over their learning can improve student performance and satisfaction. So when I am lesson planning, I simply think about how I can give students a little bit of choice over the learning experiences they undertake.


  4. Use a variety of active learning strategies 

The fourth principle I consider when designing classroom learning experiences is to design authentic, active learning experiences. Students are naturally motivated to learn when the content is relevant and meaningful to them, when students understand why the learning is relevant to them, and when they can apply the learning to solve real-world problems. (See Ryan and Deci, 2000 for more detail.) When planning my in-class learning experiences, I try to think about how I can relate the content to the real world and how we can use the content to solve real-world problems. To continue the osmosis example, we conducted an experiment with potatoes on salt water to investigate why hikers died from drinking too much water on a hike in Papua New Guinea.

Active learning involves a range of activities that are often hands-on and are always heads-on, where students actively participate in their learning in order to process, organize and make meaning of concepts. When I am lesson planning, I ask myself, “How can I get my students to learn and practice this concept by doing something actively?” It might be an experiment or a puzzle or a collaborative learning activity like peer-instruction or a jigsaw activity where peers teach each other.


Small steps

A wise teacher once told me, “you can’t eat an elephant in one bite,” Equally, I can’t cover all of the global standards in one go. So these four principles are the four Global Standards that I have focused on first. As a simple guy, I wanted simple principles to guide my pedagogy. I also wanted to be reassured that my practices are based on solid foundations. I certainly don’t achieve every principle, every lesson, but I certainly try.


Bergmann, J., & Sams, A. (2012). Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54-67. doi:10.1006/ceps.1999.1020

Zimmerman, B. J. (2000). Self-efficacy: An essential motive to learn. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 82-91. doi:10.1006/ceps.1999.1016


Steve Griffiths
Steve Griffiths
I have been a high school science teacher for 6 years. I am now also teaching digital technologies. I have been flipping my classroom for four years and have made over 1000 videos. My preference is the lightboard. I have presented at a number of conferences and courses on flipped learning. My specialties are video making and designing active learning experiences

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