Flipped Learning Is an Elephant: Here’s How to Eat It

Editors Features April 19 / April 16, 2019

–Beth Lamb–

Desmond Tutu so eloquently stated, “There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” What I take this to mean is that we should do things one step at a time. What we in New Zealand say, “Kaua e mate wheke mate ururoa” –which means, don’t die like an octopus, die like a hammerhead shark. Octopi are renowned for their lack of resistance when being captured; however, a hammerhead shark will fight bitterly to the end. It is commonly used to encourage someone not to give up, no matter how hard the struggle is. These are two principles that strongly focus me when I am trying to help teachers enhance their pedagogical practice with Flipped Learning.

I have key principles that I use as a roadmap on the extreme safari that is Flipped Learning and Flipped Teaching.  


Andragogy, as described by Malcolm Knowles in 1968, suggests that adults like examples. They like to see or feel what something is like to best learn and to best see it in action. We all know what an elephant looks like, but it’s a whole different experience to see it in its natural environment. For Flipped Learning, this principle is best achieved by getting staff to visit other staff. The caveat to that is they need to see ‘like for like’ examples. Beware of teachers finding reasons why “It might be okay for them …. But not with my students.”  

Pilot or lead staff, already in the school, (sometimes referred to as “the early adopters”) are invaluable as they are real tangible folk in the same school. But if not then, a close match is useful. From such visits and observations, the “how” to in-flip becomes tangible. In-flip is where the learners access the individual space material in the classroom in contrast to flipped where the resources are accessible at home. From talking with students who are involved in the process, and excited teachers reflecting on results and engagement, the outside observer gains an insight into how to set it up in their room. The consequential reasoning as to how to in-flip becomes a self-directed safari which, as an adult, learning theory lends itself as a perfect complementary match to Flipped Learning.


If at all possible, capture unit plans and specific lesson plans with all the planning and resources made available to give to staff as a kind of a paint-by-numbers guide. This will enable busy teachers to get a feel for the joy of an in-flipped active learning class with the least possible input of effort required. While it must be recognized to all that this is far from the personalized utopia we all strive for, it can often be the experience required to motivate staff to try their own lessons once they have the elusive “feel” for how it flows.

Small Achievable Steps

While learning and seeing all about a flipped class can be inspiring, how to actually do it on your own can be daunting. Teachers need to be reminded that just like they would not ask their students to learn an entirely new curriculum in one week, neither should they put so much pressure on themselves. Punya Mishra and Matthew J. Koehler’s (2006) TPACK framework suggests that great lessons involving digital immersion need to follow a few basic principles.

First, the teacher needs to have strong content knowledge. I suggest staff start with their favorite subject. Teachers will have the breadth and depth of experience in this content to allow some flexibility.

Second, teachers need strong pedagogical knowledge. Staff who know their learners and the style in which each learns best will be in the best position to tailor resources and activities for success. Through discussions around teaching and learning, it is usually possible to weave individual space and group space philosophies into known teaching practices. Click here to learn more.

Third, teachers need technical knowledge; this often needs to be as simplified as possible as it can be seen as an unnecessary block. Flipped Learning is not exclusively the domain of the techie geek in a school. Technical knowledge may involve being able to digitize a resource or activity, share the content in a digital manner and receive information or products from the learners when completed.

Next, we investigate the class and students. I regularly suggest selecting one group. This is often a user-friendly group who might best adapt in a generous manner to a teacher trying something new, and we start with just in-flipping them. After about a week, the teacher is usually self-pacing themselves to bring on board another group or the rest of the class.

Immediate feedforward is as important for adults as students. I am very privileged as I am able to get alongside staff in their rooms, which means I can often catch small glitches in resources and planning or timing as soon as possible. With tiny tweaks, together we can avert the confidence blowouts that teachers can face when trying new pedagogy on their own.

By having the structure of the FLGI certifications available, it is easy to direct staff to quality next steps when they feel ready to be pushed to explore other ideas and approaches. Are you ready for your own Flipped Learning safari? Are you ready to be a trailblazer? I gave you the roadmap. Now, the time has come to set off on your journey!


Beth Lamb
Beth Lamb
I have completed Flipped Learning Level 1 and 2 certificates as well as the Flipped Trainer program. I am a Google certified educator level 1 & 2, Google authorised Trainer, Google innovator and mentor. I have a Post Graduate Diploma in Education (Elearning), Post Graduate Certificate of Educational Management, a Bachelor of Education and a Diploma of Teaching. I have completed the facilitator program for Investment in Excellence and have completed the New Zealand National Aspiring Principals Program. I have presented at GAFE summits, Educamps, Ulearn, Learning@schools, NZLA Conferences, and organised cluster mini conferences and tours. I currently lead a digital immersion cluster in Whangarei and spend my time as a tech coach and mentor for teachers, principals and school wide staff. Prior to this I have been a facilitator for an ICT pd cluster and taught as a primary teacher for almost 20 yrs.

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