In Higher Ed You Are Either Planning to Flip or Planning to Fail

Higher Ed February 20 / February 24, 2020

– Dr. Caroline Fell Kurban –

Successful, effective Flipped Learning is the result of focused, intense, holistic planning. Dr. Thomas Mennella, a genetics professor at Bay Path University states that once he flipped, he had to become a much more organized instructor. He sees planning and preparation as one of the best features of Flipped Learning. He further says that in a traditional classroom, I often “winged it.” Any material missed in one class period was squished into the next. This chapter will help you to effectively plan for Flipped Learning, which is critical to creating a successful Flipped Learning classroom.

Designing for effective learning

Planning for effective Flipped Learning needs to consider several factors. The most important one is the ultimate goal of education: that instead of students just learning for an exam, they understand and absorb concepts until they THE NEW UNIVERSITY MODEL 46 become part of who they are. Michael Wesch describes this as a contrast between strategic learning and deep learning:

Strategic learning is where you are trying to learn for the test, whereas deep learning is really about a transformation of the self. Strategic learning tends to be temporary and largely driven toward extrinsic rewards that are also temporary, and ultimately is unlikely to be transformed into knowledge that can be used in other domains. For deep learning, you set out with a very different intention: changing yourself and absorbing the material for long-term growth (Wesch, 2017).

Achieving deep learning, or “learning for understanding,” as Jerry Gollub, Meryl Bertenthal, Jay Labov, and Philip Curtis (2002) describe it, requires instruction that does the following:

• Maintains students’ focus on the central organizing themes and underlying concepts of the discipline.

• It’s based on careful consideration of what students already know, their ideas and ways of understanding the world, and patterns of practice they bring with them into the classroom.

• Focuses on detecting, making visible, and addressing students’ often fragile, underdeveloped understandings and misconceptions.

• Reflects an understanding of differences in students’ interests, motivations, preferences, knowledge, and abilities.

• It’s designed to provide the appropriate degree of explicitness for the situation and the abilities of the learners.

• Recognizes students’ preferences for and varying abilities to process different symbol systems, such as language (written and spoken), images, and numerical representations, by employing multiple representations during instruction.

• Engages students in worthwhile tasks that provide access to powerful mathematical and scientific ideas and practices; moves students to see past the surface features of problems to the deeper, more fundamental principles; and develops their conceptual understanding and skills.

• Structures learning environments in which students can work collaboratively to gain experience in using the ways of thinking and speaking used by experts in their discipline.

• Orchestrates classroom discourse so that students can make conjectures, present solutions, and argue about the validity of claims. This helps them explore old understandings in new ways, reveal misconceptions, and transfer their learning to new problems or more robust understandings.

• Provides explicit instruction in metacognition as part of teaching in the discipline.

• Uses various kinds of formal and informal formative assessments to monitor students’ understanding and target instruction effectively.

• Creates expectations and social norms for the classroom that allow students to experience success and develop confidence in their abilities to learn (Gollub et al., 2002, p. 139).

Well-implemented Flipped Learning fulfills these requirements and will, by its very nature, enable this kind of effective instruction.

Pedagogy versus andragogy

Whereas pedagogy is the study of how children learn, andragogy is the study of how adults learn. Since higher education is usually a student’s last stop before entering the workforce, focusing on deep, transformative learning is particularly important. In most universities, many students are well into adulthood. Whether they are pursuing a degree for the first time or training for a second career, adults learn differently than children, and those differences are essential for a university instructor to understand.

According to Malcolm Shepherd Knowles, adults learn best when four characteristics are considered:

• Involvement: Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.

• Experience: Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for the learning activities.

• Relevance: Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life.

• Problem-centeredness: Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented (Pappas, 2013).

These four principles should guide how we plan our courses, especially when we plan for a Flipped Learning course.

Excerpt from The New University Model available here on

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Editorial Leam
Editorial Team
This article was written by a collaboration of editors and columnists on the FLR editorial team or guest contributors.

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