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Classroom Q&A

With Larry Ferlazzo

In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to lferlazzo@epe.org. Read more from this blog.

Teaching Opinion

Response: ‘Flipped Learning Makes Teachers More Valuable’

By Larry Ferlazzo — January 02, 2014 8 min read
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(This is the last post in a two-part series on this topic. You can see Part One here.)

Attilio Galimberti asked:

What are best practices to make a flipped classroom model work?

Part One in this series included guest responses from enthusiastic proponents of the flipped classroom like Peter Pappas and Andrew Miller, while Josh Stumpenhorst shared reservations similar to mine in his response.

Today’s post includes positive responses from educators Jonathan Bergmann and Troy Cockrum, along with comments from readers. In addition, it should include the first weekly ten minute BAM! Radio Network podcast I’ll be doing with guests who contribute answers here. I interviewed Jonathan and Troy for this inaugural episode and, I have to say, they did a good job of alleviating a number -- though not all -- of my concerns. However, because of some technical issues, that podcast won’t be available until next week and I’ll post it separately at that time. I should be able to include future podcasts with the related posts.

Response From Jonathan Bergmann

Jonathan Bergmann was a high school science teacher for 25 years, during which he received the Presidential Award for Excellence for Math and Science Teaching in 2002 and was named a semifinalist for the Colorado Teacher of the Year in 2010. He is currently the lead technology facilitator for the Joseph Sears School in Kenilworth, Ill., and the coauthor of Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day (ASCD & ISTE, 2012):

I was once asked by a group of educational state representatives if the flipped classroom would allow them to hire less teachers. They surmised that in this day and age where you can find virtually anything on the Internet, and any subject taught on YouTube, what is the value of the classroom teacher? When I heard this question, I came unglued. They had missed the point of the flipped classroom. They had the misguided notion that teaching is the pouring out of information from one person (the teacher) into another (the student).

Fortunately, I was able to explain how teachers are in fact more valuable when they teach using a flipped approach. I believe students need teachers physically there. This is because we humans are, as a whole, relational beings. And teaching is a social interaction between teacher and students and students and students. Our students need us more than they need a video made by someone they don’t know teaching them something they may or may not want to learn about. Teaching is fundamentally about human interactions and that can’t be replaced by technology.

The reason Flipped Learning makes teachers more valuable is that it changes the dynamic of the classroom. No longer is content delivery the focus of the class, nor is the teacher’s main responsibility the dissemination of knowledge. Instead, teachers take on the role of a facilitator of learning. They are able to work with students in small groups and have more one-on-one interactions. The simple act of removing the direct instruction (lecture) from the whole group changes the dynamic of the room and allows the teacher to personalize and individualize the learning for each student. Each student gets his/her own education which is tailored to his/her needs. Instead of a one size fits all education-each student gets just what they need when they need it.

Response From Troy Cockrum

Troy Cockrum is a middle school Language Arts teacher from Indianapolis, Ind. He is also a Google Certified Teacher and host of the Flipped Learning Network Podcast. His book, Flipping Your English Class to Reach All Learners: Strategies and Lesson Plans, will be out in February:

Having flipped my classroom for 2 ½ years, I have found many best practices that make the model work. However, to say model singularly is a bit misleading. In my upcoming book, I define 5 models of the flipped classroom currently in practice: Traditional Flip, Writing Workshop Flip, Flipped Mastery, Explore Flip Apply, and Peer Instruction Flip. Following are some overall guiding principles help in making all models successful:


An objective for a flipped classroom should be flexibility. The time and place the videos are viewed shouldn’t limit the students learning. Although some have promoted the flipped classroom as a “video at home” approach, many teachers, myself included, allow students to watch videos in class. Students should be given option where (home vs. school) videos are viewed.

Teachers should also be flexible in when the information is delivered. This is not same “home vs. school” question, but rather when in the learning cycle. Some teachers prefer to front load the video content as an introduction to a concept. However, teachers should be flexible enough to recognize that placing the video later in the learning cycle after students have explored, thought critically, drew some inferences, and did their own research can help students better assimilate the material.


Teachers should create a the majority of their own content. It can be inviting for a busy teacher to assign someone else’s videos. It is acceptable to supplement the curriculum with other’s videos on occasion. However, creating one’s own content ensures that it meets the needs of their class, allows them to more closely meet their objectives, and helps build the relationship between the teacher and students.


Teachers should build reflection into the video viewing process. Having a reflection piece immediately after viewing allows the student to think critically about what they viewed and be more engaged in their learning. It can also help the teacher assess their learning. In addition, the teacher should reflect on their process and modify it as needed. Involving students in the learning process via feedback places an importance on collaboration and reflection.

All that said, the video piece allows the teacher more opportunities to engage with students, but isn’t the best part of the flipped classroom. What the teacher should focus their attention on is the types of activities and inquiry that can happen in the classroom once they’ve removed direct instruction for the constraints of class time.

Comments From Readers


Every single time I get lectured at about how the “traditional” classroom is one of passive learning to lecture, I have wonder why this lecturer assumes that I, too, am a passive learner. Has he *been* in classrooms lately?

Will a fancy name -- “flipped classroom” -- mean suddenly classrooms are engaging, individualized spaces?

I also have the serious concerns about the quality of the lectures. It seems it will exacerbate the cultural divide between students who can use mediocre materials to reinforce what they already half-know because they have an enriched background (and they’ll have sources to help them figure out the wheat from the chaff)... these are the “savviest students” who “can take active role in helping to find and curate online video material to support the lesson.”


The question really isn’t whether to flip or not to flip. As a matter of fact the focus on the techniques or ingredients of a flipped classroom hide what’s really needed: a curriculum relevant to student needs and methods that maximize learning. There are literally dozens, maybe even hundreds, of ways this can take place. Trying to assess your place in the flipped classroom continuum may help you to reflect on purpose, but it is more likely to blur purpose because of the need of educators to take sides.

John Norton:

In a new post at MiddleWeb, history teacher Jody Passanisi writes about how the flipping debate inspired her to begin creating videos to explain basic routines and convey basic information and free up more time for deeper study and individual help. Samples included.


The first question people ask when flipping is “What do we do about kids with no Internet at home?”

Enter “Flip Without Internet” as a Google search and watch the top two search results (they are videos). They really open the door for ALL students to benefit from flipped content.


It’s also a very weak model, structurally. That is what many teachers do but with so little writing in the classroom, students fare poorly on written tests, writing exercises, and writing in general. There is so much discussion going on, not necessarily a bad thing, but is it really productive? Have you really listened to many teenage conversations which have a lot of talk but not much meaning or depth?

What are you freeing up? Why is it worth it to devote time outside class if it is not worth being inside the class? What is its real value?

Some readers sent in comments using Twitter. I’ve curated them with Storify:

Thanks to Jon and Troy, and to readers, for their contributions!

Please feel free to leave a comment sharing your reactions to the topic or directly to anything that has been said in this post.

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