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8 Great Reasons to Flip Your Classroom (and 4 of the Wrong Reasons), from Bergmann and Sams


The New “Flip Your Classroom” book by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams is loaded with experienced insights, ideas, and lessons learned.

I first came across Jonathan Bergmann's work when I wrote “7 Stories From Educators About Teaching In The Flipped Classroom” last fall. What I did not know at that time was that he had won the Presidential Award for Excellence for Math and Science Teaching in 2002 and was named semifinalist for the Colorado Teacher of the Year in 2010. Aaron Sams also received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, in 2009. Together, Aaron and Jon recently created the flippedclassroom.org social network, and this year they have published, “Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day”. These guys are flipped classroom rock stars (although I think they would probably cringe at that label)!

The book is an outstanding introduction to the flipped classroom by two teachers who have honed their craft over many years. Sams and Bergmann provide an excellent introduction to what the flipped classroom is, why it works, and how they do it. I am sharing selections from Chapter 3 of the book in this post (knowing the popularity of list posts like these, I figured sharing these ideas would be a good way to let people know about this work, while at the same time continuing to do what makes blogging fun – sharing things I've learned)! “Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day” is published by ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education), and is available here on Amazon.com.

Flipping helps busy students
Today’s students are busy, and being able to consume learning content on demand is a big help, especially when they miss class for extracurricular events.  Colleges are looking for those extracurricular activities, and it’s a shame if a student has to choose between missing lectures or participating in activities that they've committed to – with the flip, they don’t have to! Students can even work ahead when they know they will be losing class time.

Flipping helps struggling students
Many students are absolutely thrilled to be able to pause, rewind, and replay lecture videos and absorb new content at a pace that works for them. Moreover, the time that is freed up in class can now be devoted more directly to each student as he or she needs it.

Flipping helps students of all abilities excel
The flip delivers benefits to students across the full spectrum of abilities – from the students who struggle to absorb material as they frantically copy down notes, to the student who is ahead of the curve and gets bored. Having access to consume and replay learning content on demand and increased access to teachers in the classroom can benefit everyone!

Flipping increases student-teacher interaction
Many teachers who implement the flip will emphasize that the ultimate benefit is the time they get to spend with students in class, the nature of which changes greatly under this model. Now teachers can spend one-on-one time with students, or create groups that are struggling with the same content and give them a mini-lecture or demonstration. The bottom line is that you will have more time than ever to interact with our students, rather than just “performing” your lecture.

Flipping allows teachers to know their students better
“We have always believed that a good teacher builds relationships with students.” If you are spending more time with your students, you are going to know them better and better understand who is struggling with what, and who is mastering learning outcomes quickly and can benefit from some extra challenging work. You are also more likely to get insights into these students lives that you wouldn’t get otherwise, and this can create opportunities to recognize issues they may need help with, or to recognize and follow up on potential that you might otherwise not have the time to pick up on.

Flipping allows for real differentiation
Students learn at different rates. While watching class lectures, students who get a topic can speed the video up, and those who are struggling can replay the challenging sections. In class, students who are having a hard time grasping a specific topic will have an opportunity to work closely with the teacher. An instructor can decrease the assigned work on a topic that the student has shown understanding of, to free up more time to get clear on the topics they find harder to grasp. Students who master the materials can move ahead.

Flipping changes classroom management
“When we flipped the classroom, we discovered something amazing. Because we were not just standing and talking at kids, many of the classroom management problems evaporated.” Students that create disturbances by acting out in front the other students find that they no longer have an audience, since other students are busy with hands-on activities or working in small groups. Even better, some of the students who used to misbehave out of boredom are too busy and engaged in learning to do so!

Flipping changes the way we talk to parents
The dynamics of the conversation with parents often changes in the flipped classroom as well. The conversation can move beyond issues like, “is my child behaving in class” to a more meaningful discussion about learning. Teachers are able to explain how a student is succeeding, and what they struggle with. There are many reasons why a student may be struggling, and focusing on these areas in a dialogue with the parent can be far more productive than a discussion of why their child won’t do their homework or why they won’t sit still in class.

4 of the Wrong Reasons to Flip
A sidebar in the book cites “5 Bad Reasons for Flipping the Classroom”. Some teachers may make assumptions about the benefits of the flip are misinformed and if these are driving someone's interest in the flip, it is important that they move beyond these erroneous perceptions.

  • Because you think it will create a 21st Century classroom: Pedagogy should always drive technology, not vice-versa.
  • Because you think you will become cutting edge: Flipping isn't about the newest tools.
  • Because you think it exempts you from being a good teacher: Good teaching is much more than delivering good content.
  • Because you hope it will make your job easier: That's not going to happen and it's not what the flip is about. The nature of the job changes, in many good ways, but it is not about making the work easier, and there are plenty of challenges along the way as the process is adopted and put to use.

My thanks and respects to Bergmann and Sams for the outstanding examples, generous sharing of techniques and ideas, and their continued advocacy of the flipped classroom. Now go buy their book!



  1. Hello,

    I am a student at SUNY Buffalo in Buffalo, NY who studies Chemistry with a computer science and math minor. I am taking German in order to pursue higher education in Europe. My professor decided to switch her classroom to a flipped classroom while I was in the middle of the 101-102 sequence, so I have a perspective from two similar classes with the same professor using both classroom styles. I would like to share my thoughts about the flipped classroom :

    It makes busy students lives harder, depending on the university climate.

    The very first detail in this article describes how it helps busy students. It does nothing of the sort. In fact, it does the opposite.

    The flipped classroom demands an immense amount of time learning outside the classroom, way more than when the classroom was traditional. There’s a much larger amount of homework and lectures, and when we get to class, we learn almost nothing new and practice the entire time. I personally do not need to practice so vigorously to understand a concept in a language class. Sure, you need to perform listening and speaking exercises in German, but this was happening anyway with the traditional method, it was balanced. Now the balance between learning and practicing is shifted too far onto the students responsibility. I might as well teach this class myself and just pay for the textbook alone, instead of showing up to class.

    I have to be honest and say that German is not my first priority, and it’s not for a lot of people in Science at UB, where there’s a high proportion of students in STEM majors. I absolutely love taking German and want to appreciate it for all that it is, but it’s going too fast for me now demanding all of this time outside of class, when I already have so much work to do in chemistry alone, as my work week generally totals out to above 50 hours, without even considering exam studying. It is unbearable with the flipped classroom on top of it. At an arts college where more students are more likely to be German majors, this is great, but it’s not the case at UB, and it’s unlikely to change soon.

    It is an inappropriate use of the flipped classroom when considering the university climate. This should be made aware of to others who are learning about the flipped classroom, as it is detrimental to the student in some cases.


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