Skip To Main Content

The Flipped Classroom

What is flipping?
Key elements of the flipped classroom
Why does flipping work?
Learn more

What is "flipping the classroom"?

In a "flipped" classroom, the traditional instructional approach is reversed: lectures are taught outside of class and class time is used to help students use the material in collaborative and interactive ways.

Here's a definition from The Flipped Learning Network:

"Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter."

You can see the complete statement at Flipped Learning Network [PDF].      

Key Elements of the Flipped Classroom:

1. Provide an opportunity for students to gain first exposure to the material prior to class. Students complete a pre-class interactive learning module. First exposure may include simple textbook readings, online lectures, videos from other sources, readings other than the textbook, etc.

2. Provide an incentive for students to prepare for class. Creating graded, pre-class, low-stakes assessments and assignments focuses attention on coming to class prepared. Once in class, the instructor incorporates hands-on activities that serve as a feedback replacement for grading.

3. Provide a mechanism to assess student understanding. Pre-class assignments such as online quizzes or worksheets help assess student understanding so that in-class activities can focus on the learning needs of the students.

4. Provide in-class activities that focus on higher level cognitive activities. Students must be presented with a clear connection between their out-of-class preparation and their in-class activities.  They must apply course content during class. Debates, data analysis, case studies, problem-solving, and other synthesis activities lead to a deeper conceptual understanding.

From Vanderbilt University's Center for Teaching.

Why does flipped learning work?

“Working on a problem with no sense that you’re making progress is [unpleasant]” (Willingham, 2009, p. 8).  Solving problems, especially in the company of others, is fun, rewarding, and effective!  In the flipped classroom model, students engage in group discussions, mini lectures, and conceptual questions that challenge their understanding while the instructor monitors their progress and provides immediate feedback.  This collaboration among students and between students and the instructor is great for learning.  

Lev Vygotsky, a social psychologist whose work is still used today even though he died in 1934, proposed that “learning awakens a variety of internal developmental processes” (1978, p. 90) that function when the learner is interacting and cooperating with others. In other words, in-class activities bolster learning gains because students help each other to develop.  When one person knows a little more, they help others and in return solidify their own understanding; next time, someone else might know more.

There is one big caveat:  Students have to do the pre-class activities.  In-class time is for students to apply the course material -- and if they did not watch the lectures, read assigned material, or prepare, class time will not be valuable!  

The theory is one thing, but the results are convincing:

  • Scott Freeman, a biology professor at the University of Washington, flipped his classroom and the failure rate dropped from 17% to 4% (Long, 2012).
  • UCLA faculty flipped Introduction to Digital Engineering to target the prevalence of passive learning in engineering classrooms. Their findings indicated that the students agreed that the new learning environment helped them better understand the content (Dong and Warter-Perez, 2012). 

Two Major Flipped Classroom Techniques:

It’s important to note that the concept of flipping a classroom -- having students access content outside of class and then work with the content inside the class -- has been used by instructors for decades, particularly in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.  Flipping is nothing new. What’s new are the means by which an instructor flips the classroom, specifically the technology tools which make delivering substantial content much easier, particularly in science and math fields.  

Peer Instruction

Eric Mazur and Catherine Couch developed one of the more popular forms of the flipped classroom model, peer instruction. Students gain first exposure to the material prior to class via readings and online video lectures.  Online quizzes are used to ensure preparedness.  During class time, instructors give short mini-lectures interspersed with conceptual questions.  Students reflect on the question, then use clickers to propose answers individually.  Students then dialogue with one another about the question, to ensure understanding.  Students may re-answer the same question via clicker.  The instructor uses data from the clicker system to decide what kind of feedback to provide, such as more examples, Socratic questioning, or even repeating part of the lecture.

Team Based Learning

The main features of team-based learning are: 1) Permanent (quarter-long) teams of 5-7 students, 2) Individual accountability for preparation such as careful reading and viewing of online lectures or other materials, 3) Significant incentive for working as a team, with accountability included for freeloading and extra incentives for pulling more weight, and 4) In-class learning exercises that promote both content mastery and team development.  The best team assignments are those that require the team to analyze complex data of various kinds and to make a defensible decision based on their analysis.

What technologies does Cal Poly Pomona have to support flipping?

Although there are thousands of tools out there, here are a few that Cal Poly Pomona fully supports: 

Adobe Presenter

Adobe Presenter is an add-in for PowerPoint that you can use to create enhanced, interactive presentations that integrate video, audio, quiz and surveys, Flash (SWF) files, images, and simulations. Adobe Presenter is only available for PC, but the content created can be viewed using a Mac or PC.


Blackboard provides a feature-rich, online, customizable classroom or organization.  You can put up all kinds of content for your students to use.  You can include quizzes, surveys, and other interactive assignments.  You can keep track of grades and give feedback.  

Camtasia & Snagit

Camtasia is a screen recording and video editing tool. You can use Camtasia to create powerful video lessons for your flipped classroom.  Use Snagit to easily grab images from your desktop (careful of copyright issues with this!).  Camtasia and Snagit can be installed on any state-owned computer.


i>Clicker is a classroom personal response system that allows students to interact with the instructor in any size class.  i>Clicker can help you assess your students' knowledge, keep their attention, provide immediate feedback, and encourage all students to participate.

All CPP faculty, staff, and students have access to, a library of very high-quality instructional videos by industry experts which covers an impressive array of technology, design, and business skills.  To access, log in with your Cal Poly Pomona credentials. is provided through a collaboration between IT@CPP and Academic Affairs.

Learn more about flipping the classroom:

Getting started

Tips and Tricks



Research-based references: 

Literature Cited

Berrett, D. (2012, February 19). How 'Flipping' the Classroom Can Improve the Traditional Lecture.  Chronicle of Higher Education.

Dong, J., & Warter-Perez. (2012). Flipping the Classroom: How to Embed Inquiry and Design Projects into a Digital Engineering Lecture. Paper presented at ASEE PSW Section Conference, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Long, K. (2012, December 16). Washington college instructors are 'flipping' the way they teach. Seattle Times.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press 

Willingham, D. (2009). Why don't students like school?: A cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works and what it means for the classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.