It is 2015. Obama is president, a horse has just won the Triple Crown for the first time in 37 years, and we are still a glorious 5 years away from knowing what “social distancing” is. And in this year, two-thousand-and-fifteen, there is an educational innovation that is super trendy. Like Hansel at the VH1 Fashion Awards, the Flipped Classroom is so hot right now.
Back to 2021. Obama’s vice president is now president, a second horse won the Triple Crown 3 years ago (but nobody cared), and we all know how to “Zoom” now. In education, standard lectures are dying a slow, painful death, and active learning is on the rise. Learners are enjoying small group sessions, case-based learning, and gamification. Educators are more comfortable using these modalities.
Six years later, where does the Flipped Classroom fit in?
First, a quick reminder of what the Flipped Classroom is:
The basic idea is that a higher level of learning can occur in a classroom if the learners acquire a foundational level of knowledge on the subject prior to coming to class. In other words, rather than having a lecture in the classroom, you watch the lecture before class, and then apply the concepts learned through engaging in-class activities.
A totally reasonable first reaction as an educator might be “well, that sounds like double the work for me.” The truth is, when first implementing this format, it is. But all educational innovations require a little extra effort at the start. But if you have a passion for teaching, creating a new, non-lecture based session can be exciting and fun. And you still get to use those old lectures!
First step, consider trimming that lecture down to a more compact, digestible version. Then record yourself giving it. This is easy to do, and can be completed right in PowerPoint. Post the video to the learning dashboard your group uses or create your own YouTube page. Assign the lecture as a pre-learning activity that is expected to be viewed before coming to class.
You may also consider using content that already exists in the #FOAMed world as your pre-learning exercise- this can be recorded national lectures, podcasts, etc. Using pre-existing content can cut down on prep time and avoid reinventing the wheel. Just make sure to appropriately screen this material and ensure its quality prior to using it for your session.
On the day of class, it is useful to start out with some sort of assessment of the knowledge gained from the pre-learning activity (your lecture). An interactive quiz using a program such as Socrative is one option. This is to ensure that foundational knowledge was obtained prior to moving onto the next level of learning.
Finally comes the fun part- the in-class activity. This is where the educator has the most freedom to be creative and use any number of teaching formats. But it is also the crucial element that makes or breaks whether a successful learning moment occurs. If you are already comfortable with non-lecture formats, use one that you enjoy and that you feel matches your learning objectives. If you are looking for a place to start, try case-based learning: create a few clinical vignettes based on the content from your lecture and have the group discuss what they would do in those scenarios.
At this point you may be wondering, does the Flipped Classroom work? There have been many studies evaluating the effectiveness of this format for learning in medical education. Some have shown that it is definitely better than traditional teaching methods, while others say maybe not so much. What is clear is that the likelihood of meeting your learning objectives (like in all forms of teaching) is highly dependent on the quality of the educational content.
Like with many things in life, the work you put in determines the productivity you get out. A critical appraisal of the Flipped Classroom sums it up well when it concludes that learners are more engaged with Flipped Classroom, but satisfaction depends largely on teacher prep work.
So what is the Flipped Classroom’s role in medical education today? While no longer the sensation that it once was, it should still be part of the armamentarium of the skilled educator. It is a valuable format that allows for both foundational and higher-level learning. Utilizing the Flipped Classroom promotes engagement and active learning, and allows the educator a level of freedom and creativity that traditional teaching methods do not.