The flipped classroom is in fashion: is it so bad?


Two smiling teachers arrive in 2006 at an institute in Woodland Park, Colorado. Jonathan comes from Denver, in the same state, and Aaron from California: they are going to manage the Institute’s Chemistry Department. They soon find themselves with a stumbling block that is difficult to overcome.

In this rural center, students missed classes for sports or other activities that probably made more sense than Jonathan and Aaron’s chemistry classes. How to ensure that they do not lose the content? Suddenly, the light opened before his eyes. Aaron read a tech magazine and showed Jonathan an article about the following possibility: software that records a PowerPoint slide show, including speech and any annotations, and then converts it into a video file that can be easily distributed online .

YouTube had just started, and with the aforementioned software they believed they would hook their disinterested and absentee students. In the spring of 2007, they began to record their Chemistry lectures, and they posted them online: they did it out of selfishness, and they admit this in all honesty – like everything before, literally translated -: they spent excessive amounts of time reverting to teach lessons for students who were absent from class.

We are not talking about professors in Didactics and School Organization, specialists in pedagogy or personalities in the world of education. It is an experience in an institute in a town of less than 8,000 inhabitants that is narrated in a book, written by the aforementioned authors, Flip your classroom , which was the origin of this fashion, and has been cited even in more of a thousand times. A book without any bibliography or didactic-pedagogical foundation.

Long tradition

Teachers of physics, economics, of up to fifty subjects, and even in tutorials, were already developing something similar to the flipped classroom a few years earlier. And if we talk about educational innovation, what about the “lessons of things” of [Francisco Ferrer Guardia] [], or of Don Gregorio , the teacher who in the movie The Language of the Butterflies he gives classes in the middle of nature, both with the same ending (tragic). But while from the first we will find 53 results in the Web of Science, of the inverted kind, when you read this, more than 5770.

As of 2012, the inverted class, or flipped classroom , as we verified on said website, is used for everything: Mathematics, Business English, Physical Education, Mechanical Engineering … Even, after an International Symposium on Research and Practice of the Theory of Education Superior, Web of Science (the Clarivate Analytics database, which makes the impact ranking of journals based on citations) considers an investigation on the application of flipped classroom-based teaching to microclasses for a tennis course tabletop as high impact. Surgical education in an oncology setting? Inverted class version exists. Music Didactics in Early Childhood Education? Of course, inverted class , do not hesitate.

A concrete example

I enjoyed a wonderful inverted class experience during the 2020/2021 academic year, in History of Schooling, subject of the first year of the Double Degree in Primary Education and English Studies, at the University of Malaga. A subject 100% unknown to students, taught entirely in English, with such a novel methodology that, in some cases, it involved student panic and anxiety. Especially since the didactics of history is traditionally based on lectures and rote tests.

It started with a short, classic video about what inverted class is. After that, they had to work, individually, and in groups. Articles and books were only suggested, and the students could choose any other, related to the subject. The master classes with a single teacher opinion gave way to exhibitions with all kinds of dynamics based on the creativity of the students, who had been informed of how schools, on too many occasions, put an end to creativity .

It is easy to profit from a successful experience, publishing articles about it, even more to consider that it was all the work of teaching design. But it was not like that. It was the work of dedicated students, not from the lowest strata of society (who suffer from the digital divide, lack of socioeconomic means, and even overcrowded homes in which there is not even a table of their own to study, or even the slightest silence in the environment, for example), critic, worker, reader, and with an average level of B2 / C1 of English. In addition, with innovative skills that reached video editing and even the elaboration of costumes for important characters in the history of education. Capable even of making a Socrates mask.

On the other hand, in other previous tests that I carried out, in which the students did not commit themselves, did not read, and even plagiarized, the reality was very different, and the inverted method did not work. Without student engagement, probably neither this nor any active methodology will ever work. Precisely, because without activity, although it is disguised as a flipped classroom, gamification , or project work, any methodology runs the risk of being a master class again, even if it has slight variations.

A lot of theory, little practice

In the evaluation of early childhood, primary and secondary education practices, I never read a student who described any flipped classroom practice in the centers in which he was. The flipped classroom does not exist as a teaching practice in Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) , the survey on the work environment in primary and secondary education, conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the latest volume of which was published in 2019. Nor is it mentioned in Organic Law 3/2020 , of December 29, which modifies Organic Law 2/2006, of May 3, on Education, where there is also no mention of active methodologies.

However, flipped classroom and various active methodologies flood master’s thesis of the Master’s Degree in Teaching in Secondary Education, in a way that is almost analogous to how toxic education and the empire of screens is the norm in the minors of the allegedly advanced countries. In a similar way to what happens in the scientific articles linked above, in all disciplines of knowledge to be a secondary school teacher, a high number of final master’s projects result in active methodologies.

If education is modernized so slowly that it will never cease to be outdated , the flipped classroom is neither salvation nor a magic formula, and since all educational reality is multifactorial, it will work if there is a teacher and students involved, in the same way that society will improve if people exercise their rights and their critical sense, something that a teaching based on the flipped classroom does not produce by itself.

Author Bio: Antonio Nadal Masegosa is Professor of the Department of Theory and History of Education and Research Methods and Diagnosis in Education, Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Malaga. Doctor of Pedagogy at the University of Malaga