To Flip or not to Flip your English Class? Is that the Question?

Helena Ruiz

Àrea de Llengües Estrangeres

The flipped classroom approach to teaching has aroused a great deal of interest recently. This is why, it has generated a lot of literature and media buzz. Although there is no single model for the flipped classroom, this term is widely used to describe a class structure in which, thanks to the Internet and mobile devices, students are provided with pre-recorded online lessons that can be watched at home. This model frees up classroom time for other in-class group or task-based activities, projects, discussions and hands-on problem-solving exercises. The flipped classroom model’s popularity has grown rapidly in recent years as a result of the failure of traditional teaching methods.

 There is a growing number of school educators and university lecturers who are already determined to use this model in their classes. By using this model, they turn their classrooms into studios where students create, collaborate and practise what they have learnt from the online lessons. Thus, the teachers become on-site experts who clarify content and monitor their students’ progress. The flipped classroom has become a new teaching paradigm, an ideal student-centred learning environment that boosts interest and autonomous learning.

In the following video, Jonathan Bergman, a flipped learning pioneer and one of the people who has popularized this model, not only provides a very good explanation of the model but also presses home the point that the Flipped Classroom is a very valid approach for significant learning:

What Jon Bergman says also rings true when we think about the relevance of using the flipped classroom in English Language Teaching (ELT) since one of English teachers’ main concerns has always been how to make the most of the limited class time that language students are in contact with the English language. At first, it would seem that the Flipped Classroom model could not have a place in language teaching because language teachers already have a tendency to do lots of group work, pair work, problem solving and task-based learning in their lessons.

However, as we delve further and further into the idea of the flipping model, we realize that the Flipped Classroom could also have an important role in English language teaching. Language teachers do not tend to stand at the front of the class giving a lecture but the Flipped Classroom model fits especially well with certain skills such as writing, listening, or other activities, like working on grammar or learning new vocabulary.  We do not really need to flip all our English lessons. Due to its flexibility, the flipped learning model can just be used for certain lessons.

All in all, at the very heart of the flipped classroom there are two main ideas. On the one hand, teachers’ time is used more efficiently. This also means that they can concentrate on developing higher order thinking skills. On the other hand, students become more autonomous and take more responsibility for their own learning. This goes to show why a growing number of educators are determined to use this model in their courses. Therefore, for teachers in general, and also for English language teachers, the question no longer seems to be whether to flip or not to flip your class, but rather how to flip your class for the maximum benefit of students.

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