In many traditional classrooms, the teacher uses lectures to transmit course content to students. A “flipped” classroom is one in which a teacher presents lectures and delivers other course content outside of class (for example, via video- or audio-recorded and written instruction) and prioritizes activities, discussion, and higher-level analytical thinking during class time. Flipped Instruction: Breakthroughs in Resource and Practice offers readers the latest theories, strategies, and pedagogies on flipping classrooms. Bringing together thirty-seven contributors from seven countries, thirty-two colleges and universities, four high schools, and one institute, it presents “a comprehensive collection of research on the latest findings” on flipped teaching and learning in order to provide “researchers, practitioners, and all audiences with a complete understanding of the development of applications and concepts surrounding these critical issues.” (ix)
Each contributor operates under the assumption that flipping a classroom in a professional and pedagogically informed manner begets educational gains that far exceed the costs of time investment, technological learning curves, and pedagogical challenges. In chapter 4, David Starr-Glass makes a memorable statement about the benefits by explaining that a flipped classroom “changes a teacher-centered process to a student-centered one. The ‘sage on the stage’ becomes the ‘guide on the side,’ with a shift from transmission to learners to a flow among and between learners.” (51, emphasis in original).
This book addresses nearly every domain where flipped teaching has made significant inroads: K-12 education, higher education, online, ESL, and foreign language education. Its twenty-four chapters are organized into four main sections. Section 1 (Chapters 1-6) addresses course design methodology and how the latest pedagogies impact flipped classrooms. Section 2 (Chapters 7-12) discusses the unique challenges and opportunities of flipping ESL and foreign language learning classrooms. Section 3 (Chapters 13-20) considers flipped instruction in higher education. Section 4 (Chapters 21-24) offers the latest curriculum developments in K-12 education.
Flipped Instruction accomplishes its goal of providing educators with a comprehensive resource on the latest research in theory and practice. It also strikes a nice balance between being academically-oriented and practitioner-oriented. Academics will enjoy the book’s emphasis on new theories, pedagogies, and educational innovations, and practitioners will appreciate the takeaways from educational experiments, the rich repository of resources, and the activities to try in the classroom. That stated, the book would serve its readers better if it were more learner-friendly, an ironic weakness since it was written by expert teachers who value learner-centered education. Perhaps under the watchful eye of a single editor, it would exhibit stronger collaboration between authors, be better organized, and would avoid needless repetition (for example, an unusually high number of authors reviewed the history of flipped classrooms).
Teachers of theology and religion who appreciate flipped instruction or who practice it as a pedagogical strategy will appreciate the many resources that Flipped Instruction provides in course design, Internet and computer software ideas, and learning activities. However, the book is not a primer for the uninitiated in flipped teaching and learning. A different book would be a better introduction to the subject.
The pedagogical landscape of education has recently experienced a tectonic shift in terms of professional development. Once in the field, teachers seeking improvement and new ideas as to how to improve their craft, like so many professionals, used to wait for top-notch scholars to produce new research-based, paradigm-changing tomes. The thinking was that those in the trenches, those who filled kindergarten classrooms and chemistry labs across the country, were not creative enough to provide cutting-edge educational discoveries; only those who labored for a doctorate and took to the ivory towers of academia were capable of such exploration. Sadly, by the time these game-changing discoveries trickled down to the huddled masses in the faculty workroom, these ideas had already been discovered by accident and had been shared among the other faculty on the quad. Teacher’s in-service did not focus on the next great discovery but on how to share the discovery with fellow teachers.
As this new wave of creative teachers began filling the gaps in higher education after proving themselves as master teachers and scholars in this area or that (and with the advent of social media), the focus kept evolving: for example, how can this idea, discovered in a chemistry classroom, be applied to the theology, composition, or social work classroom? Thankfully, Hal Blythe, Charlie Sweet, and Russell Carpenter, all writing professors at Eastern Kentucky University, have made it their mission to improve teacher effectiveness across the nation, first with their Noel Studio for Academic Creativity and now with their It Works for Me book series.
In this volume, as in the previous seven volumes, Blythe, Sweet, and now Carpenter, have assembled a cadre of interdisciplinary scholars from across the country to engage in a conversation about what these teachers and administrators have found in their efforts to “flip” the classroom in an attempt to improve student learning and retention. The authors selected for this volume exhibited good ideas and were invited to share those ideas with others. Generosity, author and speaker Michael Hyatt would say, has become the new currency in learning, leadership, and life.
This volume is divided into seven sections and includes an introduction and take-away-style conclusion. The sections this reviewer found of note were the opening where the flipped classroom is defined (all instructional content is found outside the classroom and classroom time is used for conversations, processing, and reflection), the sections on in-class and out-of-class assignments, and assessment. Each larger section opens with a short introduction from the editors, which is followed by a number of short essays from the contributing authors where each author or team of authors discusses their experiment with flipping the classroom. References, where applicable, have been provided. The concluding take-away section offers twenty ideas, such as never spending more than fifteen minutes on any activity, using Bloom’s taxonomy when crafting course components, engaging other faculty to get feedback on flipped assignments or course structure, and developing your own competency in technology.
Overall, this is an incredibly helpful volume. Its strength is in sharing ideas that might inspire a new way of doing one assignment or offering one lecture that might increase student learning and retention. In that way, it works!