The flipped classroom is a new spin on an old instructional model in which students are required to review materials prior to class, freeing class time for active learning or more in-depth explanation from the instructor. This new, technology-imbued incarnation has been popularized by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, a pair of high school chemistry teachers and authors of Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day (2012). Sams and Bergmann, noticing that many of their students were missing classes due to extracurricular activities, responded by recording their lectures and posting them to YouTube. Students could watch the video lectures on their own time and then ask questions about anything they didn’t understand. According to Sams and Bergmann, what began as a time-saving device evolved into a a style of pedagogy that “ensures students receive a personalized education tailored to their individual needs” (p. 6).
In addition to allowing instructors to attend to students’ individual needs and questions, the flipped classroom also promoted a more active learning environment and more engaged students by avoiding the academic cliché of “the sage on the stage,” the professor pontificating while students sit passively and listen or take notes. As explained in a 2012 Educause information sheet, in the flipped classroom, “Instructors might lead in-class discussions or turn the classroom into a studio where students create, collaborate, and put into practice what they learned from the lectures they view outside class. As on-site experts, instructors suggest various approaches,clarify content, and monitor progress” (p. 1).
The flipped classroom approach has quickly gained proponents among instructional librarians, who often have one hour or less with students in which to cover topics as diverse as using library resources, developing and focusing a research topic, evaluating information, and using information ethically. A flipped classroom test project undertaken by instructional librarians at Towson University in 2013 yielded positive feedback from students, faculty, and librarians (Arnold-Garza, 2014). The Towson librarians also felt the experiment was valuable in reminding them of the value of intentional pedagogy and in necessitating closer collaboration with the faculty involved. They hoped the work might lead to “more sophisticated relationships that produce better IL [information literacy] outcomes for students” (p. 13).
In spite of the excitement surrounding this concept, there are potential challenges involved in flipping the library instruction classroom. Faculty may be resistant to the idea, not wanting to adjust the students’ homework burden to accommodate library-related assignments. According to Educause (2012), “Students, for their part, have been known to complain about the loss of face-to-face lectures, particularly if they feel the assigned video lectures are available to anyone online” (p. 2). Fulkerson (2014) points out that preparing for such sessions “can be time consuming” and that there is “A learning curve for effectively using new software” (p. 19). Moreover, the cost of software used to create screencast videos, quizzes, and other assessment tools can be too steep for some library budgets. There are less expensive and free alternatives to Camtasia and Adobe Captivate, but their lack of premium functions may make the job more time consuming. While there are excellent resources produced by other librarians on YouTube, MERLOT, ANTS, and PRIMO as well as database tutorials produced by vendors, they may not be customizable enough for ADA compliance or simply to meet an individual institution’s needs (Fulkerson, p. 18).
Moving away from “the way we’ve always done it” can be difficult for students, faculty, and instructional librarians. Still, the flipped classroom technique offers a chance to embrace new technologies while introducing key concepts and skills and freeing precious face-to-face time for active, individualized instruction.
Arnold-Garza, Sara. (2014, January). The flipped classroom: Assessing an innovative teaching model for effective and engaging library instruction. College & Research Libraries News 75(1), 10-13. Retrieved from http://crln.acrl.org/content/75/1/10.full
Bergmann, Jonathan, & Sams, Aaron. (2012). Flip your classroom: reach every student in every class every day. Eugene, OR: ISTE.
EDUCAUSE. (2012, February 7). 7 things you should know about flipped classrooms. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/7-things-you-should-know-about-flipped-classrooms
Fulkerson, Diane. (2014, September). The flipped classroom and media for library instruction: changing library instruction. Against the Grain 26(4), 17-21.