The Flipped Classroom: Tips for Integrating Moments of Reflection

“Students in inverted classrooms need to have more space to reflect on their learning activities so that they can make necessary connections to course content” (Strayer, 2012).

If you were to observe a flipped classroom, what do you think would it look like? Maybe students are working in groups. Maybe each group is working on a different problem. Maybe the instructor is walking around the room talking with each group and checking on the students’ progress. And each group of students is probably asking a different question each time the instructor walks by. It’s probably noisy since everyone is talking to each other or engaged in a task. And students are probably standing up or leaning in towards one another to hear their group members talk about the next task. Students might be writing in a workbook, typing on their laptops, or watching a video on the screen of some new technological device.

The flipped classroom is a busy, collaborative, and social place. We could say it’s a place where extroversion, collaboration, and teamwork are highly valued.

But what does this mean for students who don’t excel in this collaborative space? What does it mean if we’re always focused on the doing?

In the flipped classroom, the instructor’s challenge is to design learning experiences that engage students in higher level thinking and problem solving during the class time. It’s about creating, evaluating, synthesizing, and analyzing together.

But, are we missing a whole segment of our student population and minimizing the importance of reflective engagement in favor of active engagement by only defining the flip in terms of collaborative learning?

Other scholars have explored these questions from different perspectives, all in an effort to learn more about how to increase student success, engagement, and learning. Felder and Silverman (1988) addressed it in their work with learning styles and learning preferences. Bonwell and Sutherland (1996) discussed it in their model based on the active learning continuum. Chesborough (1999) examined it in the context of the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory (MBTI). And more recently, Monahan (2013) addressed it her Faculty Focus article titled, “Keeping Introverts in Mind in Your Active Learning Classroom.” Monahan has certainly touched on a topic of high interest to the Faculty Focus community, which prompted us to think about how this relates to the flipped classroom. When we submitted this article for publication, Monahan’s article had 132 tweets, 226 likes on Facebook, and 64 shares and pins through LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+. Those are impressive numbers for our community. It seems many of us are looking for ways to ensure all of our students are successful and feel valued in our classrooms.

There are numerous inventories and assessments for identifying how students’ personalities, learning styles, and intelligences can inform the design of learning experiences. No matter your stance on these assessments, most of us are familiar with the language of extrovert and introvert. The MBTI, The Big Five, and the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory all use this common vocabulary of extroversion and introversion. The vocabulary is the basis for the New York Times bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, and there are more than 1,200 books on Amazon dedicated to the introvert/extrovert terminology. The introvert/extrovert is a powerful way to think about the design of our learning environments.

So what does this mean for the flipped class?
Many flipped learning strategies seem to favor the extrovert (leading a class discussion, brainstorming as a group, engaging in small group conversations, playing games, creating models, recording a video, solving problems, etc.). All of these strategies require interacting, socializing, and working collaboratively. While extroverts may thrive in these situations, drawbacks exist. As Cain (2012) explains, “The New Groupthink elevates teamwork above all else. It insists that creativity and intellectual achievement come from a gregarious place. It has many powerful advocates” (p. 75). However, are we missing valuable contributions from students who don’t speak up or thrive in these highly interactive situations? Cain (2012) continues, “Introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation” (p. 74). Some of the best ideas may come from a student who worked on a creative task by himself/herself but didn’t share it with his/her group. If we never give the students an opportunity to reflect or work individually in the flipped space, then we’re doing a disservice to both introverts and extroverts. All students benefit from reflection, not just introverts. Reflection allows students time to pause, think, make connections, and work through an idea before others have any input or criticism.

If we refer back to the opening quote from Strayer (2012), the question we should be asking ourselves is, “How do we create the reflective space in the flipped learning environment?” Asking the question in this way puts this emphasis on the reflection, and reflection is a skill all learners need, especially in active learning environments and flipped classrooms. Asking the question in this way also encourages us to look carefully at how we design our time in class with our students. Simply moving all of the reflective activities outside of class time isn’t addressing the needs of our students.

So, what can we do? To start the conversation, here are three strategies to integrate reflection into the flipped classroom:

  1. Think, Write, Share. Similar to the popular “Think, Pair, Share” strategy many of us use in our classes, this strategy adds more time for individual work and reflection. Ask students to think about a question or problem first. After a few minutes, give students time to write, map, or draw their ideas. Then allow time for sharing in pairs, small groups, or among the whole class.
  2. Writing Prompts. Begin class with a writing prompt based on the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Give students a chunk of time to create a draft, interpret a finding, analyze these two author’s points of view, etc. before class begins. Alternatively, if you assigned the writing prompt for homework, then allow students time in the beginning of class to re-read it and make edits before sharing.
  3. SWOT Analysis. Give each student a piece of paper (or access to a laptop or other technological tool). Ask students to conduct a SWOT analysis based on the some part of the content. A SWOT analysis is a method for identifying and analyzing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. You could assign students one piece of the analysis if you have limited time.

By integrating moments of reflection into the flipped classroom, we can create a learning environment that both challenges and supports all learners and ultimately allow opportunities for all students to engage in both active and reflective experiences. We’re not trying to change our students’ ways of interacting with the world. As Monahan said, “Our goal is not to turn introverts into extroverts, or vice versa, but to maximize learning for all students.” We’ve shared three strategies for reflection to start the conversation. Do you have other ideas to share?

Bonwell, C. & Sutherland, T. (1996). The active learning continuum: Choosing activities to engage students in the classroom. New Directions for Teaching and Learning. no. 67. Jossey-Bass.

Cain, S. (2012). The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. Crown: New York.

Chesborough, S. (February 1999). Do social work students learn differently? MBTI implications for teaching that address social work students’ current learning styles. Journal of Psychological Type. 69(2), 23-41. Center for Psychological Type, Inc.

Felder, R. & Silverman, L. (1988). Learning and teaching styles in engineering education. Engineering Education, 78(7), 674-681.

Monahan, N. (October 28, 2013). Keeping introverts in mind in your active learning class. Faculty Focus. Magna Publications. Available online

Strayer, J. F. (2012). How learning in an inverted classroom influences cooperation, innovation and task orientation. Learning Environments Research, 15(2), 171-193.

Dr. Barbi Honeycutt is the founder of Flip It Consulting and the director of graduate professional development and teaching programs at North Carolina State University. Sarah Egan Warren is a Flip It associate and the assistant director of the Professional Writing Program at North Carolina State University.

© 2014 Faculty Focus, Magna Publications. All Rights Reserved. Use of any content without permission is strictly prohibited.