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Characteristics and Design Points of Flipped Classrooms

Sachika Shibukawa/Specially-Appointed Assistant Professor, Faculty of Letters, Chuo University
Area of Specialization: Educational Technology


Have you ever heard of the term "flipped classroom?" A flipped classroom is a class format in which learners engage in activities designed with teaching intent before attending class, and then engage in activities designed to solidify, apply, and develop understanding during class. In this way, the flipped aspect of a flipped classroom refers to the characteristic of "flipping" the way time is used outside of class compared to traditional classes. In this article, I would like to introduce the characteristics of flipped classrooms and key points to consider when designing flipped classrooms.

Genealogy of flipped classrooms

The concept of the flipped classroom is said to have originated in 2000 (Lage et al. 2000, Baker 2000). The birth of the flipped classroom is related to a paradigm shift in education and the development of information and communication technology. Around the 1990s, education underwent a paradigm shift from a teacher-centered focus on the materials taught by teachers to a learner-centered focus on the capabilities of learners. Although there is a desire to develop activities that encourage voluntary among learners, limited class time makes it difficult to balance explanations of knowledge by instructors and voluntary activities by students. In response, educators focused on course management systems and learning management systems (CMS/LMS). Using CMS/LMS makes it possible to efficiently distribute teaching materials and administer quizzes, and allows students to ask questions and engage in discussions on the bulletin board outside of class. The concept of "Classroom Flip" that Baker (2000) proposed is to utilize CMS with the aim of developing a teaching method that would reduce lecture time and focus on understanding and applying learning content.

Afterwards, the declining cost of video production had a major impact on the grassroots spread of flipped classrooms. Along with the declining cost of video production software and the development of video-sharing websites such as YouTube, we are now in an era where teachers can create their own videos. American high school teachers Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams (2012), who proposed the concept of a flipped classroom which is often used today, have been using videos as preparation materials since 2007. Videos that can be watched repeatedly have the advantage of allowing learners to proceed at their own pace according to their level of understanding. Following the practice of Bergmann and Sams, the preparation method of watching videos before class spread as the most popular way to conduct a flipped classroom. Today, this practice is widespread around the world, especially at the level of higher education.

Characteristics of flipped classrooms compared to traditional preparation

At this point, some readers may be feeling doubts, such as "Is there any real difference between a flipped classroom and preparing for class in advance?" or "Does a flipped classroom just mean watching a video before class?" In response, I would like to introduce the unique characteristics of flipped classrooms.

Flipped classrooms have three main characteristics (Shibukawa 2021). The first is the sequence of preparing in advance and then participating in class. This overlaps with the relationship between preparation and class. The second is that preparation and classes are in a primary-primary relationship. In many other cases, preparation is positioned to support classes, and there is a primary-secondary relationship between classes and preparation. However, since preparation is a prerequisite for flipped classrooms, both preparation and classes fulfill a primary role. The third characteristic of a flipped classroom is that preparation and classes are inseparable. In a flipped classroom, classes are developed based on preparation, thereby combining the two concepts of preparation and class into the single and inseparable relationship of a flipped classroom. In the case of classes for which preparation is not a prerequisite, the two concepts of preparation and class can be said to exist separately.

An even more important point in distinguishing between traditional preparation and flipped classrooms is the approach implemented by teachers. The essence of a flipped classroom is to "flip" the way class time is used, so it is important for preparation to include elements that were traditionally included in class. In traditional classes, teachers do not simply read a textbook aloud. Teachers engage in a variety of actions such as asking questions that motivate students and summarizing the content. Therefore, it is essential for the preparation used in flipped classrooms to include educational aspects; for example, setting learning goals and presenting focal points in preparation materials. In other words, simply having students read a textbook will not fulfill the main role of preparation.

When considering the above characteristics, it is clear that the essence of a flipped classroom is more complex than simply focusing on the type of media usedーthat is, "students prepare by watching a video, so it is a flipped classroom" or "students prepare by reading a textbook, so it is not a flipped classroom." In fact, when it comes to the definition of a flipped classroom, there is an argument on whether or not the definition should include the use of computer-based technology such as video materials during preparation. For the reasons discussed above, my definition does not include the use of technology during preparation.

Key points of flipped classroom design

Now, let's take a broad look at key points when designing a flipped classroom (Shibukawa and Taguchi; in press). The first point is to clarify the purpose of introducing a flipped classroom. A flipped classroom is a teaching method that places a heavy burden on both teachers and learners. If the act of implementing a flipped classroom itself becomes the goal, students may not recognize the significance of engaging in preparation and may become dissatisfied. To prevent such problems, it is important to consider what preparation is needed for in-class activities.

The second point is to consider support and feasibility at the time of preparation. Flipped classrooms define preparation as a premise, so it is important to support understanding during the preparation phase. Specifically, one effective approach is to clarify learning objectives and key points, which helps students learn how to study and enables them to approach their pre-study sessions with a sense of purpose. If the task load imposed on students is too high, the feasibility and sustainability of the flipped classroom will decrease. Therefore, it is important to estimate the amount of work assigned as preparation, to quickly identify any discrepancies between the expected preparation time and the actual preparation time, and to consider the status of assignments in other subjects when deciding on appropriate classes for implementing a flipped classroom.

The third key point is to increase the interconnection and alignment between preparation and face-to-face classes. Interconnection means that there is a direct relationship between preparation and face-to-face class activities, such as designing preparation while keeping in-class activities in mind, or holding in-class activities and calling on students while keeping the content of preparation in mind. The interconnection will be low if the content learned in preparation is not utilized during class. Low interconnection may decrease the motivation of students toward preparation. One method for increasing interconnection is to conduct formative assessments such as quizzes which follow preparation. In fact, the results of a meta-analysis show that introducing formative assessment into flipped classrooms is highly effective (Lo et al. 2017). Next, alignment refers to a state in which one policy is followed without contradiction from preparation to face-to-face classes; that is, preparation and face-to-face classes contain activities that correspond to the purpose of introducing the flipped classroom. For example, assume that a flipped classroom is introduced with the intention of allowing group work to take place during class. If group work is not implemented during class, the process can be described as lacking alignment.

In this way, the key points of designing a flipped classroom are to view preparation and face-to-face classes as a single learning process, and to consider the connection between preparation and face-to-face classes instead of focusing on them as separate entities.


In this article, I provided an overview of the characteristics and key design points of flipped classrooms. Flipped classrooms are sometimes described as a new teaching method. However, at their core, flipped classrooms are characterized by forcing instructors to deeply consider the kind of lessons they want to create with their learners. I hope that my readers will be interested in the characteristics of flipped classrooms beyond technological innovations such as the use of video.

Reference Literature

  • BAKER, J. W. (2000). The "Classroom Flip": Using Web Course Management Tools to Become the Guide by the Side. In Chambers, J. A. (Ed.), Selected papers from the 11th International Conference on College Teaching and Learning, Community College at Jacksonville, Florida, pp. 9-17.
  • BERGMANN, J., and SAMS, A. (2012). Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. International society for technology in education, Washington D.C.
  • LAGE, M. J., PLATT, G. J., and TREGLIA, M. (2000). Inverting the Classroom: A Gateway to Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment. The Journal of Economic Education, 31 (1): 30-43.
  • LO, C. K., HEW, K. F., and CHEN, G. (2017). Toward a set of design principles for mathematics flipped classrooms: A synthesis of research in mathematics education. Educational Research Review, 22: 50-73.
  • Shibukawa, S. (2021). Characteristics and Definition of Flipped Classrooms: Compared with Blended Learning and Traditional Classroom Preparation, Journal of Japan Society for Educational Technology, 44 (4): 561-574.
  • Shibukawa, S. and Taguchi M. Development and Evaluation of Worksheets to Support Flipped Classroom Design for University Instructors (in press), Journal of Japan Society for Educational Technology 48 (1).

Sachika Shibukawa/Specially-Appointed Assistant Professor, Faculty of Letters, Chuo University
Full-time researcher at Chuo University Platform for Research and Development on Higher Education

Sachika Shibukawa was born in 1993. She graduated from the College of Media Arts, Science and Technology, School of Informatics, the University of Tsukuba in 2017. She obtained her Ph.D. in education at the Graduate School of Education, Kyoto University in 2021. After participating in the Research Fellowships for Young Scientists (DC2) at the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, she assumed her current position in 2022.

In 2018, she received the Best Paper Award at the International Symposium on Educational Technology. In 2020, she received the Best Paper Award from the Japan Association for Educational Media Study. She is currently conducting research to reconsider and design the time and space of learning, with themes such as blended classes and correspondence universities.

Her major written works include the Effects of Using Worksheet in Pre-Class on Learning at a Face-to-Face Class Time in a Flipped Classroom: Focusing on Discussions and Deep Approaches to Learning, Sachika Shibukawa, Mana Taguchi, and Teiichi Nishioka (2019), Japanese Journal of Educational Media Research, 26 (1): 1-19 and more.