HealthEd

How to Gain Administrator and Faculty Support for Flipped Classrooms

Osmosis Team
Published on Jun 8, 2020. Updated on Sep 15, 2020.

The flipped classroom has become common in health education programs across the United States. As an administrator, course director, or faculty member in a program that hasn’t yet implemented it, you may want to integrate this teaching strategy into your course or curriculum. But, in order to do that, you may need to convince skeptical colleagues of the merits of this approach.

In this article, our team will share strategies for gaining faculty and administrator support for flipped classrooms at your institution. Specifically, we will define the flipped classroom model, share the benefits of it for administrators and faculty, and discuss ways you can encourage other faculty to use it in their educational practices.

Defining the flipped classroom

In this article, we’ll use the following definition of the flipped classroom:

A class, course, or curriculum in which faculty assign independent pre-learning work outside the classroom and collaborative group work inside the classroom.

Whereas in a traditional classroom students listen to a lecture in class and do homework outside of class, a flipped classroom has students do independent didactic learning outside of class and apply what they learn interactively in class. Independent preparation before a group activity has been practiced for ages, but the term “flipped classroom” came into vogue much more recently as new educational technologies improved learning experiences outside of the classroom. Most consider flipped classrooms specifically as a form of blended learning, which incorporates an online aspect. However, we prefer a broader definition of the flipped classroom for this article because it could help those who might be resistant to change to appreciate sound principles underlying the flipped classroom approach. 

How flipped classrooms benefit administrators and faculty

To gain administrator and faculty acceptance of flipped classrooms in your program, you will need to understand and be able to explain the benefits they create. Here are some of the positive outcomes that flipped classrooms can drive for faculty and administrators:

  • With a flipped classroom, faculty’s lectures are “once and done.” Your colleagues only need to record lectures once and students in subsequent cohorts can rewatch the initial recordings.

  • Flipped classrooms help faculty remain relevant by creating more flexibility for students. For example, students can watch (and re-watch) lectures on their own convenient schedule rather than skipping scheduled lectures.

  • Faculty can use face-to-face time more effectively in a flipped classroom setting. Instead of teaching at a level that is grossly above or below students’ existing knowledge, faculty can teach at your learners’ learning edges. More interactions with students can strengthen their relationships, making teaching more rewarding, and help students develop in other important areas such as professional identity formation, communication skills, and clinical reasoning.

  • Educators have successfully implemented flipped classrooms for a long time in the form of problem-based learning (PBL), case-based learning (CBL), and team-based learning (TBL). For example, two recent meta-analyses, one from general education and one with an emphasis on health science education, found that flipped classroom models were associated with improved learning outcomes across a variety of subject subject matter and educational settings:


Driving support for flipped classrooms as an administrator, course director, and teaching faculty

Now that you understand what a flipped classroom is and some of the benefits it can lead to, in this section, we’ll share strategies that you can use as an administrator, course director, or teaching faculty to drive adoption of flipped classrooms in your program or individual classroom.

Administrator

Current educational technologies and the capacity to use them have become so ubiquitous that faculty are running out of excuses not to use them to enhance students’ learning. As an administrator, you can make the case that there are so many high-quality videos and resources available, and faculty know that so few students are going to their lectures anyway, that you need to ask “What’s stopping you from making a change to an engaging flipped classroom approach?”

Another effective strategy to gain acceptance of flipped classrooms as an administrator is to ask early adopter faculty to pilot it. In this case, you need to identify the champions who are willing to pilot the flipped classroom before rolling it out to a wider group of faculty.

If early adopters are successful at implementing this curriculum model, you can roll it out to additional lectures, modules, and courses. Keep in mind that you will need early wins to demonstrate that students and faculty like this model before rolling it out to a wider audience and building on it. As well, if you want to convince skeptics that this curriculum model will be beneficial, you will need data to back up your claims so evaluations from early successes can be used for this.

One example of the pilot model comes from Dr. Amin Azzam, a Clinical Professor at UCSF. At UCSF, the Course Director and the faculty in the Brain-Mind Behavior course were eager to innovate and change, and they were early adopters of some flipped classroom lectures and activities.

Course director

Many of the principles for administrators described above would apply to your role as a course director. For example, you’ll want to share reasons for the change, pilot fully before implementing, and collect data from early successes to get faculty buy-in.

As well, in your role as a course director, you may invite guest lecturers to speak to your students on different topics. This structure can create problems when transitioning to a flipped classroom as facilitating in-class discussions or activities requires much more work than lecturing. You may also need to provide guest faculty with additional resources such as help developing recorded lectures and plans for their live sessions.

These challenges are another reason why you should start by flipping certain lectures or course sections as you begin to explore this curriculum model.

Teaching faculty

Certain programs give individual course instructors responsibility for their course content, and they have free rein over the content they produce for it. Your program may operate in this way.

If you teach in such an environment, you have all of the permission you need to flip your classroom. You just need to pre-record your lectures and make them available for students to watch on their own time. Then, you will still have those 12 hours to have active-learning sessions instead of lectures.

In this environment, you can flip your classroom at any time. But, any innovation like implementing the flipped classroom will take a certain amount of effort the first time you do it. Therefore, when flipping your own classroom, you should see if your institution will offer you support like paying for external or supplementary resources, giving you tools for evaluation of this change, or offering you a fiscal incentive to try this innovation.

Supporting faculty as an administrator or a course director

Finally, whether you work as an administrator, course director, or teaching faculty, you will need support from external resources in order to flip your curricula or classrooms. Depending on your role, we recommend providing or advocating for the following resources:

  • IT resources or content resources or instructional design support. Faculty need to have a repository where they can store the video lectures they record.

  • Support for the assessment and evaluation of the efficacy of this curriculum model to ensure it’s working in individual classrooms.

  • Fiscal incentives that encourage faculty to innovate and try something like the flipped classroom model.


Measuring the success of a flipped classroom implementation

Whether you are an administrator, course director, or teaching faculty member, in order to gain the acceptance of flipped classrooms among your colleagues, you will need data to show its effectiveness.

Therefore, here are several strategies to measure the effectiveness of flipped classrooms in your program or course:

  • Look at viewing metrics (e.g. how many students viewed the video lecture) vs. how many students came to the traditional in-person synchronous lecture. Students vote with their feet, so you should look to evidence that they are engaging with your flipped classroom efforts by evaluating their usage of a new resource, level of interaction during a live session, and perspectives about the new course format.

  • Most schools have an evaluation system for lectures and/or courses. Use that existing system and evaluate each “flipped classroom.” If you’ve done it right, you will see that students generally love this much more than traditional lectures. That outcome data can be shared (de-identified and aggregated if needed) to prove to skeptical deans, skeptical faculty lecturers, and skeptical students that you should flip more lectures.

Looking ahead

We hope the information in this article helps you bring the flipped classroom to your institution or course. In the next article in this series, we will look at common faculty and student objections to the adoption of flipped classrooms and how you can address them. If you have any questions about how you can gain administrator and faculty support for flipped classrooms in your program, please email us at [email protected].

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