A Feel for the Flip

By: John R. Wallace

A Feel for the Flip

A recent development in educational pedagogy is the use of the “flipped classroom” model of instruction. At the core of the flipped model is a simple shift. To create a flip, an instructor moves content delivery to outside the classroom while replacing the previously passive in-class lecture time with active, practical application assignments (Arnold-Garza, 2014b). Often, a flipped model will employ technology such as online videos, screencasts, or other web tutorials for students to access content before an in-class session. The development of the “flipped” model is generally credited to two high school science teachers —but its use has extended far beyond its original application to include even the realm of one-shot information literacy instruction given by librarians (Benjes-Small & Tucker, 2013).

Why Flip?

There are many positives to the flipped classroom model. First and foremost, the flipped model provides a chance for more active learning. Since passive lectures where student simply receive content are moved to outside the classroom, students are then made to engage with activities and apply learned skills inside the classroom. Moreover, the flipped set-up allows for more one-on-one engagement between teacher and student, offering on the spot expertise and coaching to any questions that may arise during the application of ideas, tactics, and concepts (Arnold-Garza, 2014b). This same level of academic support cannot be offered in the traditional model where students may stumble over difficult homework assignments without the presence of a knowledgeable instructor at their side for guidance. Additionally, the flipped model gives the student more control over the pace of instruction. A student can re-watch or rewind difficult or confusing concepts through video lectures for a better, deeper understanding (Benjes-Small & Tucker, 2013). The flip model also places more responsibility on the student to accomplish the pre-lectures—which can be construed as either a positive or a negative. Ultimately, the flipped model can offer a way to better engage students, utilize instruction time and expertise more efficiently, and to procure better student outcomes (Berrett, 2012). The information literacy session particularly stands to benefit from the flipped model where increased classroom efficiency can allocate more time for students to engage in hands-on, real world applications of library research (Arnold-Garza, 2014a).

Below is an infographic that explains the flipped classroom model:

Flipped Classroom

Created by Knewton

Cases to Consider

Datig and Ruswick (2013) of Mary Baldwin College recently attempted to flip their information literacy instruction sessions. The authors considered the flipped classroom model because “active learning activities are very effective in the information literacy classroom [and] lecturing is becoming an increasingly outmoded style of instruction” (2013, p. 250). Additionally, the authors had begun to experience a bit of “lecture fatigue” and welcomed a new dynamic to their instruction model.

To flip their classrooms, Datig and Ruswick identified four target lessons: 1) Searching Databases; 2) Keyword Searching; 3) Website Evaluation; and 4) Identifying Source Types (2013, p.250). These topics were taught either through reading or the viewing of video tutorials before class sessions. Datig and Ruswick concluded that the flipped classroom required librarians to learn a “whole new skill set” while being creative, flexible, and sometimes relinquishing a bit of classroom control (2013, p. 257). A key concern voiced in this study was the need to ensure students actually completed the pre-lectures before the in-class sessions.

Arnold-Garza (2014a) also produced a small case study where 14 information literacy courses were flipped at Towson University. These sessions utilized brief video tutorials of no more than 20 minutes as the pre-lecture. This initial work also came with a quiz, which according to Arnold-Garza, gave the students the impression that completion was a course requirement (p. 11). After the completion of the flipped courses, both students and librarian instructors were given questionnaires from which a few clear concepts were gleaned. For instance, the flipped model required advanced scheduling on the part of both librarian and professor. Additionally, creativity was again stressed as an important component in the flipped model, where librarians must re-think in class time with a more “intentional pedagogy” (p. 13). Ultimately, Arnold-Garza found that outcomes were mostly positive, that fears of student slacking in pre-work were dispelled, and more time and effort was needed to “build well structured in-class activities that specifically challenge students to use the foundational skills that pre-class assignments will teach” (p. 13).

Brooks (2014) studied the student perspective of the flipped information literacy classroom in an attempt to ascertain its impact on student learning outcomes. The study indicated that students did not indicate a preference for learning via online videos yet did recommend the flip model for future classes. Moreover, the results demonstrated that students in the flipped classrooms cited more scholarly articles than their traditional instruction counterparts. Thus, the flipped model may have given the students a better grasp of source evaluation.

Gibes and James (2015) also instituted a flipped program of IL instruction at Marquette University. A central impetus for the programming switch was an attempt to “maximize students’ interaction with a librarian” (p. 10). In this case study, an interactive “learning object” was created using VideoScribe and Captivate which offered instruction and an “interactive test space for students to try out their skills” before the in-class session (p. 11). Through feedback from librarians, instructors, and students, the authors were able to proffer a few lessons learned from the flipped experience. First, it was noted that in-class time must be flexible. Librarians must be able to shape in-class time based on the skill level of students and the perceived completion of the flipped assignment. Additionally, this study demonstrated the need for a strong librarian and instructor relationship to create buy-in for the session and to ensure student completion of the flipped pre-assignments. Ultimately, the authors determined that the flipped model encouraged more face-to-face interaction between students and librarians through the more substantial, active in-class sessions.

Madden and Martinez (2015) also experimented with the flipped classroom model at Georgia State University. Citing a need to reinforce skills based instruction over the traditional “introduction to the library” type content, the authors chose to flip their library instruction (p. 1). The authors further cited the potential benefits of a flipped classroom to be: 1) better learning outcomes through a blend of online and face-to-face content delivery; 2) added class room time to give individual and group coaching; and 3) an overall openness to discussion (p. 2). Despite these aspirations, the study was inconclusive as to the efficacy of the flipped model and more research was needed to decide whether to continue the program.


The flipped model for classroom instruction represents a compelling way to engage students. Specifically in the information literacy context, there has been a recent push to experiment with the format with promising results. While there is a need for more research to make authoritative claims regarding student outcomes, the flipped model has led to more effective in class use of instructor time, active and practical applications of knowledge by students, increased face-to-face, personal interaction between librarians and students, and more thoughtful, robust classroom discussions that enable deeper understanding and coaching opportunities. It will be interesting to see how the literature further develops regarding this new instruction model.

Work Cited

Arnold-Garza, S. (2014a). The flipped classroom: Assessing an innovative teaching model for effective and engaging library       instruction. College & Research Libraries News, 75(1), 10-13.

Arnold-Garza, S. (2014b). The flipped classroom teaching model and its use for information literacy instruction.                       Communications in Information Literacy, 8(1), 7-22.

Benjes-Small, C. & Tucker, K. (2013). Keeping up with…flipped classrooms. ACRL. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/shib_login/?q=publications/keeping_up_with/flipped_classrooms

Berrett, D. (2012). How ‘flipping’ the classroom can improve the traditional lecture. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 58(25). Retrieved from http://ctl.ok.ubc.ca/__shared/assets/_Flipping__The_Classroom45753.pdf

Brooks, A. W. (2014). Information literacy and the flipped classroom. Communications in Information Literacy, 8(2), 225-235.

Datig, I. & Ruswick, C. (2013). Four quick flips. College & Research Libraries News, 74(5), 249-257.

Gibes, E. A. & James, H. (2015). Is flipping enough? A mixed approach to introductory information literacy instruction. College & Research Libraries News, 76(1), 10-13.

Madden, M. L. & Martinez, I. T. (2015). The flipped library classroom at Georgia State University: A case study. Georgia Library Quarterly, 52(1). Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.kennesaw.edu/glq/vol52/iss1/9


3 thoughts on “A Feel for the Flip

  1. Hi John,

    What an interesting topic to blog about! I have never heard of this concept of the flipped classroom but you have caught my attention and I can’t wait to explore the idea and learn more. The statistics are very promising and I enjoyed reading that Georgia State University has explored the idea. Even though their study was inconclusive I am intrigued that a school that is not located to far from the college that I work at has looked into the new classroom design. I have always been a fan of alternative learning techniques, their are so many different students I never understood why we all had to be taught the same way, in the same classroom, with the same lectures. This shines a whole new light on the classroom learning topic and I look forward to researching it more!

    Amelia Blackmon


  2. John,

    Great blog. I now have a better understanding of flipping the classroom. It is interesting this concept started in high school. My way of thinking is students in high school would need more hands on guidance. In high school, deadlines for assignments are given and the teacher is a constant reminder that an assignment is due. The flipped classroom lays the responsibility on the student to be more involved in the learning process by being proactive. Great idea! At first, I thought this would create more work for the teacher, since he/she would have to prepare videos and assignments, but this is all a part of classroom planning. I like that students are able to review teachings they don’t understanding. I definitely see how academic libraries could use this concept to teach information literacy to students especially to those not familiar with researching, evaluating materials, and utilizing the tools the library has to offer.

    Myland Desameau


  3. Hi John:

    Thank you for writing about this topic. I teach college level courses and I am always incorporating different methods of teaching to appeal to different learning styles. I have used a flipped classroom format to present materials on social class in America. This is one of those topics that is ill-suited to lecture. I usually make an online learning model and quiz that they are to complete before coming into class, and then we spend class time engaging in active learning activities to understand key concepts. Students really respond to this method. It had not occurred to me that this method could be applied to information literacy courses. Jason also wrote about information literacy and how students often have trouble with retaining the information covered in those session. It sounds like one of the ways to address this problem, in conjunction with the online instruction he recommends, is to use an active learning approach to information literacy like the flipped classroom. I will definitely keep this in mind when I have to teach information literacy courses! I really enjoyed this post and the info-graphic provided.


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