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In an instructor-center pedagogy, instructors use in-class time to introduce and demonstrate content to students; to transmit information, definitions, and explanations; and, over time, to review content with students. This is typically students’ initial exposure to the content. Week after week, instructors “give,” and students “are given,” listening as best they can, taking individual notes, asking questions along the way, in order to absorb the content. The predominant dynamic of the teacher-centered classroom is “content as a forward-moving target.” During out-of-class time students are expected to work with their notes, related readings and other materials to memorize, assimilate, apply, and prepare to “give back” what instructors have transmitted, both in class recitation and in work that will be evaluated eventually by instructors.
A student-centered pedagogy is about the desire to create a more active learning environment both inside and outside the classroom. In this model, students engage in learning that goes beyond the assimilation of given information to the application of skills and construction of knowledge. Prior to class, students familiarize themselves with new content at their own pace, compare and contrast it with any prior knowledge, construct new understandings, and prepare for class by formulating and answering critical thinking or problem solving questions. Students do this work both individually and collaboratively with peers.
During in-class time, instructors guide students to articulate their prior knowledge and demonstrate new understandings of the content; to inquire, debate, evaluate, share, test, and think critically about the content; and to apply the content to solve problems. The predominant dynamic of the student-centered classroom is “interaction with content with instructors and peers” or “active learning.” Often the learning does not end with the in-class activity, but continues with more individual or collaborative practice and creation of student material outside the classroom and throughout the course. Students receive immediate feedback on work based on their efforts so that they remain attuned to their progress and motivated to iterate and improve. Assessment and evaluation of student work are based on these efforts.
A flipped class inverts the sequence of presenting instructional material and application so that students come prepared to class to interact with a classroom of peers and an instructor as they share, test, apply, and integrate the material with their prior knowledge. Since the flipped classroom follows the same sequence as a student-centered model, we will for the remainder of this article refer to it as the “flipped classroom” and provide a guide on how to do it.
Below is a general example comparing both approaches. Note there are other ways to design student-centered approaches that reflect the type of content, topic, and student needs.
The flipped classroom has also become closely associated with significant uses of media and technology to support the blend of in-class and out-of-class experiences. For more about how to integrate media and technology with the flipped model, see the next section.