Lab flipping: benefits and challenges


Flipped learning for science instruction
Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams
International Society for Technology in Education
2015 | 86pp | £13.95 (PB)
ISBN 9781564843593

Along with many educators, I started flipping my lab a couple of years ago. I was therefore interested to read about another teacher’s experience. I had read Bergmann and Sams’ first book1 and felt it was a good starting point: both made a lot of use of student case studies and the authors showed how they managed to connect with all their students. This new book is essentially a more science-specific edition. So, as a large proportion of their first book is repeated in the second, you probably don’t need to rush out and buy this sequel if you have the first on your shelf already.

Flipped learning can use a large number of different mediums. Here, the authors focus on videos as their preferred approach for flipping their labs, and while they admit there are other methods available, there are times I feel it comes close to ‘death by TV’. Of course many students react well to YouTube content, but there are plenty of other technologies out there and often there’s really nothing wrong with many written materials either. Perhaps the title should include ‘… with videos’ to accurately reflect its content.

As a UK teacher it took me a few minutes to get into the mindset of the US education system. There were some things I had to Google to check my understanding – probably not something I’d need to do if I were not writing about the book, but a little off-putting nonetheless.

I was very glad the authors described the additional pastoral impact of flipping their classrooms. It’s such an important part of teaching in a school and so many texts miss this out. They showed that, like so many teachers, they really care about their students and flipping the lab helps them to demonstrate this more.

Flipping a lab is a very different experience to flipping other subjects. Other similar texts don’t necessarily look at many of the benefits you gain by flipping a lab, or some of the challenges that need to be overcome. So any book by Bergmann and Sams comes as a useful addition to the bookshelf and is essential if you use or are thinking of moving to a flipped environment.