Getting Acquainted with Flipped Learning in TESOL

I’ve heard the term flipped learning throughout my masters and doctoral study. But, I don’t think that I ever actually heard it defined or teased apart. So, for me, it just became synonymous with student-centered learning. So, if I was using pedagogical approaches that changed the dynamic away from a teacher-dominated classroom, I was flipping it. Well, I’ve recently discovered that I was just a bit off base with my understanding of what flipped learning actually entails. It is, indeed, a way to help facilitate and build a learner-centered space, but it’s more than that. Bauer-Ramazai, Graney, Marshall, and Sabieh (2016) defined flipped learning as moving traditional classroom activities like reading a text and presenting a lecture to outside of the scheduled class time. This allows the time together in the class to be spent on activities that further scaffold that learning and show students how to apply that knowledge. Said another way, knowledge absorption tasks happen outside of class time; knowledge application activities occur in class. And, this right here is one of the key takeaways of Bauer-Ramazai, Graney, Marshall, and Sabieh’s (2016) “Flipped Learning in TESOL: Definitions, Approaches, and Implementations. The other key takeaway is that moving knowledge intake activities to outside of scheduled class time is not as burdensome for students as we may think, as long as we use tools to meet students where they are at, which is increasingly on mobile devices. They actually highlight many benefits to this approach, some of which I will discuss in the summary, below.


In this article, Bauer-Ramazai, Graney, Marshall, and Sabieh (2016) took the concept of flipped learning out of the general education literature and tailored it to the TESOL context. They define flipped learning as having students complete pre-class prep work, such as lectures and readings, outside of regularly scheduled class meetings (perhaps as homework). Then, class time is used to complete mini-projects and activities to encourage students to apply that knowledge in order to reinforce their learning. The authors discussed how the Flipped Learning Network’s four pillars of flipped learning—flexible environments, learning cultures, intentional content design, professional educators—could interface with language teaching. This framework underscored the potential and promise of flipped learning by showing how flipped learning can lead to personalized instruction that is purposefully designed to meet students where they are at and to be respectful of individual and cultural differences in learning. The authors maintained that flipped learning allows for the integration of regular formative assessment. This assessment can then be used in a feedback loop with course planning to make sure that students are receiving educational content that fit their needs. This creates a responsive teaching style. Second, they argued that these four pillars allow for the deployment of project-based learning (PBL). PBL is a pedagogical approach that is predicated on having students engage with real-world problem-solving in order to gain a better understanding of the material that they are learning (George Lucas Educational Foundation, 2017). The authors argued that the use of PBL in flipped learning may lead to increased student buy-in in the learning process. They also point to a number of challenges with flipped learning, most notably, the increased time commitments for both educators and students.

Closing Comments

This piece brings me more fully on board with the notion of flipped classrooms as understood from the Instructional Technology and Design perspective. This piece better shows the ideological and disciplinary lineage of the term. It also better executes the definitional labor necessary in sound scholarship. Specifically, their work better highlights how flipped learning can integrate with my established best practices in the field of TESOL. For example, flipped learning very clearly has can provide a space for collaborative and joint learning, which can help students acquire communicative competence. Flipped classrooms also provide a place where students can level their individual cognition on group tasks, using their collective mental abilities to overcome challenges they may not be able to do individually—much like me and a colleague working together to figure out a new course management system (CMS). To me, it is in the extension of individual cognition (through joint cognition with others) that learning can happen and that students can take increased agency over their educations.


Atkinson, D. (2002). Towards a sociocognitive approach to second language acquisition. Modern Language Journal, 86(4), 535-545.

Bauer-Ramazai, C., Graney, J.M., Marshall, H.W., & Sabieh, C. (2016). Flipped learning in TESOL: Definitions, approaches, and implementations. TESOL Journal 7(2), 429-437.

George Lucas Educational Foundation. (2017). Project-based learning. Edutopia. Retrieved from

Featured image by Alexas_Fotos via Pixabay


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Joshua M. Paiz
Lecturer at NYU Shanghai
Joshua M. Paiz holds a Ph.D. in TESOL from Purdue University and is currently a lecturer and L2 writing specialist at NYU Shanghai. His research interests include L2 writing, SLA, identity in applied linguistics, and critical issues in TESOL.

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