I flipped my class, now everyone talks, laughs, and works

Group of college students sitting around a desk talking and using a laptop

My journey toward teaching in a flipped classroom began when I started teaching classes that met once a week for three hours. Neither my voice nor the students’ perseverance could handle three-hour lectures. This led me to experiment with alternate uses of classroom time via a variety of group and individual activities.

At the same time, I was interested in developing skills that supported our program outcomes. It seemed to me unfair for the program to assess students on skills that we were not developing in a transparent and consistent way in individual classes.

The result was that I began to teach sessions that were split between content delivery (lecture) and skill development (activities) tied to specific assignments. Soon, however, I shifted content acquisition onto the students’ shoulders and dedicated class time exclusively to activities that reinforced the information, explored it from different angles, and demanded that students engage it for the entire class session.

The results have been phenomenal. Student command of and facility with the course content has improved across the board. Now even the middle-performing third of the students could discuss the content with the ease of the top performers.

More importantly, however, students were finally having fun in my class. Art history is fun, especially the joy of discovery and applying learned information to new, unknown works. But my students weren’t having fun in lecture courses. The A students learned the content and were engaged as they furiously took notes (I talk fast) but the rest seemed to hate being in class–or at least were very bored. The flipped class has everyone engaged. The stronger students help the weaker ones. The quiet ones contribute ideas and let the more boisterous present it to the class. Everyone talks. Everyone laughs. Everyone works.

And I have fun. I get to know my students better than I ever have before. I know everyone’s name within two weeks. I can’t wait to get to class each week to share the in-class activities I have developed for them. And I spend the session delighting in their work and engagement, noting which activities bore the most fruit and which need to be retooled, and thinking about ways to make the next class session even better.

I have been asked how flipping impacts my student evaluations. The reality is that there really has not been much of a change. My lecture courses were good lecture courses and my evaluations reflected that. My flipped classes are good flipped classes, and the numbers correspond as well. But flipped classes pay off for me and my students’ learning, which counts much more than evaluation data.

In case you are interested, I presented a more in-depth webinar on flipping my art history class. View at your leisure.



About the Author
Kelly Donahue Wallace

Kelly Donahue Wallace

Kelly Donahue-Wallace is a professor of art history at the University of North Texas. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Latin American art, the history of prints, and European early modern art. She is also the author of the department’s award-winning online courses Art Appreciation for Non-Majors and Art History Survey I. She is the author of Art and Architecture of Viceregal Latin America 1521-1821 and co-editor of Teaching Art History with New Technologies: Reflections and Case Studies. Her third book, Jerónimo Antonio Gil and the Idea of the Spanish Enlightenment is forthcoming from the University of New Mexico Press.


  1. Leslie Cooper 5 years ago

    My husband switched to a flipped classroom in his Jr high social studies. Primarily because of the amount of time it took some students to take notes and then practical application time became so short. However there has been a huge backlash from some parents about this “new” teaching method. Any advice on a good way of showing the benefits of a flipped classroom, even in elementary school?

  2. Kelly Donahue-Wallace 5 years ago

    Great question. My advice is to be as transparent as possible, not just about the fact that the class is flipped, but also about the learning that happens and the scholarship that supports this teaching model. And repeat this information often. Also, parents and administrators like improved outcomes, so providing as much evidence of improved learning outcomes as possible will help calm nerves. Even anecdotal evidence helps.

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