Flipping the Music Classroom

Meghan Cabral | February 2019

    The flipped classroom, a teaching model designed to increase class time available for discussions, higher-order questioning, and learning rather than only lecturing, was developed in 2007. Originally it was rarely used in music education, but this is changing, as music teachers are discovering they gain more time within their classrooms to rehearse, play, and learn together. 

    Flipping the classroom, sometimes referred to as inverted teaching, is the idea of two high school science teachers, Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams, who worked in a challenging school setting and wanted to engage students differently. They came up with the idea of having students watch their lesson prior to class, hypothesizing that this would allow more time during class to discuss and interact with their students. They spent a year recording every lecture with the commitment to flip the classroom the following school year by having students watch their lessons on video the night before class to save classroom time.
    After integrating just a few flipped lessons into their classroom Bergmann and Sams discovered that their hypothesis was correct. There was more time in class to have higher-level discussions. In their experimenting with classroom flipping, Bergman and Sams discovered that the idea integrated well with the theoretical framework of Bloom’s Taxonomy. According to Bloom (1956), the core ideas of this construct are that we must remember a concept before we can understand it, understand a concept before we can apply it, apply a concept before we analyze it, analyze a concept before we can evaluate it, and have remembered, understood, applied, analyzed, and evaluated a concept before we can create. This structure creates a sequence of learning levels for teachers to follow. The teachers were able to guide the classroom conversations into levels of questioning on the Bloom’s Taxonomy scale that they never had before. Prior to flipping the classroom, Bergmann and Sams felt that their lessons never went past the remembering or applying levels. Specifically, Bergmann and Sams found that students could learn at a higher level in class because teachers had opportunities to ask such questions as “What is different?” and “Can you differentiate fact from opinion?” as well as compare-and-contrast questions.

Flipping Fears
    Prior to understanding the concept, my fear was that flipping my classroom would make my job as a teacher obsolete, a view shared by many educators. At first glance, a flipped classroom seems to eliminate the need for teachers. One person could record lessons and distribute them to schools worldwide. Bergmann and Sam point out that the teacher’s role as a leader and instructor is just as important as in the traditional classroom setting. Berg­mann posits “whether a student learns from a person in the same room, from a teacher on a video, or from an author in a book, the student learns from a person. However, although these situations are similar, they are not the same. A face-to-face interaction between two people is more multifaceted and multidimensional than the interaction between a person and a recording or document.” The aim is not to replace the classroom environment, but rather to enhance it. 
    Flipping the classroom can fit into any music teacher’s curriculum. For example, as music educators it is important to teach students how to solve problems when practicing at home. Many of the beginning concepts we teach are basic knowledge, such as identifying notes and rhythms on a staff or using a fingering chart. This basic level of cognitive understanding is fundamental to learning instruments. Teachers can use video to introduce such material, and students who don’t pick everything up the first time can rewind or rewatch as needed. Then, when a new note appears in the method book, students will already know how to read the fingering chart to learn it on their own. 

    This teaching model is appropriate for any music teacher. If you are an elementary school teacher who teaches recorder as a unit or within your curriculum, you can easily post online recorder lessons on fingerings, counting, or note reading. High school theory teachers could record such lessons as how to create scales, intervals, and even sight singing. High school ensemble teachers can record topics on the history of pieces or have students listen to professional recordings or watch videos of performances. An ensemble teacher might upload a recording of the students playing through a piece of music along with a link to a professional recording and have the students compare and contrast the differences in the recordings. This list could then be used to create the lessons in rehearsals for the next few days or weeks. Choral teachers can introduce new solfege, intervals, or rhythm concepts. Additionally, videos could be created that would allow students to rehearse at home with recordings for sectional or large ensemble practice. Much of this can be done without creating videos yourself. Free educational videos can be found online easily.

Finding Time
    Before starting this research one of my misconceptions was that a flipped lesson needed to be as long as a full class period. I wondered how any teacher had time to make multiple 40-minute videos a week. In his book Flipped Learning: Gateway to Student Engagement, Bergmann follows a teacher through implementing this model. The teacher states, “In five minutes, I explained to students the concept that our activity that day had failed to convey.” It does not take an hour to explain how to read a clarinet fingering chart or the basics of rhythm and quarter notes. A few minutes is often plenty for an introduction to a topic, and that is the point: Flipping the classroom is the art of teaching a concept, not reinforcing it. The reinforcement and additional learning happens in class the next day. Furthermore, a teacher’s entire curriculum does not need to be flipped within the first year. Start small with one lesson or two and then continue to add lessons where appropriate for your own curriculum and discipline.
    In March 2013, ASCD published an article titled Evidence on Flipped Classrooms Is Still Coming In. In this article the authors, Bryan Goodman and Kirsten Miller, discuss the same concern about time that Bergmann noted. Goodman and Miller write, “Brain research tells us that the novelty of any stimulus tends to wear off after about 10 minutes, and as a result, learners tends to check out after 10 minutes of exposure to new content.” I thought back to the days of my college method classes and recalled how were taught to use the first ten minutes of class to introduce a topic and then the remainder of class to review the topic. Flipped learning fits perfectly into this routine. The only change is that the students will get the topic introduction before walking into the classroom, freeing the entire class period for reinforcing the topic.
    In 2013 the New York Times published an article titled, Turning Education Upside Down. In this article Tina Rosenberg discusses how a failing school decided to try flipped classrooms because “they had nothing to lose.” The research showed that those in a flipped classroom started to outperform those in the traditional setting. One teacher stated that flipping her classroom “free(d) up class time for hands-on work.” As music educators all of our work is hands on. Flipping will give us more time in the classroom for our work. 

Getting Started
    My first flipped lesson was on enharmonics, a subject I introduce to my seventh- and eighth-grade bands at the beginning of the year. For this I used our SmartBoard along with a simple plug-in microphone to record a lesson on enharmonics to an empty classroom with the same format that I would use if I had students in the room. I used the same worksheet that I would use if I was teaching the lesson to my entire band class. It is important that students be required to do more than watch a video passively. Providing a worksheet to fill out is a good option. University of Sas­kat­chewan Music Liaison Librarian Caro­lyn Doi writes that lessons teachers can provide incentive for students to watch lecture videos or listen to podcasts “by pairing introductory material with online quizzes, worksheets, or short writing assignments.” She goes on to note that a preclass quiz, preclass writing, or worksheets can help assess students’ understanding.
    After finishing the recording I uploaded it to an unlisted YouTube link and placed the link on my school website. After the students watched the video they were instructed to click a link to a short online quiz. This gave me a snapshot of who completed the assignment, which concepts students understood, and where there might be misunderstandings on the topic. This feedback was then used in future lessons within class to gain greater knowledge and understanding.
    Since then, I have created lessons in major scale formation, key signature order, instrument posture, tonguing, buzzing, and practicing. My colleague and I have used various formats for recording, including PowerPoint, the Smart Notebook software,  a flip camera, and our cell phones. Each worked well. The cameras allowed us to record video and show ourselves playing or describing instrument setup and posture, while the Smart Notebook and PowerPoint recording features allowed us to transfer lessons we had already created to the new format. 
    In addition to these ideas there are many tablet apps that are designed to record. Education Technology published an article, 8 Outstanding iPad apps to Create Tutorials and Flip Your Classroom, and a few different apps to try include Explain Everything, Doodlecast Pro, Show Me, Educreations, and Doceri. Google Classroom and Microsoft Office 365 also have recording capabilities that allow you to create your own class within these programs so that none of your flipped classrooms are available for anyone to find online.

Possible Problems
    There are definitely challenges with flipping a classroom. It is critical to have an interactive component to the flipped lesson so students play along with or complete a worksheet with the video. Students could still experience the lesson as they would in the classroom, but now they have the ability to start and stop the recording to help with understanding and learning. Students need to have a level of accountability when watching a video, whether it is through a worksheet that gets handed in, a short quiz the next day in class that is done with an entrance or exit ticket, or even through an online form as a quiz.
    In addition, I have learned that videos created for students to watch at home do not replace my classroom but rather enhance it. Just like any new classroom idea, the best way to test it is to experiment and then evaluate the effects. For me this journey has just begun, but I hope to find a way to use more resources to enhance my classroom and will continue to evaluate the potential of flipped learning, as well as its benefits for my ensemble.   

Applying the Flipped Classroom Metho­dology in a First-Year Undergraduate Music Research Methods Course by Carolyn Doi (Music Reference Services Quarterly, 19:2).
Bloom’s Taxonomy (retrieved from (
Classroom Strategy: What Is It and How Can It Be Best Used? by Natalie Milman (Distance Learning. Vol. 9 Issue 3).
Enhancing Collaborative Learning in Flipped Classroom. by Siti Hajr Halili, Rafiza Abdul Razak, and Zamzami Zainuddin (Department of Curriculum and Instructional Tech­nology, University of Malaya).
Evidence of Flipped Classroom Is Still Coming In by Bryan Goodwin and Kristen Miller (Educational Lead­ership, ASCD publication. March 2013).
Flipped Learning Founders Set the Record Straight by Stephen Noonoo (The Journal, retrieved from 
Flipped Learning: Gateway to Student Engagement by Jonathan Bergmann (International Society for Tech­nology in Education, 2014).
Flipping the Classroom by C. Brame (Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching, retrieved from http://
Flipping the Classroom, from CTE (Febuary 21, 2017, 
George Fischer Middle School Band Website (
Information and Communications Tech­nology in the 21st Century Classroom by Diana Perez Marin (De Gruyter Open Ltd. 2014). 
Recorder Flipped Classroom (retrieved from 
What Is Flipped Learning? (Flipped learning handout retrieved from