orchestra practicing music through flipped learning process

Flipped Learning? Musicians Have Been Doing it for Years…

Amy Education, Flipped Learning, K12 Education, Vocational Education 0 Comments

You’ve probably already heard the catchphrase “flip your classroom” thrown around a few times in the past year or so. Educational buzzwords go in and out of fashion, but are often overly self-explanatory – think “inquiry-based learning”, “BYOD” or “student-centred”.

Flipping your classroom is certainly one of the more popular, newer methods for teaching.

But it’s certainly not a new concept, and is less daunting of a task than you think.

Consider this: musicians have been doing it for years!


It’s not about the technology, it’s about the process
A lot of teachers, trainers, and lecturers that we come across often incorrectly associate flipped learning with technology.

Let me make this clear: you can flip your class without having any computers or smartphones – heck, you can flip without electricity.

Adopting a flipped approach to your teaching simply means having the students consume the content at home, and then do the collaborating, discussing and hands-on stuff in the classroom. This changes the role of a teacher from an orator who must fill up empty minds with an abundance of information, to more of a facilitator, or a coach.
Let’s face it, most of us remember being bored to tears in at least one class at school, where the teacher would drone on and on about a topic. By the time we got home and opened up our homework, it was often difficult to remember exactly how to do that math problem.
“A little help, Mum and Dad?”


I had an English teacher back in 1996 that unknowingly had been flipping for years. She would assign us a chapter to read at home and then we’d come in to class to answer questions and discuss our thoughts and interpretations.

It was a hell of a lot more engaging than my Year 12 teacher, who had us taking turns stuttering aloud through passages of Shakespeare and then writing essays on it as homework.


Musicians and Music Classes Have Been Doing It for Years

Correction: good musicians and good music students have been doing it for years.

To be fair, a lot of the performing arts have nailed this process but haven’t necessarily been calling it “flipped learning”. In my former life as a music performance undergrad, we’d be assigned our parts in orchestra, take home our sheet music and practice like gangbusters. We’d spend hours in the listening lab, playing every professional orchestra’s rendition of the piece over and over. Then, we’d get to class and put all of our pieces together to create a beautiful performance.

Honestly, there are few things in this world that I find more exhilarating than collaborating in a musical ensemble. But to be fair, I felt that same sense of true engagement discussing our opinions way back in that English class I had.

What makes a bad orchestra or ensemble? One that doesn’t flip.

Think about a high school band class, where students never practice at home but merely trudge through their parts to the best of their ability while in class. Sound good? Didn’t think so.

Although it’s great to have a shiny new online learning management systems, access to screen capture softwares, and your iPad to help you take that MOOC, it’s not the technology itself that flips your learning. Greg Green likens it to having all of the right ingredients for teaching, but not necessarily doing it in the right order.

I reckon we should look at approaching teaching and learning like musicians and actors do – we practice at home and perform together in class.


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