Pedagogy, Instructional Strategy and Backward Design for a Flipped Classroom

Any course first starts with a curriculum – what needs to be taught in the course and with how much time and score weightages need to be structured into the curriculum. The curriculum is then becomes a guideline for teachers. (What I write in this blog is specifically using my experience in teaching-learning of science using 21st century tools and technology.)

Curriculum is all about what we are going to teach. Pedagogy is about how we teach it.

Curriculum and Pedagogy

When implementing some curriculum content, it is important to use a range of pedagogical strategies depending on the learners’ abilities, the type of content to be taught, and the time allotted.

Instructional strategies are a subset of pedagogical strategies. Instructional strategies include all approaches that a teacher may take to actively engage students in learning. These strategies drive a teacher’s instruction as they work to meet specific learning objectives and goals. Effective instructional strategies meet all the development needs of the learners in the class – it is closely associated with the leaning experience, and can be measured by assessments of students.

Some of the instructional strategies can be as follows:

  1. Presentation – direct talks and lectures
  2. Exhibits and demonstration
  3. Drill and Practice, tutorials (problem based)
  4. Games and simulations
  5. Role-playing
  6. Discussions and debates (Socratic method)
  7. Hands-on (inquiry based)
  8. Field Trips
  9. Case Studies
  10. Internships

Each of these instructional methods or teaching solutions falls into 4 types: direct, indirect, interactive and experimental. It is important to note that instructional methods or teaching solutions will also depend on the types of content to be delivered (facts, concepts, principles, etc.)

In terms of the ed-tech environment of the 21st century, these 4 methods of instructions can be said to be

  • Receptive instructionis characterized by a lecture or an Internet site where the student is merely provided with information. (indirect method)
  • Directive instructionis characterized by a computer-based tutorial where information is presented, the student responds, feedback is provided and this tutorial learning cycle is repeated. (direct method)
  • Guided Discoveryis characterized by a computer simulation that allows the student to manipulate some device or environment. (interactive method)
  • Exploratory instructionis characterized by an open learning environment in which the student is provided a rich, networked database of information, examples, demonstrations, and exercises from which the student can select whatever is appropriate to their current needs and mental models.  (experimental method)

Effective implementation of any of these teaching methods will depend on assessment strategies as well. When planning, it is advisable to use a ‘backward design’ since method curriculum, pedagogy (teaching and instruction) and assessment are all interlinked.

There are four steps that need to be followed:

  1. Begin with the curriculum in order to determine the desired outcomes from the learning objectives.
  2. Create formative assessments that can indicate to you if learners are learning or otherwise!
  3. Then create summative assessments to map the learning objectives.
  4. Lastly create a pedagogical instruction that is required in order for the learners to meet the desired outcomes. If not change your instructional approach.

The backward design is very useful for a flipped classroom!

The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions.

The value of a flipped class is in the repurposing of class time into a workshop-style interaction where students can inquire about lecture content, test their skills in applying knowledge, and do hands-on activities. During class sessions, instructors function as coaches or facilitators, encouraging students in individual inquiry and collaborative effort.

Although the idea of a flipped classroom is straightforward, an effective flip requires careful recording of lectures, , and out-of-class and in-class elements must be carefully integrated for students to understand the teaching/pedagogical model and be self-motivated to carry on to learn.

Flipped Classroom

How do we Learn to Learn, Especially in the Ed-Tech Environment?

There is a lot of interest in psychology of learning – we as yet do not know how we learn! Lot of ed-tech companies have analytics about on-line eLearning courses with millions of clicks (interactive tools) that can be monitored at the back end – but do these clicks really mean that learning has occurred? Most ed-tech researchers and companies are scratching their brains with learning analytics to answer this; one of the the main purposes of setting up free on-line MOOCs seems to be just this – how are people able to learn; there are almost 98 videos of TED website with the theme: How We Learn.

How can we answer this question? How can we monitor and say that a learning has occurred a 100% of the time?

This is a question that has intrigued many. Let me see if I can answer this question, it is difficult, but I will try…………….from my experiences in teaching and learning science. Any learning is an interplay between nature and nurture!

Step 1: Indoctrination (inspiration, hook)

To learn anything, one has to be indoctrinated into multiple intelligences.


But how does one get indoctrinated or inspired? Inspiration for a particular learning quest can come from family, friends, teachers, some nice lecture/video that triggers an interest in a certain field, a movie, some exhibitions, books – this is the hook. One gets hooked into a new learning direction.

You must have heard this phrase – ……… got hooked to………… (from old English anglers)

Step 2: Motivation (focus, stimulation and perseverance)

That inner urge to surge in the chosen direction – requires focus, and even incentives (incentives in terms of intellectual stimulation and financial stimulation – have you ever wondered why there is a successful Silicon Valley?). High motivation can also create a persevering quality that keeps one rooted in a particular learning quest. There is no substitute for hard work.

It is said that Thomas Alva Edison failed a 1000 times before he made a bulb design that actually worked!

You must have heard this phrase -………..never give up…………. (Winston Churchill)

Step 3: Social Interaction (team effort)

Because of the advent of the internet, and eLearning, a lot of EdTech companies have realized the importance of social learning. The social cognitive learning theory was first discussed by Albert Bandura in 1977.

(From Wikipedia- Social learning is learning that takes place at a wider scale than individual or group learning, up to a societal scale, through social interaction between peers.)

The explosion to social media and access to content via mobile devices, this kind of learning has gained high importance these days.

social media cartoon

This team effort or team work is the key to reaching any goals – and in our case – the learning objectives or goals. Working effectively as a team creates momentum, improves morale, and almost anything that is decided can be achieved.

You must have heard this phrase -……….. Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much (Hellen Keller)

Step 4: Experience (and results)

Remember that any learning – means change in cognitive behaviour or attitudes – if behaviour/attitude change has not happened, then the learning has NOT occurred!  The more experience you take in the direction of learning (exams, assessment, results, feedback, discussions, apply, analyze, hands-on work) the more you will learn thoroughly! It is more enduring, and results are sort of permanently lodged in your brain. When you assess your learning (formative) and get a feedback from someone (say on a social platform or a teacher or a guru) you will learn better.

You must have heard this phrase – experience is the best teacher………. (Benjamin Franklin)

And finally………….if you have mastered what you have learnt, you will be able to evaluate your understanding, critique someone else’s work and go on to innovate and create something new, to your utmost joy (any new learning can be real fun!)


In conclusion: we can say that learning has occurred if we can monitor a change in behaviour and attitude. This can be done by assessing thoroughly – may be by creating rubrics and measuring the ‘learning’.

Aside: When I was little, I always used to think of placing my books under my pillow before going off to sleep, hoping against hope that all the content from the books would automatically get transferred into my brain!

Learning with a MOOC vs. Learning on an LMS

To me, as a person seeped into the use of technology in education, I often wondered at the difference between various vocabs used in the eLearning space!

Web-based or computer based learning (or eLearning) is not a new phenomenon. All of us have used some form of tools used in a virtual learning environment at least sometimes in our lives. MOOC is a recent addition to this vocab – initially I thought a MOOC is something like an LMS, but it is NOT!

An LMS is software that automates the administration of training. The LMS registers users, tracks courses in a catalogue, records data from learners; and provides reports to management. An LMS is typically designed to handle courses by multiple publishers and providers. It usually doesn’t include its own authoring capabilities; instead, it focuses on managing courses created by a variety of other sources.

A MOOC on the other hand is an entire course. A MOOC is accessible, usually with no prerequisites, to anyone who wishes to enroll, usually for free, and with self-assessment or peer assessment along the way. It enables the possibility to teach over 100,000+ students at the same time in the same course.

From my experience, I can say that any new learning is imbibed better if there is a social component to the learning, and in future a MOOC will enhance this aspect of a learner’s ability – surely!

I would like to quote this: “I believe MOOCs are going to be an important – not to mention fascinating – social development…… “(Robert McGuire From:



Apparently, in the near future a teacher or a lecturer can have his or her own branded MOOC, like a website or a blog on a WordPress!

Here’s what I have collated from my own research on the net.

Feature MOOC LMS
Long Form Massive Open Online Course Learning Management System
What is it? It is an entire course. It is NOT a platform.Massive: means may users can log in simultaneously

Open: means open to anyone in the world

A platform where resources can be placed.Not massive – limitations in number of simultaneous users

Mostly not open to everyone.

Examples Courses on edX, Coursera, Udemy 

Coursera, edX, Udemy are platforms – they are first and foremost a branded website promoting courses based on a Learning Management System (LMS).


Moodle, Blackboard, Click2LearnLMS platforms provide a place for course creators to host their content and manage their learning environment (forums, quizzes, exams, peer to peer assessment, etc.)
Inclusion MOOCs include LMS technology/architecture An LMS is not a MOOC
Needs any standards? HTML 5/MOOCdb? AICC or SCORM for monitoring and reporting
When was it started? In the late 2000’s In the early 1960s
What do they do? It is an open-ended course, not overtly managed. It is a course management tool and hosts close-ended courses. Management and monitoring can be quite detailed, and programmed accordingly. Can be a bit intrusive.
Authoring tools None None
Exam tools YesLearning analytics can be programmed. YesLearning analytics can be programmed.
Networked More networked – blogs, tweets, wikis, etc. Less networked – wikis, forums, etc.
Size Large size – due to the availability of large servers and high internet speeds.Distributed and social learning. For knowledge networking, and life-long learning Relatively small sizes – limitations and slowness due to connectivity.Some LMSs have facility for distributed learning.

Once the course is over, access to course is removed.

Course Hosting It is an entire course. It is NOT a platform. 

Coursera, edX, Udemy are platforms which host a MOOC. These platforms provide a place for course creators to host their content and manage their learning environment (forums, quizzes, exams, peer to peer assessment, etc.)

Many courses simultaneously can be hosted, from various providers and publishers. And a catalogue of courses may be offered to users to pick, choose and pay to start the course.
Credits No, not yet Some courses can have credits


Diagnostic, Formative and Summative Assessments

In any teaching-learning process, the importance of any assessment as a feedback tool cannot be underestimated.

Assessment and imbibing new information (learning) are two sides of the same coin. As teachers-students engage in an assessment exercise, besides grades and marks, they should be able to get pointers to the learning processes as well.

The challenge is for teachers-students is to shift the assessment paradigm and think of it as a concept than a terminal event.

An assessment outcome is a powerful tool for high stake holders such as educational management professionals, as they can gauge if teachers are really teaching or not! Many times in India, it happens that teachers don’t teach and complete the curriculum and syllabus, and the students are left to fend for themselves, unfortunately

In my earlier blogs on Analytical Framework for Monitoring Teaching-Learning Process

( in Quality Assurance in Education and Training ( I have emphasized the importance of assessments and rubrics. In this blog I explain the various types of assessments and compare formative and summative assessments.

For teachers, the purpose and the need for assessment is an important criterion to decide which types of assessment to conduct. There are three types of assessments:

  • Diagnostic
  • Formative, and
  • Summative


Diagnostic assessments are used to gather information about what students already know and are able to do. It provides a way for teachers and trainers to chart a course of action. Typical diagnostic assessment will be:

  • A pre-test
  • KWL (know, want to know, and what did we learn)
  • Graphic organizers

On the other hand formative assessments can occur throughout the teaching-learning process. They provide multiple opportunities for students as well to teachers if the targeted goals and learning objectives are achieved, without the concerns about grading and getting good marks.

Summative assessment is a type of assessment that makes a final judgement a about student’s learning achievement.

Formative versus Summative Assessment

Feature Formative Assessment Summative Assessment
When is conducted? This assessment is conducted at anytime, especially as teaching is in progress, with feedback from the teacher. (It is also useful for the teacher to adapt the instructions so that students follow the teaching). This assessment is conducted after a particular unit of time (weekly, monthly, etc.)
Examples Quiz, surprise tests, journals Unit tests, final exams, projects
Is it timed? Not necessarily Yes
Purpose/aim? Generally aimed at what students cannot do.It is prospective in nature. Generally aimed at what students can do.It is evaluative/retrospective in nature.
Is any feedback given? Yes. No, not generally.
Does it test the instruction? Yes.It is a reflection on the teacher’s instruction.

Instructional effectiveness – high

No, not really.It is a reflection on the student’s assimilation.

Instructional effectiveness – most of the cases it is not in the picture!

Does it motivate a student to learn? Yes.Leads to motivation to learn for the students. No.Leads to understanding of a student’s level of learning.
Can it be used for self- evaluation by a student? Yes.It can be used for self-evaluation, self-assessment, and goal setting No, not generally.It cannot be used for self-evaluation, self-assessment, and goal setting
Grades and accountability It is not about grades or accountability, but it is used for getting better. It is about accountability, for getting marks and grades.
Does it measure learning objectives/outcomes? Tests to measure learning objectives. Tests to measure learning outcomes.
Stakes Low – stakes for students’ learning, high stakes for teachers’ instructional methods High – stakes for students’ learning, low stakes for teachers’ instructional methods


Quality Assurance in Education and Training

Bit of a Background

As students, many of us have seen poor or indifferent quality of teaching in our schools and colleges. To cope with this void our parents sent us to extra coaching classes (mornings and evenings) so that we would learn something and pass important exams, and get a degree!!

This scenario has not changed over the past 30+ years in India! Increasingly parents have to cough up stiff school and college fees for their children, in addition more money for extra tuitions, and all they can do is hope for the best. For the hapless young students, the pressure/expectations from parents, and competition from peers only aggravates the situation –from morning to late evening they are studying endlessly, and appearing for lectures/exam preps/tests………….all this is sometimes quite meaningless!

The minimum aim of educating the masses in India is this – anyone should be able to (a) read a newspaper, (b) write and sign name, (c) read and write a letter/an application/fill a form, etc. (d) use a bank or a post office!

But this is not sufficient for a young India anymore! The core question is – what does getting a degree mean to them? Well, getting a degree actually implies that a student has completed the requirements of the said curriculum and is skilled enough to get a job in the labour market. Unfortunately in most cases a degree may not be a genuine reflection of a person’s skills and competencies, because of poor quality of education imparted to them.

In a recent World Bank report shared by my friend Sita (Live Mint from Wall Street Journal 7th July 2014) on how ‘Poor Education is Holding Back India’ should definitely be an eye opener for all those who care and bleed silently for the state of the education system in India. And I quote, “……… poor quality of education, reflected in low learning levels, in India and other South Asian countries traps many young people in poverty and prevents faster economic growth ………..”.

The Actual Problem

If we try and dig deeper, the reasons for poor quality of education and training in India are plenty! But the main issue is that the dividend (or the return on investment) on education expense may be returned much later in life; so the cycle for monitoring what is ‘good’ and what is ‘not good’ education spans more than 10-15 years, from school to a college degree, to a higher professional qualifications such as an MBA, an MS or a PhD! Paying for education is not like buying any consumer goods such as a soap or a packet of crisps – we don’t get instant gratification or can we see a feedback for the monies spent! This is frustrating for all stakeholders in the system.


Some Possible Solutions
To provide assurance to all stakeholders (mainly parents, students, course owners, principles, top management, etc.) of quality of education it is best to address by monitoring every aspect of the learning steps.

In my earlier blog on ‘Analytical Framework for Monitoring Teaching Learning Process’ I had mentioned a few pointers for ensuring that teachers teach and learners learn! ( Of course none of these solutions are water tight – some solutions work for some, some other solutions work for others! Learning is a very individual journey; all that sincere teachers and educators can do is to provide the right environment and motivation so that a learner can take that journey, and enable a learner to progress, and acquire better skills and competencies in their chosen line or profession.

Quality Assurance
Below is what I would like suggest for quality assurance in education and training:
1. Teachers should provide extensive and detailed templates to map objectives of the course work to the learning outcomes. The mapping has to encompass subject level outcomes along with broad programme level outcomes.
2. Students should have adequate hands-on work, project work; challenge them with problem-based learning, and enquiry-based learning; also give them time for self-study and home assignments.
3. For college students, allow a gap year so that they can take industry experience and ‘learn’ something in the real world rather than in the enclosed campuses, class rooms, libraries, computer rooms and labs!

If these are strictly followed, I can guarantee that the quality of education will improve. It will provide an absolute transparency to how teaching-learning is being imparted. Ideally a blended learning model with some edtech components and a dashboard would be suitable for all stakeholders.

The return on investment on education will pay off sooner than later.

Of course all this means a lot of hard work for teachers and students (and also for the management of educational institutions). Getting quality education is NOT an easy task! Good quality education is cost and effort intensive, there is no second option.

Last words…… the passing……………
In India, there are genuine educational institutions that impart high quality education, sometimes at very high costs……then there are many not-so-genuine (or even fraudulent) institutions that charge high and do nothing with sincerity and transparency! So high cost does not necessarily equate to a better education, although most people are fooled into thinking so, unfortunately!
The only way to pull out of quagmire of poor quality of education is that stakeholders involved should at least see that the quality assurance pointers stated above are somewhat available for them, and learners are encouraged to take their difficult journey even with limited wherewithal!