Home Interviews Flipped Learning Early Adopter Interview: Ramsey Musallam

Flipped Learning Early Adopter Interview: Ramsey Musallam


We’re so excited to have Ramsey Musallam join us for this edition of the FLT newsletter! Musallam is a high school science teacher in California and he started ‘flipping’ back in 2006 – 2007. He is widely recognized as an early adopter of the approach. Like many other early adopters, flipped instruction was a stepping stone in Musallam’s continuing quest to grow and improve as an educator. Ramsey did a great Ted Talk a couple years back, which he later “unpackaged” and broke down to write his 2017 book, Spark Learning: 3 Keys to Embracing the Power of Student Curiosity.

I found this interview to be especially illuminating and find myself coming back to it repeatedly to glean more. The following (edited) excerpt from our discussion provides a brief look at some of the powerful insights Musallam shares. I hope this will encourage readers to watch the interview and come away inspired to get back in the classroom and start triggering student curiosity!

“… the [traditional] flipped classroom is grounded in the idea that … if students watch a video at their own pace, and it’s segmented, the extraneous cognitive load of the information is going to be lower because they are able to interact with the video and it is more tailored, especially if it’s from their teacher’s voice. So they’re going to take in that lecture because it’s not 1-on-30, it is 1-on-1, and that sounds really appealing. And that can be true. And then it’s the idea that they are doing the harder work in class, not at home, with their teacher because there’s more space (time), that they’re also going to learn more, and those things are true … if the teacher is there with them working the harder problems, see them doing them, there’s more formative assessment.

Both of those things are true and that’s grounded in cognitive load theory. But … cognitive load theory has a very important assumption [which is] that all of the students are equally motivated to the task. The assumption is that students are going to watch the video and that they are all going to interact with it … and when they are in class working through problems with the teacher, they want to be doing that.

So that’s one theory, but I think the more interesting question is, “How do you motivate them to the task?” When they are motivated to the task and when their interest is piqued, when there is tension between what they know and what they don’t know, and more importantly, when they are aware of that tension, then things like video can work really well.

The real “flip” in flipped learning is flipping when the lecture happens, not where it happens … delaying direct instruction, waiting for a time when students have laid down enough pathways that say, “I don’t know this, I need information.” Then you can show them the video …”

Ramsey goes on to explain some ideas and techniques for creating that “tension” and curiosity. Of course, he explores this much more in depth in his book, Spark Learning: 3 Keys to Embracing the Power of Student Curiosity.

If you wish, you can use these cool ‘Time Tags’ to click and jump right to sections of the video that interest you (this will open YouTube in a separate window – scroll down and click on Show More to find these tags in the video description).

01:25 – Welcome! Tell us about where and what you teach, and some of the related extracurricular work you’ve undertaken.
01:32 – You were an early adopter of flipped learning – how did you get started with this approach?
02:35 – Back in 2006 and 2007, students didn’t have as ready access to technology as they do today. Was that a challenge, and how did it affect your teaching?
03:57 – So, after a few years of using what had sprung up as the sort of fundamental approach to flipped learning – moving some lecture content to outside-of-class via video, to free up some class time for more individualized instruction, you shifted your focus away from that. It’s exciting seeing quite a few early adopters for whom flipped learning was a stepping stone to deeper or more fundamental ideas. Please share your experience.
09:00 – In your new book, “Spark Learning: 3 Keys to Embracing the Power of Student Curiosity,” you’ve written about the challenge of increasing student motivation, and how vital this is to learning. Please tell us about it!
12:10 – Getting students to open up and ask questions can be such a challenge. Any particular techniques or concepts you can share to help teachers with that challenge?
19:04 – So where does the traditional flip of content fit in with your instruction now? How has your defintion of “flipped learning” evolved?
23:11 – What’s next for you and where can people find you online?

Kelly Walsh
Kelly Walsh is the CIO at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches as a member of the Faculty of Administration. In 2009, Walsh founded the popular website EmergingEdTech.com, where he and others write regularly about engaging students and enhancing learning outcomes with the aid of technology as a tool. In 2013, Walsh was ranked at #3 by the Huffington Post in a listing of the “Top 100 Social CIOs in Higher Education,” and in succeeding years he has repeatedly been included in Top 100 Social CIO listings ranking CIOs across all industries. Walsh is a staunch advocate of flipped learning. In 2013, he published the eBook Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book. In June of 2016, Walsh became Community Administrator for the Flipped Learning Network.


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