Advantages of the Flipped Classroom

April 20, 2015  |  Online Education | E-Learning  |  Share

Flipped classrooms are an innovative approach to teaching, and they are starting to transform schooling and training around the country. The basic idea is simple: a flipped classroom reverses how teachers and students use their time. In a regular classroom, teachers lecture for hours each week as students take notes in class. Then, the students work on practice problems and homework alone. In a flipped classroom, the students learn the material at home with recorded lectures or readings, and then in class time, the teacher works with the students to solve problems and examples.

Students perform better in flipped classrooms, especially in areas like math and the sciences where practice problems are an important part of the learning process. For one thing, teachers can spend more of their time working with students who need help. Students who get stuck on problems when they are working alone get frustrated quickly, because there is often nowhere to turn. In a flipped classroom, that won’t happen, because the teacher can come over and provide help right away.

Next, the environment of working on problems in class is also an ideal moment to allow students to take advantage of peer learning by dividing them into small groups. Students gain a lot from peer learning- both the student asking for help and the student teaching will find they have a much deeper understanding of the material than if they had never worked together. Furthermore, the flipped classroom works better than a study group, because the teacher is on hand to answer any questions that the students cannot resolve among themselves. That means that if there is something that both peer teachers and peer learners cannot understand, they will have a third party source to clarify things for both of them.

The way flipped classrooms work promotes the use of technology in learning. The time that students spend on their own learning the material works best when technology enhances that time. For example, teachers can record the lectures in advance and place them on the course website. Then the students can log in and watch the recording at their leisure. Similarly, the teacher can upload course readings, supplemental material, and notes on the course website for students to read. Technology can also provide a means of communication. For example, the teacher can set up a forum for the class. That way, if any of the students has a question that they want to ask their peers outside of the classroom, they can ask it in the forum. This is good for students who are working on the material outside of class, who didn’t think of the question while in class, or who don’t feel comfortable asking the question in their small group.

Flipped classrooms have another advantage: they keep students engaged. In a lecture setting, the teacher reads off a lecture about basic material that they already know, and students struggle to keep their attention on the lecture. Students are expected to be passive receivers of information. No wonder they fail to learn: that isn’t a good environment for anyone. A flipped classroom means that when students are in class, they are active and engaged with the material, working at it with peers and trying to solve applications. That lets them directly connect what they learn in the course material to practice problems and use their time in the classroom for active learning. Students are free to learn the course material and see the lectures at their own pace and in a way best suited to their personal learning style.
The flipped classroom has many merits. The major obstacle to its use is unfamiliarity. As more and more educators learn about the advantages of the flipped classroom, however, its use is catching on in more places from corporate training to elementary schools. Expect to see more experiments in schools to evaluate outcomes from flipped classrooms, followed by expanded use and awareness.
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