The Flipped Classroom

October 3, 2014  |  Online Education | E-Learning  |  Share

Flipped teaching, or leading a flipped classroom, is a new teaching technique. The primary characteristics of a flipped classroom, as opposed to an ordinary one, is that a flipped classroom requires the students to lead the conversation, which is centered around solving problems rather than a lecture. The advantages of a flipped classroom are numerous, including improvement in scores, a reduction in the teacher’s workload, and greater student understanding.

A flipped classroom blends technology with a student-focused approach to learning. First, the teacher or professor either records a lecture of themselves discussing a topic or directs students to a similar lecture by someone else, such as a Khan Academy video. The teacher asks the students to watch the lecture and learn its material outside of class time, at home or otherwise on their own. The next time the class meets, the teacher invites students to the board to lead the class in solving problems or examples. The teacher’s role is to direct the students, but to stay out of the way as much as possible, letting the students do as much as they can on their own.

The idea behind the flipped classroom is that students have trouble engaging with lectures as their only interaction with a teacher. Having problems and exercises to work out is a useful way to train concepts and applications, but leaving those as just homework means students often struggle alone. Flipped classrooms bring the problems into the environment of the classroom, where collaboration and peer learning can help guide students through tough problems.

There are several reasons to use flipped classes to teach students. First of all, they are a good way to allow the students who grasp the material first to help the ones who need more time. The teacher can ask the struggling students to try to work out the problems, then let the class guide them through the solution if they get stuck. Or the teacher can call the students who know the material to the board so they can provide a peer perspective on the work. Students learn well from each other, and it is also more engaging to allow them to do work in class rather than just sit and listen to the teacher. The key innovation of the flipped classroom is turning the teacher into a coach or “guide on the side” rather than a total authority figure.

The idea of the flipped classroom has become much easier to implement thanks to better Internet and video-recording technology. The teacher can now upload class content onto a class website or Youtube, making it easy for students to access recorded lectures. The ease of use of such technology is making flipped classrooms a reality, whereas during their original development in the 1990s, it was more cumbersome to record lectures. Teachers have carried out experiments in classes up through high school, attempting to see how a flipped classroom performs compared to traditional methods. The number of these trials is limited, but usually, flipped classrooms have lower rates of failure and higher average grades. One school, Clintondale High School in Michigan, experienced major success in flipping its classes and vastly increased its graduation rates and pass rates for all flipped classes.

The flipped classroom idea is not for all classes- it is mostly suited to subjects that need a lot of drilling or problem-solving, like math, science, and foreign languages. But for those areas where practice with problems goes a long way, flipped classrooms provide major benefits to students in the form of more engagement with the material. Even aside from the format, flipped classrooms simply allow for more learning time, based on the way they integrate video lectures outside class time. The teacher need not record the lectures themselves, especially for standardized topics. This reduces the teacher’s time spent on preparations for each class while increasing student learning and mastery. There are not many innovations that can accomplish both of these at once. Flipped classrooms are still on the cutting edge of teaching, so their deployment is limited, but teachers who can get administrative approval to run a flipped class might find themselves becoming major case studies in pedagogy.

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