Variations of flipped classrooms are as many as there are teachers. Brian Bennett writes in his blog post, “The flipped class is an ideology, not a methodology.” He stresses that it is not defined by the use of videos. He has moved away from videos now that he has more time for “engaging activities and labs.” The flipped classroom is all about “making connections with learners and differentiating your instruction.” Therefore, a teacher can have such a classroom as long as the needs of all learners are being met. Bennett is commended for meeting the needs of his learners. However, for a classroom to truly be “flipped,” prepared instruction must continue at home, not just in the classroom.
The way we like to understand the term, the flipped classroom is used to introduce and reinforce the teaching in BOTH the classroom and at home. For example, a teacher introduces and provides direct instruction on finding the slope of a line followed by some guided practice. That night, instead of the usual independent homework assignment in a textbook, students are assigned a video to watch before completing independent practice problems. This has the following advantages:
1) Conflicting instruction is eliminated.
2) Student learning is immediately reinforced.
3) Instructional variety is experienced.
4) Learning is at the student’s pace.
5) Instruction is reviewed by the student as many times as needed.
6) Students don’t struggle for hours over problems, becoming discouraged and damaging self-confidence.
7) Students are better prepared to ask pertinent in-class questions.
8) Instruction is more easily differentiated, and classroom time is efficiently used to meet individual learning needs.
9) Math difficulties are more easily determined and diagnosed.
10) Math becomes enjoyable, even fun.
How do you like that Top Ten List, David Letterman?!
Take note how the real world shuns inefficiencies. At Sony ImageWorks, company policy prohibits a designer or technician from dwelling on a problem more than 15-minutes before asking for help. Why then should students go home to work on problems where they have no help?
Isn’t it better to use homework time to listen/watch/interact with well-prepared instruction where substantial time has been devoted to explaining the concepts? This instruction could be in the form of a PowerPoint presentation or screen-cast created by the teacher or associates, a Khan Academy video, or an Elevated Math lesson.
The flipped classroom doesn’t preclude turning in homework assignments. Elevated Math has free student materials for all its lessons. Printing and handing them out for students to return with problems solved – even though these answers are worked out in the video lessons – ensures that they have done the assignment. [If paper is a concern, some apps can make these PDF files interactive. Once completed, they can be emailed to the teacher.] Also, written assignments support kinesthetic learners.
What happens in class time? It depends on the teacher’s training and teaching style. Regardless of how the teacher chooses to structure this time, opportunities are now available to work with students in problem solving and critical thinking that can possibly exceed the scope of the curriculum. Real-world examples and content from sources other than textbooks can be shared. Students can become active learners rather than passive listeners, and they can work collaboratively.
More time for formative assessments opens up – assessments that allow teachers to differentiate instruction and intervene with varied instruction, activities, and group tutoring before learning barriers develop. As stated by math teacher, Corey, on a flipped classroom blog post: “I am essentially running 18-28 different lesson plans in every one of my periods. It’s opened my eyes to what is hard for my math students. It’s given me time to diagnose common mistakes they make and help correct them.”
If Bennett’s assertion is true, that what matters are “the relationships, the discussions, and the experiences,” then the flipped classroom provides an effective use of classroom time to build relationships, engage in serious discussions, and provide meaningful experiences for all learners. And let’s not forget one more advantage. The flipped classroom allows more time for student interaction with the teacher.
The disadvantage comes when a student does not have access to the technology — an iPad or the Internet to watch instructional apps or videos. But we predict the flipped classroom will prove its effectiveness with better test scores and enthusiastic learners. Then schools will be compelled to find ways to give all kids this advantage.