Changing Classrooms with Flipped Learning
All students are familiar with homework, but not all students approach it as a fun or particularly engaging part of their education. Oftentimes, the end of class coincides with a mad dash to answer homework questions before the bell rings as struggling students slip through the cracks and pass their incomplete homework forward. But now a new model of teaching called flipped learning is beginning to take hold in schools across America and change classroom instruction, according to a recent article by Christina Hoag in the Associated Press. Flipped learning is a model of teaching that swaps the time when teachers traditionally give lectures and the time when students traditionally do homework. With this model, students watch a video lecture instead of their homework, then, when they come to class, they spend that time completing assignments, taking quizzes and participating in small groups. Meanwhile, the teacher is free to help students who are having trouble.
Many teachers are finding this creates time for more creative applications of lessons, so students can strengthen their understanding. In the Associated Press article, teacher Crystal Kirch talks about the changes she has seen in her own classroom since adopting the flip model two years ago: "It's a huge transformation. It's a student-focused classroom where the responsibility for learning has flipped from me to the students." "It was hard to get used to,” says Timmy Nguyen, one of Kirch’s students. “I was like ‘why do I have to watch these videos, this is so dumb.' But then I stopped complaining, and I learned the material quicker. My grade went from a D to an A." Flipping requires teachers to record their lessons as an eight to 10-minute video on their laptops, then upload the video to a designated website. The videos often consist of the teacher making notes as they explain the concept to the camera. Students can then access the video and watch current or past lessons on their home computers. If students don't have Internet access, teachers can also burn DVDs or distribute portable viewing devices; another option is for students to stay after school or watch the lesson during study hall. One school that has seen drastic improvements from the flipping model is Clintondale High School in a suburb of Detroit. Principal Greg Green sought change as the school suffered from high failure rates and numerous disciplinary incidents. After one year of flipped classes, the freshman failure rate dropped 33 percent. Other improvements included a 66 percent drop in disciplinary incidents and an increase in student attendance and scores. Ultimately, even the parents were happier, with parent complaints dropping from 200 to seven.
While the flipped learning model has many positive benefits, it does raise some concerns. It requires more work from the teacher, with educators pointing out that it takes extra time to make the videos and prepare projects for class time. Another concern is the model’s relatively untested effectiveness. Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, a New York City-based parent advocacy group says, "They're expecting kids to do the learning outside the classroom. There's not a lot of evidence this works. What works is reasonably sized classes with a lot of debate, interaction and discussion." Some also point out that lower-achieving students may not be as motivated to watch the lessons on their own. Still, more and more schools are embracing this new model. Mostly popular in high schools, flipped learning is also changing the landscape in elementary schools as well. "It's forcing the notion of guided practice," said Cynthia Desrochers, director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at California State University-Northridge. "Students can get the easy stuff on their own, but the hard stuff should be under the watchful eye of a teacher."