How to implement the ‘flipped classroom’

As teachers adopt the flipped model, they’re using the extra time in many ways, depending on their subject matter, location, and style of teaching.

(Editor’s note: Flipped learning, in which students watch instructional videos for homework and use class time to practice what they’ve learned, is catching on in many schools. This is an excerpt from a new book by two pioneers of the flipped approach, titled Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day. Copyright 2012, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and ASCD; reprinted with permission from ISTE. The book can be purchased in the ISTE Store for $19.95, or $13.97 for ISTE members.)

Despite the attention that the videos get, the greatest benefit to any flipped classroom is not the videos. It’s the in-class time that every teacher must evaluate and redesign. Because our direct instruction was moved outside of the classroom, our students were able to conduct higher-quality and more engaging activities.

As we have seen teachers adopt the flipped model, they use the extra time in myriad ways depending on their subject matter, location, and style of teaching. We asked some of our colleagues to share how they have changed their class time. Following are some examples.

Foreign Language Classes

In foreign language classes, teachers are recording grammar lessons and conversation starters so as to create time in class to use the language more practically. This includes having more conversation, reading literature, and writing stories, all in the target language. We visited one of these classes, a level 1 class, and observed students actively speaking Spanish. They were responding and gesturing in ways that corresponded to the teacher’s instructions, which were entirely in Spanish. He would then ask students questions, and they would respond in Spanish. He reported to us how the videos had freed him up to do more of these engaging activities in his classroom.

For more on flipped learning, see:

Engaging Students with Flipped Learning

Math Classes

Math teachers are finding the time to really help their students engage with deep analysis of mathematical concepts. Others are embracing math manipulatives and emerging technologies where students are engaged not just in learning the algorithmic computation, but in deeply wrestling with the intricacies of the math concepts. Flipped math classes are becoming laboratories of computational thinking, inquiry, and connectedness with other STEM areas (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Science Classes

One concern about the flipped classroom that has been recently posed is whether flipping is compatible with an inquiry approach to teaching science. We and others have responded with a resounding yes. Flipping a science class creates more time and more opportunities to include inquiry learning. In science classes, teachers who flip have time for students to engage in more inquiry-based activities and to conduct more in-depth experiments. In the chemistry education community, POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning;, has become a powerful tool for students to create conceptual understanding without direct instruction. The flipped classroom is ideally set up for this type of learning, and we have incorporated many POGIL activities into our classroom. When a well-written POGIL activity is conducted well, the students learn all they need to learn via guided inquiry, and there is no need to teach the material with a video. In cases such as this, we use the POGIL activity as the instructional tool in lieu of a video. However, we have found that some students still use our instructional videos as a secondary resource for remediation.

Social Science/Language Arts/Humanities Classes

Social science instructors report using their extra time to discuss current events in light of the previous night’s instructional video. Others are finding time to delve deeply into original document analysis. There is more time to debate, give speeches, conduct pro se court, and discuss what students are learning more deeply and without having to worry about a deep conversation being interrupted by a bell. There’s plenty of time to write, write, write, and even more time to analyze and discuss each other’s writing through peer review.

Physical Education Classes

We have been surprised to hear that some of the teachers most excited about flipped classrooms were physical education teachers. This dynamic team of teachers realized the flipped class had great potential in their courses. They told us that the most important aspect of the physical education class is for their students to be moving. Physical education teachers report that they spend too much time teaching students things like the rules of games and some of the techniques. When teachers began making videos (with a video camera) of rules, students can come to class and quickly get to moving their bodies and participating in the important physical education activities.

For more on flipped learning, see:

Engaging Students with Flipped Learning

Project-Based Learning

Another concern is whether or not a flipped class is compatible with project-based learning. Again, we cheer yes. We love the idea of discovery-based learning driven by student interest. Most of us do not operate in an environment that allows for this, but educationally speaking, it is enticing and has great benefit. Picture a class driven by student-identified problems or interests. Students are exploring a real-world problem and developing solutions, and then suddenly realize that they need to know how to perform a particular mathematical function in order to execute their solution.

The teacher now faces a decision. Does she spend valuable class time teaching the entire class how to perform the appropriate math and risk boring the advanced student and losing the student who struggles? Or does she create an instructional video (or perhaps access an archived one) to give the students what they need, without sacrificing class time for direct instruction? Marrying the technological tools and asynchronous content delivery used in a flipped classroom with a student-directed approach to deciding what is learned can create an environment in which curiosity thrives. There is no need to spend time reintroducing concepts that are well-established and just need to be quickly presented and learned, or to use valuable class time to deliver new content.

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