The Flipped Classroom Model: What's All the Buzz About?

Posted by Zack Blois on Dec 10, 2013 2:45:00 PM
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Many of the educators we work with on a daily basis have become increasingly excited by the prospects of the flipped classroom model. To these teachers and administrators, the model serves as a modern representation of what is possible when educational technology and good pedagogy come together. 

engaged_studentsFor those who do not know, the “flipped classroom” (or sometimes referred to as “flipped learning”) falls under the blended learning umbrella, but the student experience actually begins outside of the classroom

Students first learn background knowledge in a particular topic, concept, or skill outside of class time. The classroom teacher facilitates this process by assigning videos, online learning content, podcasts, etc. that are completely accessible from home (and beyond) and are designed to provide students a self-driven means of learning basic/essential skills. 

Read below the jump to learn more about the flipped classroom and how the model may fit into your instruction methods and strategies.

Why a "flipped classroom"?

Flipped classroom champions often exude the idea that flipped learning affords teachers better opportunities to stop constantly reviewing content and instead utilize their valuable classroom time to increase engagement and scaffold higher-order thinking processes and skills.

Because students gain basic skills via outside-the-classroom instruction means, more classroom time becomes available to differentiate between independent learning, group rotation, and whole-class instruction methods.

This process, in turn, opens up the door to both student-led mastery learning and enhanced opportunities to develop and scaffold real-world application, project-based learning activities, and valuable peer collaboration periods previously left out of a tight-for-time 50-minute class period.

What does a “flipped” math lesson look like?

For example, let’s say you are teaching a Pythagorean theorem lesson. This is how a (simplistic) flipped lesson might play out. 

  1. You assign the students an instructional video or online learning section designed to help teach the basic concepts of the Pythagorean theorem.

  2. Following completion, ask the students to post one question about the theorem on your online classroom message board for homework and two comments on fellow students’ questions before the beginning of the next class.

  3. The question and comments act as both a record of participation and an “anticipatory set” to guide the discussionin the next class period.
    • In addition, you can also assign basic skills homework via online math resources to gain a further picture of student understanding.

  4. You develop and modify a scaffolded approach to the Pythagorean theorem in-class lesson, taking in account possible questions and misunderstandings you noticed from the pre-class online responses.

  5. Collaboratively, you help the students work towards answering the questions and gaining understanding. Do so by addressing the pre-class questions and comments, promoting higher-order thought processes, and the “deeper understanding” of the Pythagorean theorem and it’s real-world connections.

The benefits of a Flipped Classroom

That may sound like a fun and engaging process, but what is the real value of providing a flipped learning experience? Let's take a look at a few quick benefits to students and educators:

  • Valuable class time is no longer used in lecturing or any other non-engaging ways that you transmit background knowledge.

  • Students can learn basic/essential skills at own pace and in their own ideal learning environment, i.e. a student-led learning process.

  • The teacher gains more one-on-one instruction time with students (and groups of students), reducing the need to “lecturing” and increasing the ability to identify and meet student needs within the classroom.

  • In-class learning can be more product-centered, even project-based, since now there is time to follow through on tasks without having to find a “stopping spot”. 

With that being said, there are a couple important caveats that come with providing an effective flipped classroom model. First, (obviously) each student must have access to these online instruction methods outside of the classroom. In many cases across the country, that is easier said than done.

Second, the online instruction resources must be valuable, effective, and digestible. If your students learn nothing from the first half of the lesson, then you will be right back where you started, covering missed information and needed skill during valuable class time.

Putting the Flipped Classroom into practice

If implemented correctly, flipped learning alleviates many of the complaints students and teachers both have about the traditional educational model. There is less reviewing required and, in turn, more interaction with the students. Additionally, the students are often are more engaged in the class and the content.

A key to developing an effective flipped classroom model is assigning solid online content for the students to access outside of class. This objective can be completed in a variety of ways. One is to create your own instructional videos and podcasts, which is not as complicated as it sounds -- click here for more info on teacher-friendly production tools).

Also, be sure to check out the Flipped Learning Network to see online videos and resources created by your peers (both for inspiration and a little peer-to-peer sharing opportunities).

In addition, there are also tons of fun and engaging online content available from YouTube, any of the MOOC repositories like Khan Academy and Coursera, TED talks, and various online learning content providers (hint, hint…). You can combine these resources with your own online instruction tools to create an amazing flipped learning experience for your students.

But, be warned: practitioners of flipped learning say that once you go "flipped", you never go back.

  • Do you think a flipped classroom model could be effective in your classroom? What do you like/dislike about the flipped classroom instruction methods?

    Start your conversation on our Facebook Page or Tweet us at@Wowzers.

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Topics: Blended Learning

Wowzers is a comprehensive online math program covering all Common Core State Standards for grades K-8. The research-based program adapts to each learner and allows for an individualized path through the curriculum. Content is presented in multiple ways, and appeals to tactile, auditory, and visual learners. Assessments mirror those found on high-stakes achievement tests and provide teachers and administrators with the information that they need to personalize learning for each student.

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