Flipping Your Classroom

I first heard about the Flipped Classroom listening to a TED talk on the Khan Academy so when I found the book Flip Your Classroom by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, I ordered a copy. The authors acknowledge that they were not the first to initiate a flipped classroom, nor do they propose that their flipped classroom is the flipped classroom. What they do is explain their experience with a flipped classroom and why they feel it is successful.

So what is a flipped classroom?

A Flipped classroom is a method of instruction where the student basically does what is normally done in the classroom at home. And at school the student does what s/he would have done at home. Although technology does not have to be a component of a flipped classroom, Bergmann and Sams recorded their lectures for the students to watch at home. Then, the next day, students work on the assignments that in a traditional classroom are assigned at home. This gives the instructor the classroom time to help the students with concepts they struggle with as well as discover holes in student learning.

Why would you want to flip your classroom?

Flipping your classroom will change the way you teach. You will no longer be the sage on the stage. Instead of repeating lectures year after year, you record a video (or use another means of getting your content to your students) once and spend the rest of your time with the students.This give you more time with your students. You get to know your students better.

Flipping helps your busy students, the ones that continually miss because they are in student activities. They will no longer miss your lecture when they miss your class. They can watch the lecture on their own time and then do their work independently, catching up with you when they ARE in class.

Flipping helps the struggling student. In the traditional classroom the brightest and best raise their hands and ask questions. Meanwhile the students who struggle are often “lost” and do not understand the material well enough to do their homework, or spend hours going over the problems in frustration. In a flipped classroom, you have the opportunity to find misunderstandings and give struggling students the attention they need to grasp the material.

“Flipping allows students to pause and rewind their teacher.” (p. 24) Some students are unable to take notes fast enough. Other students find the pace too slow. Flipping allows students to listen and take notes at their own pace.

Flipping is ideal for a Mastery Classroom

A mastery classroom, a popular trend that received a lot of attention the 70s, is a classroom model where students learn at their own pace. Once difficult for an instructor to keep track of and maintain, technology can be leveraged to help with the assessments and repetitious tasks. In a flipped mastery classroom, students are provided with all the materials necessary to complete an objective and the teacher is there to guide the individual students whenever they need assistance. Bergmann and Sams talk to every kid in every class every day. Teachers are not able to do that in a traditional classroom.

The advantages of Flipped Mastery Classroom is that all students can move at their own pace.  Content mastery helps students with time-management skills as well as puts them in charge of their own learning. It gives students timely (often instant) feedback and provides opportunities for remediation. And it ensures that all students are involved.

The Flipped Mastery Classroom and Universal Design

The most exciting aspect of the work Bergmann and Sams did in their flipped classroom is when they took their teaching to the level of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Basically, Universal Design, coined by the folks at Harvard, is classes designed around how individuals learn rather than designing a course one way that every learner has to follow.  UBL basically proposes that instructors provide students with “multiple means of representation, multiple means of expression, and multiple means of engagement.” The point is to meet the objectives, correct? So what difference does it make whether the student verbally meets requirement, or makes a podcast, videocast, or writes down the requirement in a blog? I wholeheartedly agree. I dislike watching videos. I would much rather read the material. And an answer written in my blog is my learning to keep! These teachers do not require every student to complete every problem! They do not care how a student meets the objective…just that they meet them! I would have loved to have had teachers like that when I was in school. A quote from the authors worth repeating…

“Allowing students choice in how to learn has empowered them. Students realize that their learning is their own responsibility. Teaching them this life lesson is more important than our science content.” (p.68)

The book has much more information than I have gone over here. I hope I have peaked your interest. It is an easy read. Pick it up and consider flipping your classroom.

I took a learning theory class last summer and my professor said there is no scientific evidence that people have different learning styles. However, we all have learning preferences. For instance, I would much rather read material than watch a video. (Yeah, I know, that’s weird.)

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