Many of us can recall instances in our lives where we found ourselves idly sitting in a classroom, eyes glazed over, half listening to our teacher as they lectured in front of the room.
These scenes are all too familiar in today’s schools, as the traditional model of learning has primarily revolved around a teacher-centered classroom, where instructors focus on conveying information, assigning work, and leaving it to the students to master the material. Though effective for some, this type of instruction has forced students to be merely receptors of information, rather than participants in their own learning processes through active learning. Fortunately, as technology has increasingly grown and infiltrated our classrooms, a new learning model has emerged that moves away from a teacher-centered space, and onto a more collaborative, student-centered learning environment, by way of a flipped classroom.
The main goal of a flipped classroom is to enhance student learning and achievement by reversing the traditional model of a classroom, focusing class time on student understanding rather than on lecture. To accomplish this, teachers post short video lectures online for students to view at home prior to the next class session. This allows class time to be devoted to expanding on and mastering the material through collaborative learning exercises, projects, and discussions. Essentially, the homework that is typically done at home is done in the classroom, while the lectures that are usually done in the classroom are viewed at home.
There are numerous potential advantages to this style of learning.
1. Students have more control
In a flipped classroom, it is possible for students to have increased input and control over their own learning. By providing short lectures at home, students are given the freedom to learn at their own pace. Students may pause or rewind the lectures, write down questions they may have, and discuss them with their teachers and peers in class.
This also allows students, who need more time to understand certain concepts to take their time reviewing the material without getting left behind, and receive immediate assistance from teachers and classmates. As a result, this can not only improves student achievement, but improves student behavior in class as well.
2. It promotes student-centered learning and collaboration
Flipped classrooms allows class time be used to master skills through collaborative projects and discussions. This encourages students to teach and learn concepts from each other with the guidance of their teachers. By allowing students to partake in their own learning, they are able to own the knowledge they achieve, which in turn builds confidence. Furthermore, teachers are given the ability to identify errors in thinking or concept application, and are more available for one-on-one interaction.
3. Lessons and content are more accessible (provided there is tech access)
By making video lectures available at all times online, students who are forced to miss class due to illness, sports, vacations or emergencies, can catch up quickly. This also gives teachers more flexibility when they themselves are sick and also eliminates make-up assignments.
4. Access = easier for parents to see what’s going on
Unlike traditional classroom models, flipped classrooms give parents 24/7 access to their student’s video lectures. This allows parents to be better prepared when attempting to help their students and gives them insight into the quality of instruction their students are receiving.
5. It can be more efficient
Done properly, in a flipped classroom, kids can have more time to be kids, whether that means more free time, or more academic practice.
As most of us can recall from our own experiences, a substantial amount of time is spent each week outside the classroom doing homework. In fact, a study done observing 9th-12th graders found that students spent an average of 38 hours a week doing homework. This is a tremendous amount of work on not only students, but on teachers as well, who have to be constantly assigning and grading work. Since flipped classrooms limit the outside workload to watching an online lecture that is usually less than 10 minutes long, this gives students and teachers more time outside of class to focus on other interests like friends, families, and hobbies.
However, there has predictably been some criticism to this bold new model of teaching and learning.
1. It can create or exacerbate a digital divide
One of the most prominent issues is the necessity for students to have access to a computer and Internet in order to view the lectures. This is particularly hard on students from low-income districts who already have limited access to resources.
2. It relies on preparation and trust
There is also the concern that since flipped classrooms are dependent on student participation, one must trust students to watch the lectures at home. Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee students will oblige or cooperate with the flipped model.
3. There is significant work on the front-end
Additionally, there is a concern that implementing a flipped classroom adds an extra workload on teachers, as there are several elements that must be integrated carefully to allow the class to flourish. Responsibilities include taping and uploading condensed lectures, which take time and skill, and introducing activities in the classroom that will enhance the subject matter as well as motivate students to participate and prepare for class. Though teachers can gradually integrated flipped elements into their classrooms, it will still require additional time and effort from teachers.
4. Not naturally a test-prep form of learning
Whether you think this is a good or a bad thing is another conversation, but it’s important to realize that generally speaking, flipped classrooms do not “teach to the test.” Flipped classrooms do not follow the model of teaching to improve standardized test scores. However, teachers and students are still required to spend a sizable portion of time preparing for state mandated testing, which in turn interrupts the flipped classroom process.
5. Time in front of screens–instead of people and places–is increased
There are some who believe that if every teacher starts flipping their classrooms, students will spend hours in front of a computer watching the lectures. One may argue that this has the potential to cause serious problems to student’s learning processes, as not everyone may be as adept to learning through a computer.
Despite these issues, the flipped classroom can still be a very effective, hands-on approach to improving student achievement and involving them in their own education.