The term flipped classroom has been a 21st-century learning buzz word for a while now. In this article, I’ll outline some clear advantages of flipping a classroom, as well as issuing some timely cautions.
This article is the second in a series of three exploring a current trend in education called flipped learning, in particular as it applies to mathematics classrooms. The articles are designed to be read in any order except for (The Flipped Classroom explained) – which is recommended to be read first.
The first article explored the arguments that the original flipped model - videos watched at home; homework done in lessons - offers clear advantages over a traditional, teacher-centric, face-to-face teaching model but that the flipped mastery classroom - delivering comprehensive, student-centred, online units - is superior to the (original) flipped classroom model.
Does flipping work?
Embarking on a path to flip a classroom using either model is no guarantee of success. Mind you, remaining with a traditional teacher-directed approach is no guarantee of success either! How we interpret success is critical. When a teacher says “I tried flipping my classroom and it didn’t work!”, what is it the teacher actually saying? This is important, not as an argument that flipping will always work or that “every teacher should flip”, but rather because there are often factors at play which are best addressed prior to embarking on a flipped classroom format of teaching. My point is that sometimes when implementing a new strategy, it is the underlying issues, rather than the strategy itself, which cause teachers to assume a new strategy has failed.
The following scenario applies to some teachers when they first attempt to flip a classroom.
A teacher has several students with behavioural issues and decides to apply the flipped model to that class. The teacher assumes that flipping the classroom will solve the student behavioral issues for the following reasons:
The disruptive students will become engaged because flipping involves the use of technology (students like technology).
The individualised program will break the collective dynamic between the disruptive students.
Consequently, the teacher creates a flipped unit and implements it. However, no change occurs with the disruptive students. The teacher concludes that flipping the classroom did not work.
The flaw in this scenario, of course, is that behavioural issues need to be addressed by strategies designed to address the behaviour. Flipping a classroom is not a strategy designed to address misbehaviour. However, importantly, when used in conjunction with strategies which do address behavioural issues, flipping a classroom has the potential to support the student management strategies and help improve engagement.
The traditional flipped modelcertainly has its merits. Any system which increases the amount of time for constructive collaboration clearly has worth. Three advantages of the original flipped model are:
Increased collaboration and teacher support.
Improved delivery of teaching content using video.
Videos only need creating once (A stitch in time saves nine).
Advantages: The traditional flipped classroom (TFC)
Let's consider some advantages of the traditional flipped model.
TFC Advantage #1: Increased collaboration and teacher support
When in-class teaching segments are replaced by instructional videos, lesson time becomes available for teacher support on ‘homework’ and other activities and for collaborative learning with other students. The more videos, the less the need for in-class instruction, the greater the amount of lesson time is freed up for collaboration and teacher support. This advantage, of course, assumes the teacher has adopted the role of 'active facilitator' and has learned to engineer collaborative learning between students.
TFC Advantage #2: Improved delivery of teaching content using video
Wait! What was that? IMPROVED delivery of teaching content using video? Correct. This statement may bring disbelief to some readers, however, it comes with a disclaimer. As I began fleshing out this section – 'the advantage of video' became its own article - 'Are instructional math videos likely to replace classroom teaching?' The short version is this: Video offers very significant advantages over face-to-face instruction. It does not win out on all counts, but the advantages are sufficient enough to argue the serious consideration of video delivery of content by any secondary math teacher. Just for the record though, I don’t see videos replacing classroom teachers any time soon!
TFC Advantage #3: Videos only need creating once!
Preparing videos is time consuming. Once a set of videos has been created, however, they are ready for reuse in subsequent years, and for revision purposes in any year.
Advantages: The Flipped Mastery Classroom (FMC)
The flipped mastery model– a comprehensive, well-constructed, online unit of work – offers a clear pedagogical advantage over the original version. The advantages given above also apply to the flipped mastery model. Let’s consider three additional advantages of a flipped mastery classroom:
The flipped mastery classroom is student-centered.
Many students are able to progress unimpeded.
The ‘absent student issue’ is no more!
FMC Advantage #1 - A flipped mastery classroom is student-centred
A flipped mastery unit is simply a well-constructed, comprehensive, online unit of work which students can navigate at their own pace, collaborate with other students, and receive teacher support when required. Therefore, it is student-centered. Instead of the teacher dictating to students when to do what, a flipped mastery unit allows students to progress at their own pace. Students are no longer ‘herded’ to progress uniformly through a unit. Various articles on this site allude to the fact that allowing students to progress at their own pace greatly improves engagement. My view is that the engagement aspect of student-centered learning is under-appreciated because it is poorly understood.
This student-centred advantage, therefore, comes with a caution: Because flipped mastery classrooms are student-centred, teachers need to understand and cater to student-centred-ness. Moving from a teacher-centric model to a student-centred model, whether using flipped technologies or not, proves to be a big undertaking for most high school teachers. The Create and trial a flipped maths unit course has proved successful in assisting high school math teachers in making this transition.
FMC Advantage #2 - Unimpeded student progress
Related to the advantage of student-centred-ness, above, another significant benefit of a flipped mastery classroom is that it releases the ‘more able’ students to work ahead at their own pace. In a teacher-directed environment, it is common for teachers (with the very best of intentions) to inadvertently demotivate more able students by forcing them to listen to teaching segments containing content they already understand. The presence of disruptive students is a second way the progress of students is thwarted in a teacher-directed environment. A flipped mastery class disentangles the more able students from any disruptive elements because it allows for independent progress.
FMC Advantage #3 - A flipped mastery classroom caters for students absent from class
Students who are absent for whatever reason can access the course content independently, 24-7. This reduces unnecessary work by the teacher to prepare extra work for absentees and encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning.
So there you have it – some advantages of flipping classrooms and a caution or two. Learn Implement Share provides guided learning journeysfor teachers wanting to create online units for their students.
Comments anyone? Would an online unit such as the one showcased above work for you? Would love to hear your thoughts at the bottom of the page. (Your email address will not be required)
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