Flipping classrooms has been a “21st Century Learning” fashion for some time. In this article, we will look at the original and common understanding of a flipped classroom. Then, we will unpack a less common, arguably superior model, sometimes referred to as the flipped mastery classroom. We will also touch on an issue which, in my view, does not receive enough attention in math education circles, that being “student-centred learning”, in particular, the inherent student-centred-ness of flipped classrooms. As this is the first of a multi-part series on flipped classrooms, this article will act as a springboard into the others. After reading this article there is no particular order in which the other articles should be read.
For these articles, the terms flipped classroom, flipped learning, flipped model, flipped concept, and flipping will be used interchangeably.
The original flipped classroom model
The most common understanding of the term ‘flipped classroom’ is where lessons and homework are ‘flipped’ – i.e. lessons (lecture segments) are watched at home via online videos while consolidatory math problems, of the type which would traditionally be set as homework, are tackled during lessons.
The rationale for this (original) flipped model is as follows:
It is when working on homework exercises – based on knowledge taught during prior lessons – that students require most assistance from the teacher or classmates.
Such support is typically not available at home. The best place for support from the teacher and/or classmates is during lesson time at school.
Yet most class time is, traditionally, occupied by lecture-type delivery of information from the teacher, leaving students on their own when trying to work through related maths problems that evening at home.
To “flip” this situation around, the teacher delivers the classroom lectures to students in their homes. This is achieved through the use of videos which students access online.
Using homework time to cover the lecture content of lessons frees up significant lesson time for the teacher. Now lessons are utilised for working through mathematics exercises – the kind of exercises that used to be set for homework – where students have the support of the teacher and their classmates.
Delivering instructional videos to students
For this basic flipped model all that is required to deliver videos to students is a YouTube channel, a Google Drive account, or something similar. Video compression needs to be employed so that video file sizes are reduced by up to 80% without noticeable loss in quality.
This original flipped model certainly possesses some potential advantages when compared to a purely face-to-face teaching environment. These advantages are explored in 'Flipping a classroom - Some advantages and cautions'. Anyone who has made the transition from a traditional face-to-face model to this flipped model deserves to be congratulated as the transition requires significant effort by the teacher.
Why drive a horse-and-buggy if you can afford a car?
In my view, there is much more to be gained from the ideas behind flipping a classroom and through the technology which supports it, than can be offered by the original flipped model. Why use a hand drill if you can afford a power drill? In my experience, with minimal extra effort, you can run a flipped mastery classroom with better outcomes than a traditional flipped classroom.
A common theme running through the articles on this site is that student engagement and teaching for conceptual understanding are keys to quality math education and that student-centred learning needs to be part of the mix in order for these keys to be achieved.
The reason I see the original flipped model as falling short of the full potential which “flipping” offers is this – the original flipped model is essentially teacher-centric. Granted, students have some freedom when watching videos – they can choose when to watch them and they have the options to pause and repeat. And there is the potential for more collaboration than in a conventional classroom. However, despite these advantages, 'herding' of students still occurs. In other words, the original flipped model aims for uniform progress of students through the unit. Flipping a classroom has the potential to be student-centred, however, the original version is essentially teacher-centred. And herein lies the limitation.
Jonathan Bergmann & Aaron Sams were, I believe, the first to coin the term “flipped mastery classroom”. A flipped mastery classroom is simply a classroom where the teacher provides well-designed, comprehensive, online units of work for students to work through.
In 'Flipping a classroom - Some advantages and cautions'I mention that creating quality, comprehensive, online units requires some extra effort and skill compared to the original flipped model. Essentially, a flipped mastery classroom is a comprehensive online course, created as a website (of sorts). The upside? Once a quality, comprehensive, online unit is created it is available for “all time”. 'Tweaking' such a unit is super easy.
How does a flipped mastery classroom work?
Think of a flipped mastery unit as being delivered via a website. Students are each given access to the site which is accessed both during and outside of lessons. Teachers typically set a time limit in which students need to complete the unit. Ideally, shorter benchmark dates will also be set. The flipped mastery approach frees up the more able students to become more productive and opens the door for the teacher to provide greater assistance to those students who require extra help. It provides an efficient solution to the need for personalised learning.
The reason the flipped mastery model is, in my view, superior to the original flipped model is because it is student-centred. Again, if you are unconvinced of the merits of student-centred learning then this three-part article series may offer some insights.
The (free) Screen-casting Basics tutorial
Screen-casting means 'recording your screen to create videos'. Screen-casting is one of those essential teacher skills that you do not know is 'essential' until you learn how to do it. But there's a lot of information you ought to be aware of before you dive into creating screencasts - Should I include my 'talking head'? Should I base my videos on Word, Powerpoint, OneNote or something else? What is the ultimate hardware to use (and what are the pitfalls of using an iPad?) What are the most efficient workflows? Should I aim to edit my videos or not?
The answer to these questions is mostly "It depends on your needs"!
The Screen-casting Basics tutorial walks you through all those 'it depends' scenarios and more. You'll not find such a comprehensive collection of useful, 'feet-on-the-ground' information on screen-casting anywhere else.
What about technology?
Clearly, the flipped mastery classroom requires a high level of technological integration. Every student will require 24/7 access to a device as well as reasonable-quality broadband. Video compression is even more important than for the original flipped model – videos need to be under 50MB to avoid (some) school networks 'grinding to a halt' when multiple students attempt to stream videos at the same time. Having students watch your content lectures at home so that your lessons can be more collaborative is a brilliant idea. Creating comprehensive, student centred, online units of work which engage and empower students AND free you up to work more powerfully with those students requiring greater assistance is an even better idea. It is a big undertaking with an overwhelming number of decisions to make.
Two 'One-stop-shops' for creating flipped mastery units
If you are a teacher, but NOT a mathematics teacher then when creating quality online units you will likely require less content delivery but will have a greater need for social learning principles. The course Create collaborative online units for your students is the one designed for you.
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Your thoughts ...
Hopefully, this article has given you some food for thought and provided a foundation to further explore the 21st-century learning idea of “flipping”. We'd love your thoughts below. (Your email address will not be required)