5 Tips for Flipping Your PBL Classroom | Edutopia
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I am of course a huge project-based learning (PBL) nerd and advocate. I am also an advocate for the flipped classroom, yet at the same time I also have my concerns about flipping a classroom. This model still hinges upon great teachers, and engaging curriculum and instruction. So why not combine PBL and the flipped classroom? It can be an excellent match when you consider some of the following tips. Even Salman Khan believes that the flipped classroom can create the space for PBL.

1. Short Content Videos

The key piece here is short. Kids do not want to be watching hours of content. However, short five- to ten-minute videos could be used to replace lectures in the classroom and free up space for more PBL time. These videos might be introductions to learning the content, or possibly content review. Students who enjoy the flipped classroom often comment that their favorite part is being able to watch videos over and over again as needed. Find or create these videos, and make sure to align them to the significant content you intend to teach and assess in your PBL project.

2. Collaborative Virtual Work

I love it when students assign their own homework. Many times in a PBL project, the team might not quite finish all they want to do in class, and some of this work relies on collaboration. There are many digital tools out there that allow for collaboration, and this could be your chance to "flip the collaboration," whether it's joint research and documentation, or even reflection as a group. This virtual work can also be great documentation for assessing collaboration as one of the 4 C's in the 21st century learning aspect of a PBL project.

3. Virtual Labs and Games

Flipping isn't just videos, because -- let's be honest -- videos can get boring after a while. As you go through the PBL process with students, use other types of virtual activities as both components to learn content and a means of formative assessment. For example, if students need to learn about parts of the body, use an interactive digital lab for them to do a dissection. Or, if students are learning about some math component, have them play a math game outside of the brick-and-mortar setting that still allows you, as the teacher, to check on how they're doing.

4. Product Production

If you are concerned with students taking an excessive amount of time in actually constructing the PBL product, give a technology choice or choices as an element of the final product. These products can be produced and edited in the cloud, where individual students and teams can have access to them 24/7. You can ask students for these links and give them your feedback to help improve their work.

5. Consider Tech Equity

Not all of our students have access the technology. Some of us are lucky enough to have 1:1 classrooms, but not all. Because of that, you need to truly consider equity as a core issue if you intend to flip your PBL classroom. It's difficult for students to collaborate digitally, for example, if some have access to the technology while others do not. In cases like this, consider your flipped components as optional for those students able to use them.

PBL and the flipped classroom model can play well together. In fact, PBL can make it better when students are engaged in authentic work and given voice and choice in how and what they want and need to learn. What are some of the ways you've used both the flipped classroom and PBL? How do you see them complementing each other?

Comments (23)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Lynn McAllister's picture
Lynn McAllister
Nursing Program Head

Any tips for how to get buy-in on the flipped classroom with students? My adult learners seem to only want the information told to them. I have tried bringing in WEB sites for discussion, divided into groups with activities and then class sharing, but one I did have many say that "You are the teacher" and "You are supposed to teach us". They don't get it that they are learning by doing these alternative things.

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Manager

Lynn, I've found that adults can be a lot more rigid than kids in their conception of how to learn. One way to get around that rigidity is to take the power they hand you and turn it right back onto them...

Them: "You are the teacher. You are supposed to teach us."
You: "Yes, that's right. I am the teacher, and this is the best way to learn."

Also, all the rules about engaging learners apply to adults as much as they do to children.

Jan Felton's picture

Nex-gen Students and Tech Goes Hand-in-Hand

Students these days are very much involved with technology. So i don't totally agree with the point #5 Consider Tech Equity. Edtech is showing its magic everywhere now from kindergarten school to University. Though I agree with the fact that combination of PBL and Flipped Classroom can play well together when it comes to make learning fun and completing an assignment within a speculated time with ease.

Becky Fisher's picture
Becky Fisher
Education Consultant

Hi Jennifer,

I have not tried this myself, but I'm wondering if you held time at the school library or in your classroom before or after school for students who either didn't have access to teach at home or just wanted to get their "home" work done in school. If the flipped classroom elements are optional, it only creates a problem if some students don't have any options to participate. If there was an option, like after school library time, it may help with that. However, I don't think flipped classroom is for every classroom, and if it becomes an issue of equity, it may not be a good fit. It's better to do all the digital work where all students can have access to the technology. Hope this helps!


Jennifer Gonzalez's picture
Jennifer Gonzalez
Blogger at Cult of Pedagogy

Hi Becky -- Yes, the people I've brainstormed with have mentioned that as a possibility, too. I would think that teachers and community members would have to do some planning, though, for things like transportation -- a lot of the same kids who don't have technology at home also catch the bus home right after school. Still, this seems like a good solution if the logistics could be worked out.

Has anyone ever tried "in-class" flipping? This would involve having some students "plugged in," watching tutorials or video lectures, while others did independent work, group work, or a teacher-led activity. It would require good planning ahead of time, and it would still consume some class time, but the advantage would be that students would get better quality one-on-one time with the teacher when they aren't watching the videos, and the teacher is still freed up from delivering the content in real time. Has anyone tried an arrangement like this?

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Hi Jennifer!

How many kids don't have access. do you know? In our district, some kids use phones, use computers at the library or community center after school, etc. kids without true access were much fewer than we presumed, mostly because even those without computers often had some access through cell phones instead. Some schools i know also have a few "lenders" that they let kids check out for some assignments and projects and there's been surprisingly few problems there as well.

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

Hi Jennifer,
I know I've heard of some districts that will have loaner devices for students without access. Videos can be loaded onto the device if there's no home connectivity.

mikepaul's picture
Pre-Service Teacher at WKU SKyTeach Program, Kentucky

Short videos are definitely the way to go. If you're flipping, you are now competing with Xbox, Playstation, ESPN, reality TV, and whatever else the students have going on at home.

Videos need to be short and the more engaging they are, the better. When you're just starting out, production values don't necessarily need to be that high, but you will want to raise the quality level very quickly to keep the students "hooked."

You're now a media producer, and you must design accordingly.

Gloria Mitchell's picture
Gloria Mitchell
Middle school teacher

Good article and good suggestions from the commenters, too. But the term "flipped classroom" looks to me like one of those buzzwords that is beginning to lose its usefulness as it is applied to more and more activities. To me, #1 sounds like "flipping" (lectures at home, practice/procedural learning at school). The others describe various learning tasks for students to do at home... what used to be called homework.

Debora Wondercheck's picture
Debora Wondercheck
Executive Director, Founder of Arts & Learning Conservatory

It combines traditional classroom knowledge with real-world expertise and skills to better prepare students for success. Project-based learning puts the teacher into more of a facilitator role that allows for greater dialogue with each individual student.

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