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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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The Biggest Hurdle to Flipping Your Class

I have been asked on a number of occasions what is the biggest hurdle that teachers need to overcome in order to flip their classrooms. In my experience, the number one hurdle is that teachers need to flip their thinking about class time.

Stepping Back from an Old Model

When teachers flip their classes, I believe they must ask one key question: What is the best use of class time? Is it information dissemination, or is it something else? I argue that we need to get away from direct instruction to the whole group and instead use class time for richer and more meaningful activities and interactions.

Why is this a big hurdle? I think it is because many of us have been doing school the same way for many years. I spent 19 years as a lecture/discussion teacher. I knew how to teach that way. In fact, I reached the point where if you told me the topic of the day, I could flick a switch and start teaching that topic without any notes. So in 2007, when Aaron Sams and I came up with the idea of what is now known as the Flipped Classroom, I was the hesitant one. I didn't want to give up my lecture time. You see, I was a good lecturer (or at least I thought I was). I liked being the center of attention and enjoyed engaging a whole group of students in science.

My class was well structured, and I liked being in control of all that was happening. So when I flipped my class, I had to surrender control of the learning to the students. That was not easy for me. But you know what? It was the best thing I ever did in my teaching career.

Teaching Learners

I should provide some context for this experiment. We started flipping our classes after a conversation with our assistant superintendent. She saw how we were recording our live lectures with screencasting software and told us how her daughter loved it when her professor at a local university recorded his lectures, because she didn’t have to go to class anymore. That's when we asked the question, "What then is the point of class time if we make it so they can get all of the content by watching a video?" The obvious answer was that we could make class time more enriching and more valuable.

So as I reluctantly gave up control, I was relieved to see students taking ownership for their learning. For example, I had one student who during the first semester was not really taking class seriously. She struggled to learn in our Flipped-Mastery Model because it required her to actually learn the content. She wanted to just get by instead of engage in the content. I insisted that she learn the material before she moved on. Some time in January, I noticed a change in her. She was learning! In fact she was learning how to learn. During one conversation with her, I commented on the positive change I saw in her and told her how I was proud of her newfound success. To that she remarked, "You know what, Mr. Bergmann, I found it was actually easier if I learned it right the first time." I chuckled, but also saw great growth in this student as she was really learning how to learn.

I realized in this encounter that maybe the best thing I am teaching students is how to be learners. My thinking flipped from my class being about the content to being about the process of learning. I have said for many years, "I don’t teach science, I teach kids." But today I want to change that and say, "I don’t teach science, I teach kids how to learn." This was a seismic change in how I thought about my role as a teacher. I realized that I needed to get away from being a teacher who disseminates content, and instead become a learning facilitator and coach.

Alternative Assessments

Another way I flipped my thinking about learning was when I allowed students to demonstrate mastery of content by means of alternative assessments. In our Flipped-Mastery Model, we required every student to pass each summative assessment with a 75 percent. I was very rigid on this. A 74 percent was not good enough. But as I embraced alternative assessments, I was pleasantly surprised at how students were able to show me what they had learned without having to prove it on traditional tests. I had students designing video games, making videos and doing art projects. They pushed me to rethink what assessment should look like. Ultimately we saw about 25 percent of our students who regularly chose to do alternative assessments instead of the traditional tests. Alternative assessments helped me flip my thinking about assessment.

So if you are at all like me and have been teaching the same way for many, many years, I encourage you to rethink class time. I encourage you to flip your thinking and give the control of the learning back to the students. As you do this, you will find, as I did, how it affects every aspect of your teaching. No longer will you be the person who disseminates knowledge -- instead you will become the learning facilitator of your classroom.

My questions for you:

  • If you have already flipped your class, what was your biggest hurdle?
  • If you haven’t flipped your class, what do you think would be your biggest hurdle?

Comments (46)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Peter's picture
Peter
6th and 8th Grade History Teacher

I've seen several articles about flipping classrooms, but as a History teacher, I haven't really seen anyone laying out how this can be done in the history/social science classroom. Does anyone have any feedback on this or experience flipping their history/social science classrooms?

Jon Bergmann's picture
Jon Bergmann
Teacher, Author, Speaker, Educational Consultant, Flipped Class Pioneer

echo-y: I often tell teachers: Do you need the video perfect, or do you need it Tuesday? It doesn't have to be perfect. One shot of you teaching a concept and then post. You can add edits, etc if you have time, but I wouldn't fret about trying to get everything exact. You are not producing a Hollywood film, but rather a quick video to explain a difficult topic for your students.

Jon Bergmann's picture
Jon Bergmann
Teacher, Author, Speaker, Educational Consultant, Flipped Class Pioneer

I encourage you to check out two resources: http://flippedclassroom.org. We have about 17,000 teachers who are flipping and we have a group of over 100 who are in a history group. Ask them.

Also: go to http://flipped-history.com and learn from one of the masters--Tom Driscoll, a flipped history teacher.

Jon Bergmann's picture
Jon Bergmann
Teacher, Author, Speaker, Educational Consultant, Flipped Class Pioneer

Some thoughts on flipping LA:

Before you teach a book that all are going to read you typically give the historical context of the book and some info about the author. flip that

If you are teaching writing skills: Do videos on literary devices like metaphor and similie and then have them practice USING those in class.

And the best is to flip the writing workshop: You can individually have a writing conference with each student and time shift it and have them all get personalized feedback. See an example here: http://flippedclassroom.org/video/example-of-an-english-podcast

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

Hi Peter!

I have a good friend who is a 7th grade social studies teacher who is doing a lot of flipped classroom this year- having kids watch videos online and then using them in discussion and projects in class- Discovery, national geographic, NOVA specials- you name it. If you are interested, tell me a bit more about your curriculum, and I'd be happy to do a few searches for you and come up with suggestions. In addition, check out TED talks, and especially TED- ED- http://ed.ted.com/, and there's a specific section with lessons already attached for social studies here: http://ed.ted.com/lessons?category=social-studies

Peter's picture
Peter
6th and 8th Grade History Teacher

Thank you Whitney. I often visit Ted-Ed to look for videos that I find valuable to my students and feel that the social studies division is still working something things out in terms of quality of video content that's on there. I will definitely look more into providing films for students to watch at home and then engage in conversation in class around that material.

This year I am teaching solely U.S. History, starting from Colonial America through Reconstruction. We are about to enter a unit on the Jeffersonian Era of the United States when we return from holiday break. I appreciate your help and suggestions very much.

This biggest challenge I have run into is student accountability. For example, I post my prezi's online for students to access at home, so that I don't have to be a sage on the stage in the classroom and rather a facilitator of discussion. However, what I have found so far is that only about 50% of the students are actually viewing the prezi's prior to class leaving half the class sitting there unable to engage. I'm continuing to explore how I can make all students engaged and responsible enough to complete the "lecture" portion at home.

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

Hi Peter!

I spent a little time this morning, and created a google doc with resources for you from History.com, PBS, and Discovery Education, to name a few. Some of these come with lesson plans as well.

Here's the link:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1tB4eiL-efQqQn2hxoNos0iEwugNLpDKa9vQs...

The short videos are probably best for kids at home; I would excerpt parts of the Ken Burns video for classroom use to make sure it holds their attention.

We want every kid to be prepared in the flipped classroom, but just like with reading, lectures and regular homework, some kids just won;t do it- sometimes because they forget, sometimes because they just don't, sometimes access issues- you have to get to the bottom of that one with the kids involved. They may take a bit of time to get used to a change from typical lecture format- change is hard for everyone, and not everyone embraces it first time out. Sometimes it's about saying "I can give you a choice- you can watch two four minute videos tonight, and discuss it tomorrow in class and be prepared for the activity or write a 500 word essay on XYZ or read these three articles/chapters" - whatever you find both equivalent and incentivizing- and let the kids choose. That way, you may also be differentiating the lesson- but still ensure each kid has enough knowledge to particpate the next morning in class.

Let me know what was helpful and if you need something more- my direct email is ldpodcast (at) gmail.com- happy to help! I'm a US History and constitution nerd, so I love this stuff, especially when you can relate it to the questions of presidential power now, and choices we face... it can be riveting and important stuff if we can hook it up to today for kids- everything from the importance of education to racial relations to frontier exploration and further development of our diverse country and traditions- all can be related to Jefferson.

kajg's picture
kajg
High School ELA Teacher

I find it interesting that in the same discussions about eliminating lectures from classroom instruction experts in the field of education are promoting TED talks and teacher videos. I watch TED talks regularly, I find some of them inspiring, some of them informative, some of them entertaining, but I've yet to see one that isn't... a lecture. There is absolutely nothing interactive about them. So if a lecture is recorded on a stage with dramatic lighting and viewed at home, it's acceptable to use in the flipped world? I don't disagree that classrooms should make the most of the classroom time to engage students, but this is nothing new, folks. Most of us learned early on in our careers that talking at students is a lame way to engage. I work in a district that has funded the 1:1 program; reformed grading policies; and flipped classrooms and it has not raised our test scores. Want a revolution? Give teachers fewer students and more time to work individually with them. Personalized instruction requires students to look us in the eye and hold a thoughtful conversation, not stare at a screen for eight hours a day.

Rory Donaldson's picture

There is only one way that I know of to "flip" a classroom, and that is with the world's greatest study-skill, 5-5-5s. It involves 5 minutes of listening and writing, 5 minutes of "tell-backs" and 5 minutes of "fast-writes." I'd be glad to send you a copy of my 5-minute audio if you'd like. It works with virtually every subject - even something as static as most TedTalks. Email rory@brainsarefun.com and I'll send it to you for free. Thanks.

Sharon Wright's picture

"...make class time more enriching and more valuable." As an elementary librarian/technology teacher, I spend every day in a beautiful space surrounded by the best resources. Creating blended lessons allows me to engage with individual and small groups of students as they access the wealth of resources available. I'm better ab;e to monitor for mastery and support students in their learning. I'm at the beginning of this journey. My biggest hurdle is me - I need to get clear about what's important and structure around student learning.

Mike Albritton's picture
Mike Albritton
Curriculum Director, All Saints' Episcoapl School, Fort Worth, TX

My biggest challenges with flipped classes are 1) kids trying to "flop" it back, and 2) uber-organization.

1) Flop: For the online lectures and readings in my economics class, I use MIT's wonderful free open course ware (http://tinyurl.com/b7heher) then do problem sets and case studies and discussions in class. Sometimes kids come back to class and say, "But Dr. A, we like the way YOU explain it better!"

2) Organization. Let's face it: most of us skilled veteran teachers can make up stuff on the fly, make adjustments based on what we see, and customize assignments at the end of class. Blended and flipped instruction doesn't work that way. You've got to have much more written out, explained in advance. It's orchestral composition, not jazz improvisation.

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