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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Five Best Practices for the Flipped Classroom

Ok, I'll be honest. I get very nervous when I hear education reformists and politicians tout how "incredible" the flipped classroom model, or how it will "solve" many of the problems of education. It doesn't solve anything. It is a great first step in reframing the role of the teacher in the classroom.

It fosters the "guide on the side" mentality and role, rather than that of the "sage of the stage." It helps move a classroom culture towards student construction of knowledge rather than the teacher having to tell the knowledge to students. Even Salman Khan says that the teacher is now "liberated to communicate with [their students]."

It also creates the opportunity for differentiated roles to meet the needs of students through a variety of instructional activities. But again, just because I "free" someone, doesn't mean that he/she will know what to do next, nor how to do it effectively. This is where the work must occur as the conversation of the flipped classroom moves forward and becomes more mainstream in public and private education. We must first focus on creating the engagement and then look at structures, like the flipped classroom, that can support. So educators, here are some things to think about and consider if you are thinking about or already using the flipped classroom model.

1) Need to Know

How are you creating a need to know the content that is recorded? Just because I record something, or use a recorded material, does not mean that my students will want to watch, nor see the relevance in watching it. I mean, it is still a lecture. Also, this "need to know" is not "because it is on the test," or "because it will help you when you graduate." While that may be a reality, these reasons do not engage the students who are already struggling to find meaning and relevance in school. If the flipped classroom is truly to become innovative, then it must be paired with transparent and/or embedded reason to know the content.

2) Engaging Models

One of the best way to create the "need to know" is to use a pedagogical model that demands this. Whether project-based learning (PBL), game-based learning (GBL), Understanding by Design (UbD), or authentic literacy, find an effective model to institute in your classroom. Become a master of those models first, and then use the flipped classroom to support the learning. Example: Master design, assessment, and management of PBL; and then look at how you can use the flipped classroom to support the process. Perhaps it is a great way to differentiate instruction, or support students who need another lesson in a different mode. Perhaps students present you with a "need to know," and you answer with a recorded piece to support them. This will help you master your role as "guide on the side."

3) Technology

What technology do you have to support the flipped classroom? What technology gaps exist that might hinder it? Since the flipped classroom is about recorded video, then obviously students would need the technology to do this. There are many things to consider here. Will you demand that all students watch the video, or is it a way to differentiate and allow choice? Will you allow or rely on mobile learning for students to watch it? Again, these are just some of the questions to consider in terms of technology. Lack of technology doesn't necessarily close the door to the flipped classroom model, but it might require some intentional planning and differentiation.

4) Reflection

Every time you have students watch a video, just like you would with any instructional activity, you must build in reflective activities to have students think about what they learned, how it will help them, its relevance, and more. If reflection is not a regular part of your classroom culture, then implementing the flipped classroom will not be as effective. Students need metacognition to connect content to objectives, whether that is progress in a GBL unit, or work towards an authentic product in at PBL project.

5) Time and Place

Do you have structures to support this? When and where will the learning occur? I believe it unfair to demand that students watch the video outside of the class time for various reasons. If you have a blended learning environment, that of course provides a natural time and place to watch the videos, but it will be difficult to ensure all students watch a video as homework. In addition, do not make epic videos that last hours. Keep the learning within the videos manageable for students. This will help you formatively assess to ensure learning, and it will feel doable to students.

I know I may have "upset the apple cart" for those who love the flipped classroom. My intent is not to say that the flipped classroom is bad. Rather, it is only a start. The focus should be on teacher practice, then tools and structures. The flipped classroom is one way to help move teachers toward better teaching but does not ensure it. Like the ideas above, focus on ways to improve your instruction before choosing to use the "flipped classroom."

Comments (32)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Erik Palmer's picture

Well said! I think we need add a 6th item, though.
6) Communication skill
Far too many videos are made showcasing dreadful speaking. It is cruel to ask students to watch a lesson delivered poorly. Monotonous voices, odd vocal patterns, poor visuals, annoying soundtracks, dull presentation of material--all of these are more common than not. I realize that speaking skill is not on the radar for most teachers (CCSS "Speaking & Listening" may change that), but exceptional communication skills are required to pull off a digital presentation. There is little available right now to help teachers. Check out http://www.stenhouse.com/shop/pc/viewprd.asp?idProduct=9335&r=&REFERER= and look this summer for Digitally Speaking, a new book about how to use digital tools that showcase speaking well.

Robin Marcus's picture

While I agree with most of the points here, I don't see how flipping "helps move a classroom culture towards student construction of knowledge rather than the teacher having to tell the knowledge to students." If a teacher is recording lectures, they are still telling the knowledge to the students, just digitally and outside of class. At best students may feel better supported to make sense of what is presented, but it's still making sense of someone else's approach, not constructing their own.

Peter Pappas's picture
Peter Pappas
Exploring frontiers of teaching, jazz, yoga, Macs, film

Your skepticism is well deserved. Flipping the classroom is the equivalent of using your DVR or TiVo to time shift your television viewing. Its success depends on the quality of the web content, how it supports student engagement and reflection, and how you leverage the class time that it "frees' up.

I see flipping as a great opportunity to engage our students in a PBL-style approach to taking more responsibility for their learning. Why not let your students curate the video lessons from existing content on the web? Here's my how to - "How to Flip Your Classroom - and Get Your Students to Do the Work" http://bit.ly/rp5O0y

Plus it's a good venue for digital hygiene training. Most students are using YouTube as one of their primary search engines.

awinchester's picture
awinchester
Instructional Technology Educator

Great Points Andrew! One of the biggest challenges we face in education is having enough fiscal resources to accommodate the need and desire for technology integration. The flipped model of teaching assumes that schools will have the resources and students will have adequate background knowledge to make this a successful approach. We need to teach our students that technology is not the main vessel for educational excellence, but a tool we can utilize to enhance our understanding of skills and processes.

Harry Keller's picture
Harry Keller
President at Smart Science Education Inc.

Let's be really clear about the fact that you're using incredible powerful technology to deliver a lecture. Yes, it may be a first step. It's a rather small first step in terms of pedagogy but large, as Andrew Miller says, in terms of teacher effort. I'm interested in where it will lead.

What if we could have much, much more than a recorded lecture for the out-of-class work? For example, what about a "flipped" science lab where students do real experiments online with interactive data collection. Now, students are engaged in interactive work on a computer. Reflection is built in if you have an online lab report and decent post-lab (summative) questions. You can improve the experience more by having pre-lab questions that expose mistaken ideas and check on knowledge that should be known before starting -- or at least jogging memories. You can provide narrated videos of the procedure leading up to the measurements. You might also add a hyper-linked glossary of words for the specific lab and more support and background information.

In class the next day, a discussion moderated by the teacher allows students to talk about what they discovered and about the experimental errors they ran into with "prerecorded real experiments." Now, that's good use of class time, much better than doing the same old cookbook labs, verification labs, and procedural practice labs.

Sam Patterson's picture
Sam Patterson
K-5 Technology integration Specialist

tools available to us. The key is finding the right fit, scaffolding the kids up to success. Teachers need to be willing to change what has to change. Reach the students by any means necessary. www.mypaperlessclassroom.org

Sue Boudreau's picture
Sue Boudreau
Seventh Grade science teacher from Orinda, California

Some of the best magic is when I'll key of a question a student has, or a situation I know they were in recently as a way to tell a story illustrating the concept we are studying. We gather around and there is a sense of community. This couldn't be captured in a recorded lecture or demo in a science class. I'm sort of shocked that this would seem like a good idea as the main model of instruction. I do agree that too much direct instruction/lecture is bad. Of course. And that making time to coach students is a good thing. But for heaven's sake, let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.

Sue Boudreau's picture
Sue Boudreau
Seventh Grade science teacher from Orinda, California

Just attended a lecture by Diane Ravitch, where she outlined the many ways that public schools are being undermined. This seems like a clever way to marginalize teachers - buy the pre-recorded lectures off of some organization and use teachers as homework tutors.

Vivian Sawicki's picture
Vivian Sawicki
High School English teacher, private school in Michigan

Marshall has good points. I also wonder whether this will lead to a homogenization of education. Is that a problem? If say, "Tom Smith" posts good lessons will teachers need to create their own material or just use what already exists. And will we leave behind students without resources? Many of my students are hard pressed for time as it is because of sports and jobs. How will they find time to view, or the motivation to view lessons presented on line on "their time." Perhaps one class being "flipped" might work, but are there any results available for multiple classes being flipped?

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