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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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So. You've tried flipping your class, and it didn't go well. Or you've heard about flipping and want to try the approach, but you're pretty sure it won't work in your school. Don't give up yet -- with a slight twist, flipping might be possible for you after all.

Flipped classrooms -- where direct instruction happens via video at home, and "homework" takes place in class -- are all the rage right now, and for good reason. Early research on flipped learning looks promising. In its 2013 Executive Summary, the Flipped Learning Network reported that teachers who practice flipping have seen "higher student achievement, increased student engagement, and better attitudes toward learning and school."

But successful flipping has one big catch -- if it's going to work, the at-home learning absolutely must happen. And teachers have zero control over what happens at home. For one example, we can't guarantee reliable, consistent Internet access in every household -- not yet, anyway. Those committed to flipping have found creative fixes:

  • Arranging access before and after school
  • Lending out devices
  • Sending recorded lectures home on flash drives or DVDs

These are all workable solutions. Still, the extra work may dissuade some teachers from making the leap. And even if the technology issue is resolved, that doesn't help with chaotic home environments or students who have a tendency to let homework slide.

Modifying the Flipped Classroom Concept

None of these problems should stop us from trying, but there's another way to apply the flipped model without the problems associated with sending the work home. I'm calling it the "In-Class Flip."

The teacher records a lecture.

Credit: Jennifer Gonzalez

An In-Class Flip works like this. Just like with a traditional flip, the teacher pre-records direct instruction, say, in a video lecture. But instead of having students view the content at home, that video becomes a station in class that small groups rotate through. The rest of their time is spent on other activities -- independent work and group work, with some activities related to the lesson and others focusing on different course content. As with a traditional flip, the direct instruction runs on its own, which frees the teacher for more one-on-one time with students.

This video shows you how to do it:

Advantages

Besides the fact that it avoids the home-related problems of a traditional flip, the In-Class Flip has other advantages as well:

  1. The teacher can observe whether students are really watching. When attention starts to stray, the instructor can get students back on track right away. To boost accountability even more, try a platform like Educanon, which allows you to embed any video into an online multiple-choice assessment that you create yourself.
  2. The initial exposure to the video content has a better chance to sink in. The teacher can answer questions with more immediacy. And for students who struggle, the instructor can send them directly back to the video for a refresher.
  3. Hardware is (presumably) safer. There's less risk of a device getting broken or lost if it remains in the classroom.

Students go to a station for the lecture.

Credit: Jennifer Gonzalez

Challenges

In-Class Flipping is not without its own challenges:

  1. It doesn't make for tidy one-period lesson plans. With short daily class periods, you won't be able to do a single-day flip. You need enough stations to provide work for students who haven't seen the video and some for those who have. That kind of rotation takes time. Instead of individual days, plan in bigger chunks of time where students have weekly goals and can reach them at their own pace, in any order. Traditional flips pose similar management challenges, but experienced flippers have figured out how to make it work. The discussion forums on the Flipped Learning Network offer great ideas and advice.
  2. More preparation is required at the beginning. Setting up and fine-tuning stations -- not to mention recording videos -- takes time, so start slow. Once you've been flipping for a few years, you'll have stations and videos that can be recycled.
  3. Technically, you don’t "gain" more class time. Because the traditional flip moves the direct instruction outside of school hours, there is more time for classwork. The In-Class Flip can't do this. But think about those cases where traditional flipping results in unevenly prepared classes -- in these scenarios, the teacher has to catch up students who didn't do the home viewing, so the net gain may ultimately be pretty low.

Top-down view of stations within a classroom.

Credit: Jennifer Gonzalez

Flipping is a great way to take advantage of new technologies, and it's still in its infancy. If it hasn't worked for you yet, don't throw that baby out with the bathwater. Try an In-Class Flip.

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MsHdz's picture

I tried this in a modified way in my class. I only had about 5 students working on grade level last year so I decided to in-class flip just this group. It worked beautifully and I saw eye-opening, measurable gains. Attitudes greatly improved, and the kids in the group blossomed. They would watch brief videos at the guided table, take very brief notes, then a few sample problems on their own. Then they got together with their group to do the homework segment and were to make sure that no one in the group was left behind and to teach each each other. I would "check in" with the group to answer questions briefly every day. There was lots of good conversation and they worked well as a group. After a few months I disbanded the flipped group and grades as well as spirits faltered within the group. It was an eye-opener for me. I am excites to try this again with self motivated students!

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

MsHdz, I'm so grateful that you came here to share this. It's one thing to hear people say they think this is a good idea, but it means so much more to have evidence that it's working in real classrooms. Do you have any advice to share with people who want to try this with their students? What factors contributed to its success for you?
Again, thank you for contributing to the conversation!

SCarowick's picture

I also use an online curriculum with students who are in a physical classroom. I like the in-class flip idea and the stations. It is hard to keep students motivated with an online curriculum. I will be using it with 7th and 8th grade students in Language Arts. I look forward to reading about successes, problems, and tips for using it!

Monica Soukup's picture

Thank you so much for this post. I have never thought about a flipped classroom, but I am going to do more research on it and decide if it something I could have in my classroom. Good luck with everything!

tishlerj's picture

Thank you for this wonderful post and video with very detailed information regarding how to use the flipped model in class. I had experimented with flipping two of my classes just for the last marking period of school last year. I am very fortunate that I had an opposite experience from the pitfalls you mentioned. Every student in those classes had reliable internet access from home and actually viewed the videos I created. So I had assumed the flip was a success! But when I surveyed those students about their opinions on the flipped model at the end of June, I was discouraged to hear some common complaints. They disliked not being able to ask me clarification questions and did not like walking into class the following day feeling uncertain or confused. I felt a little hopeless based on their feedback, but this post has shed a new light onto a way that I can continue to incorporate the flip. I love the idea of station #6, which will provide a solution to this issue.

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

tishlerj, I'm happy to hear that this is going to help you fine-tune your flipping this year. Come back and tell me later if students respond more positively this time around!

Peter Paccone's picture
Peter Paccone
9-12th Grade Social Studies Teacher - San Marino High School

A benefit of flipping, as you correctly pointed out, is that you gain" more class time.

But the real benefit for me is not just that flipping frees up class time, but that it frees up class time for what I believe my students need more than anything else in this day and age - and that is a chance to work in small groups to try to solve real world problems from inside the classroom, where the teacher can help tutor, mentor, and coach the kids in their problem solving effort.

In other words, to flip not only provides my students with good reason to come to class and learn (for to be given an opportunity to solve a real world problem truly motivates students to come to class), it also better prepares them for college, career, and civic life than anything else I can do.

I'd even go so far as to say that if, in the Common Core Era, we as educators, do not provide our students with ever an greater number of project based learning opportunities (aka opportunities to solve real world problems from inside the classroom) than we as educators will have done our students and our country a great disservice.

For America today, more so than ever, needs adults who, in small groups, can solve real world problems . . . and with flipping, teachers will find themselves with the class time needed to help train an entire generation of this country's youth to be successful real world problem solvers.

Hence, though I can understand the call for in-class flipping, I hope we don't give up on the kind of flipping that calls for students to learn the content at home.

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

Peter, I agree that small-group problem-solving, and all the other skills it develops, is an essential life skill we need to provide lots of time for. My hope is that the in-class flip can be used as a stepping stone toward true flipping--at least in places where students have sufficient access to tech at home--so we can allot more class time for the kind of collaboration you describe here.

Melanie's picture

I've been interested in flipping my classroom for some time now, however my challenge is no technology at home and many of my students homes are not conducive to a learning atmosphere. Now that I have been introduced to the idea of in class flipped classroom, the previous challenges are no longer a problem. Every student has their own chrome book to use in school. I have been using Google classroom this year and the students seem to really like the use of technology. I am willing to modify the flipped classroom and attach my videos to their Google classroom assignments, which can help students revisit the lesson as many times as needed before moving on to the practice.
I also think putting them in small groups will help them collaborate and help each other solve problems together. Students need the time to talk to one other, on topic. They need the practice solving problems and working together. I am finding too many of my students do not have language, a voice or know how to speak to another person because no one is speaking to them at home! With having an in class flipped classroom we can help them to engage in daily conversation rather than a traditional classroom where a teacher lectures and they listen.
I understand it will take a lot of work initially in creating or researching videos that meet CCS and practicing the group rotation. I am excited about the possibilities!

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