George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Editor's Note:This post was co-authored by Aaron Sams, CEO of Sams Learning Designs, LLC and founding member of the Flipped Learning Network.

Let's face it. We teachers spend far too much time and energy trying to keep students quiet so that they can listen to us. We have taken countless courses and workshops on classroom management in our careers, and it seems that the underpinning goal of classroom management is for teachers to keep kids quiet so that they can learn. Is there a better way to think about classroom management?

What if the goal of class was for the students to actively engage in the content and participate in tangible ways in the learning process? Our experience before we flipped our class was that we spent the majority of class time at the front of the room. Students sat in nice neat rows as we taught them stuff. Our view of teaching had us in the front of the room "teaching."

Noise Is Good

As we pioneered the flipped class, we got away from the front of the room and got a whole different perspective on what classroom management could look like. Instead of us being the sage on the stage, we were in and among our students, working with them, helping them, and guiding them to deeper learning.

As we did this, the dynamics of the classroom dramatically changed. Instead of having to keep students quiet, we were spending time interacting with them individually and in small groups. Amazingly, most of our classroom management issues just vaporized. Our goal wasn't to keep students quiet, but rather to have them engaged in the learning process. The class became noisier -- and it was good. The amount of energy we'd been expending to keep kids quiet hadn't been used for getting students to take responsibility for their own learning.

But, as with any change, we found some new challenges. We found that the key to classroom management in a flipped class was how we spent our time and with whom. Additionally, we realized that we needed some tried and true strategies to compliment our classroom management toolbox.

4 New Management Issues

Who Gets My Time?

Since the teacher is not delivering direct instruction each day, they are spending their time interacting with, challenging, and directing individuals or groups. But the teacher needs to determine with whom they will spend the bulk of their time. We were able to talk to every student in every class every day, but it wasn't always an equal amount of time. One of the most important decisions you make, especially in a flipped classroom, is who gets the bulk of your time. Do you assist the struggling students? Do you challenge the advanced students? In hindsight, we made many mistakes in this area, but as time went on, we realized just how important it was to work not just with the students who asked, but to make sure the "right" students got the help they needed.

Redirecting Off-Task Kids Becomes More Important

The flipped class gives time back to students, but some students don't know how to handle the freedom well. Some took the freedom as a license to do whatever they wanted, which often was not a very productive use of their time. This, of course, is not acceptable. Thus, in a flipped classroom, the teacher still needs to monitor off-task behavior, but it looks different than in a traditional classroom.

The key here is to know where your students are in the content. If they are falling behind, it's often because they are not using the freedom very well. Situations like this were dealt with through the appropriate intervention techniques that we'd always used in our classrooms. For some, we called home and visited with their parents. For others we didn't allow them to work with students who constantly got them off task. And in some cases, we made sure they were the first ones we visited with each day so that they would start on a good note and not get distracted.

Freedom for Some and Control for Others

Some students can handle the freedom that is part of a flipped classroom, and some students struggle with choice. For those who needed more structure, we provided that, while at the same time allowing for more freedom for those that used class time wisely.

The Question Changed

Before we flipped our classroom, the question we often got from parents during parent-teacher conferences was: "How is my son or daughter behaving in your class?" After we flipped, we struggled to answer this question because behavior became a non-issue. Instead, the question we wanted to hear from them was: "Is my son or daughter learning in your class?" In fact, we steered the conversation to be about student learning instead of behavior.

New Rules of Engagement

One reason we believe that the flipped classroom has fewer management issues than a traditional classroom is that students are more engaged. They are not sitting and listening to their teacher, and the teacher isn't trying to keep them quiet. Instead, the classroom is filled with activity, engagement, inquiry, and learning.

What do you think? If you've flipped your class, have you seen a difference in classroom management? And if so, what are the new management struggles you faced as you moved to the flipped model?

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Alexandra Hopkins-Baum's picture

Although I attended school in a traditional classroom, I have observed the flipped classroom in middle school classrooms. The students seemed to be using their socializing tendencies in a way that stimulated learning rather than discussing weekend plans. I have not seen a flipped classroom in lower elementary, however I believe it would be beneficial because they are particularly struggling with behavior issues at that age. Rather than punishing students to be quiet, why not encourage them to use their energy and communication towards something that is educational?

christine_do's picture

The concept of a flipped classroom really helps us step away from the lecturing mindset. It encourages active learning and creates a more multi-method classroom. Allowing students to verbally express and share with their peers what and how they are learning, encourages social, along with academic skills. A precaution I feel that has to be taken with this method is to clearly set the boundary for when classroom cooperation and talking is appropriate. For example, during an exam, students need to recognize that this is the time to do quiet independent work.

Diana Ordonez's picture

As a substitute teacher I get to see this flipped classroom concept and I must say I love it! I have always been used to the traditional classroom where the teacher is in the from of the class and students are quietly listening to them, but I never thought that the necessarily worked. When the teacher has their back to the students that is when often times the students get distracted or start playing around. When teachers are using the flipped classroom approach students will not have time to be messing around because they will be trying to work with one another on the assignment that the teacher has given them. Of course this concept may not go as smoothly as you may think, as teachers we are always going to have to redirect our students because they'll get off task for what ever reason. But as a teacher we also have more time to be able to work one on one or in small groups with students that need more time. I think that all teachers should try to do the flipped classroom approach because often time it will be more beneficial to some students when they are working along side their classmates.

Elizabeth Cazares's picture

I have subbed a flipped classroom before and to this day it has been my favorite class. I think allowing students to work with other students, allowing them to sit/stand where they want, and engaging them in active ways of learning is effective. The way I see it is, they are children. They are bound to be fidgety and want to move around. However, if you try to engage them in learning versus telling them to learn, I think you are bound to get better results.

Stephanie Mead's picture

There can be many advantages to a flipped classroom. When I substitute I try to let my students engage and collaborate with each other. It is important to walk around the room and make sure that the students are staying on task. There are some students who do not handle the freedom well, so it is important to monitor. I think it is a great idea!

Leslie Murrey's picture

I think the "flipped classroom" should become the new "traditional classroom". It seems to benefit more students as they are more engaged in discussions and activities. I can see the challenges that some students will face with the freedom of conversation, but I think the pros outweigh the cons.

John Dadlez's picture

What's not to like about this process? It eliminates a big problem, student behavior, and engages students in the learning process. Noisy classrooms are good if the noise is geared toward what they are supposed to be learning. I agree totally with this article.

Faiza Amir's picture

I have tried the flipped classroom approach and I agree that the class gets noisier. This becomes challenging for the teacher as she is used to having greater control over the class. But yes surely most of the learners are engaged. This also allows development of higher order skills as learners apply the knowledge that has been imparted to them prior to the lesson.

Danyelle12's picture

I participated in a flipped math classroom in college. It was noisy, but it was discussion over the math problems. Everyone did really well in the class because there were so many hands-on activities. It really helped me to actually learn the material. I would take another flipped class again.

Andy McHugh's picture
Andy McHugh
Teacher and Blogger

I've been using the Flipped Learning approach in my classes for a number of years now and it has worked wonders! I've increased the rate of progress of all of my students, I've reduced my workload and my students are far more resilient and independent too. To see how I've done it go to www.teachingandlearningguru.com/flipped-learning

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