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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StephanieHillsMcginty's picture

Initially, I love the idea of a flipped classroom and have observed a somewhat similar classroom management structure before. While I understand and love the concept of having the students more enagged in learning and not sitting like quiet robots in neat rows, I still question the practice for myself. My main concern is that, what if you have a class that is almost too unrulty to participate in this plan? During my substituting experience, I have witnessed classes where one year the teacher's mabagement plan worked amazingly well, and the next year the group of students were not able to participate in that same plan.

Of course the article addresses these issues, but I suppose the question is, is: Is a flipped classroom a good choice for every classroom? And if not, what other comprable type of management styles are out there?

Gabriela Mia Roque-Rivera's picture

A flipped classroom initially sounds like a positive, and forward moving teaching approach however as I continued reading, I began to realize how little I actually know about how to not only implement this "flipped classroom" strategy, but considering the possible age level of the students and backgrounds, I am uncertain if this would be a practical approach. It is fairly easy to imagine so students being off task from what they are suppose to be doing at home and considering what the home environment may be like, this may be a complete unpractical possible approach. With elementary school students; I cannot imagine doing this approach since it seems to require a great deal or guardian involvement and/or a student's own commitment to work. I feel it would be best for myself to observe a "flipped classroom" within a low-income elementary school that has a great deal of students from diverse backgrounds to fully understand how a "flipped classroom" can work.

Margarita A.'s picture

Honestly, I've never really thought about this "flipped classroom" strategy since, growing up it was always trying to keep all the students quiet in a classroom as you mentioned. The teacher who was able to keep her students quiet in a classroom, was the teacher who was able to manage her class well and everyone else admired. Sadly, we were never engaged in the content and in my situation heard the information through one ear and came out through the other. I most definitely would love to use this strategy with my future students.

Nancy1409's picture

I think the flipped classroom is an excellent idea for classroom management. I've witnessed far too many teachers spend so much time and energy trying to settle down their students. I have always found that to be a waste of time. Students are losing valuable learning time and teachers are losing valuable teaching time. The idea that students are engaged in their learning is great for an elementary classroom. Often I will see more than one student in a classroom lose interest in the lesson because the teacher is the sage on the stage. There is no hands on learning, no engagement, or stimulation. The flipped classroom is definitely friendly to the idea of multiple means of engagement and representation.

Alfredo Tifi's picture
Alfredo Tifi
teacher of chemistry experienced in innovating

I think the "sage in the stage" phenomenon is a very common drawback of traditional classes. But, for specific problems we should devise specific remediations which are based on the very psychological reasons for the lack of engagement with the "saga on the stage". After 31 years of teaching of a subject which is full of reasonings, representation shifts and switches, complex formulas, applied math and subtle meanings, I can say that the problem is not a lack of stimula to cooperate, to "try by yourself", to "enact", to learn in advance and nurture interest, but the unability to use mental tools, to manage one's working memory, to conceptualize. You can try to vehicle a series of reasoning steps to a fresh class by using any sort of devices and representation tools, but you'll discover they cannot attach the tail to the head and repeat the whole. This can take three minutes or even one minute of teaching, but the result is the same: either they repeat verbatim, or they would break the argumentation if they think what they are saying.
What they need conspicuously is a "cognitive apprenticeship" which uses as much as possible oral communication and self-made mental images and the least possible symbolic codes and written or sketched patterns as inputs. The latter would better produced as output afterwards. The rationale for that is that any form of external representation can only be shallowly superposed to a completely tacit internal language, given that they have a reduced capacity and/or reduced experience in manging their working memory. Using the power of imagination and the constant guide of a teacher mediator you can coach the whole group in unisone, practicing cocnitive apprenticeship and making them learn conceptually and consciously. There is nothing about that that students could do by themselves or in cooperative groups. They cannot coach themselves or their peers by watching a video or solving a new problem in coooperative groups, not more than listening at each other reasoning during a well done class socratically held by the teacher mediator. Flipping the class and cooperating can give just a little help to experiment a growing internal language and awareness in solitude and in a peer social context. But the push, strategy and machinery of this growth must be feed by the coach.

roxane_guzman's picture

The flipped classroom has many benefits; the students are engaged, they are practicing their communication and critical thinking skills, and they are able to address any questions or ideas they have with their peers to gain diverse perspectives. The critical conversations being had in a flipped classroom may have been rejected before, simply because of noise level. Noise in the classroom can be proof of learning, as long as it is monitored by the teacher. I believe it is crucial for the teacher to observe groups or pairs to make sure the noise being made is productive. Even just the presence of a teacher can steer an unproductive conversation into a productive one. The teacher's presence and constant interaction with the students is part of effectively managing a flipped classroom.

Alfredo Tifi's picture
Alfredo Tifi
teacher of chemistry experienced in innovating

I don't see how an online classroom management system to see absences, grades, assignments could be related to flipping the classroom. Anybody might use it in any case.

Alfredo Tifi's picture
Alfredo Tifi
teacher of chemistry experienced in innovating

Okay Tina. But I'm not convicted of a couple of things: 1. that everything in-class and out-of-class activity should pass through devices (to be tracked). 2. that the student strictly needs to be tracked to be evaluated, even in case they only would have to be assessed formatively. About 1. I think is a waste of time and resources (I use google classroom, not to track, but to help students); about 2. I think direct observation of and interaction with student action in context is always necessary to reach an evaluation judgement. Even though you don't give them a performance or a test, you can't ultimately rely on tracked behavior information.

MrRoss2003's picture

Hey Mrs. Roque-Rivera. First, I teach the high school math not elementary school. But I do teach low-income students from diverse background. I've been flipping my classes for about 7 years and I admit that it works best in classes where most of the students who do their homework everyday. It takes away lots of distraction that comes from the intercom, students talking when they should be listening, and the distraction of a student asking a question that's specific to him, while the rest of the class takes his question as a cue to start side conversations or pull out their cell phones. However, in a classroom where most kids don't do homework, the room will be un-evenly prepared everyday. You will have the 4 or 5 kids that watch the video coming to class ready to start the lesson while the other 80% of the room watching the video at the start of class. This is still better than the traditional method of teaching because even though most of the room is watching the video, they are all hearing the lesson without distraction. Also, if they need to hear you explain it again, they can simply rewind the video. The draw back is they won't have as much in class practice that you originally planned for. This can be fixed by assigning the remaining problems for homework. But over time, the 4 or 5 students that always come to class prepared having watched the video will be way a head of the rest of the class when it's time to take your weekly test or quiz. Finally, you also mentioned that you don't know much about how to flip your classroom. I created a video on called "How to Flip your Classroom (using free stuff materials)" on youtube. You can either search youtube for that title or you can click this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4xiTJcwUuQ ---I hope this help!

MWeaver's picture

I am in the beginning stages of trying to implement a flipped classroom model into my AP Human Geo class. I'm starting here because out of the 3 classes I teach, these students do tend to do their homework. That is my biggest concern with the flipped classroom(as others have mentioned), those students that don't do the video part and come to class unprepared and what to do with them. My hope though is that the few students in the AP class that don't do the homework will start to find more value in class if they are doing more activities and practicing skills. My other concern is that I teach on a block and was wondering if others who teach on the block find the time to be too much, especially for those that seem to only handle about 20 minutes of active work time and then need to be redirected to something else, especially if they are part of a team. How to manage those types off students with those that will take the time to really explore the material, which is my ultimate goal with going to the flipped model?

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