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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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Mr. Davis's picture

I love a lot the ideas presented here. I think education as it stands can stifle the creative mind and the methods laid out there seem to foster them. However, I teach in a low-income community and the students come to me years behind and have never been in a structured environment. It takes a good amount of time to teach them how to 'do' school so they can access the content and be set free in a less structured environment like you've mentioned here. But again, I love the ideas and think you're spot on with flipping the classroom. I talk about some the fundamental strategies and methods teaching in tough situations can use on my blog at Classficient.com/blog

lmp1123's picture

I've used this model in my class and it has been very successful! I think you made a good point of visiting students that have a tendency to be off task first so they start off doing what they are supposed to and stay focused.

Michelle's picture

This article brings up positive classroom management techniques that I am excited to try. Whenever I have tried to assign a video for homework, most of the students do not view it, whether by choice or by lack of technology. I have seen students who think they do not need to watch it and know the subject already, so they play games on their computer in class instead of doing their assignment--very frustrating! Offering technology definitely does not promise student engagement!

yayalyn's picture

This article is very interesting and is something that I would like to do when becoming a teacher. I will be graduating next year and I really like the flip classroom approach. I strongly believe that a teacher has to have classroom management in order to have control of his or her classroom. I love that with the flip classroom I would still have control but the kids will have an opportunity to engage and express their selves as well.

Yanira Villalta's picture

This article is very interesting is I find it to be very accurate. One of the teachers I have observed told me once that class management gets out of control when you keep forcing students to do things they do not want to do. Sitting down and only listening to the teacher can get pretty boring for the students and this causes them to lose focus and start acting up. I have not had the honor to have my own classroom yet, but I do believe I will be engaging in a flipped classroom where the students get to engage more instead of just sit and listen. I do believe in "lecture" time when the teacher does address and teach the entire class together but doing centers is great as well. I cannot wait to do this with my future students.

ashley_burroughs's picture

The flipped classroom has many benefits that promote engaged student learning. I enjoy the idea of a classroom filled with noise-good noise, noise of collaboration with peers. The learning process for many students involves conversations with others. I think that flipped classrooms are a new wave of style to the education system that should be implemented in different ways. Although this flipped classroom has many positives, a potential negative could be that the students do not know when to be quiet, ever. So, for example, during a testing period, when no talking is required, the students will not be able to remain silent and test independently.

Carly_MacLeod's picture

The flipped classroom is something that is new to me. Growing up, my classrooms were always very traditional; students were expected to be completely silent and absorb all the information the teacher gave to us. Now as I substitute in classrooms, I am seeing that the flipped classroom is becoming the norm... which I enjoy! As mentioned in the article, the teacher doesn't have to spend so much time correcting student behavior and continually telling them to be quiet. Now, the primary concern is redirecting student attention to their assigned tasks, which in my opinion is much easier to do. I believe that in this classroom setting students are more excited to dig into the material and it definitely keeps them engaged. Sometimes, I have to remind myself not to spend so much energy on telling kids to be quiet. However, there needs to be set expectations for students for noise level and knowing when it is time to be quiet and listen. I believe that it is up to the teacher to find that balance and remember that noise is not always a bad thing.

Scot Bujarski's picture

Although the practice of a flipped classroom is new to me, I can definitely see its merits within the learning environment. Much like the author, I believe that teachers spend "too much time and energy trying to keep students quiet" during classroom/instructional time. Furthermore, I agree with the author when he stated that in spending so much time and energy trying to keep students quiet, teachers haven't been trying to get "students to take responsibility for their own learning". I believe that it is a student's lack of feeling responsible for their own learning that leads to the vast majority of misbehavior. Since the flipped classroom causes students to become more responsible for their learning environment, it makes sense to me that it would cause students to become better behaved within the classroom. Even though I can see its merits as a classroom management strategy, I do have one primary concern for using the flipped classroom as an instructional method. My concern is that through using the flipped classroom as an instructional method, those students who have difficulties managing their own time will have a greater likelihood of falling behind.

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Celena Olivar's picture

The idea of a flipped classroom is one that I love. I have done various observation hours, and I have only encountered one flipped classroom. It was amazing to see the class/ students in action. Everyone in the classroom was engaged and genuinely excited to learn. When I first walked into this flipped class I was a bit overwhelmed by everything happening. There were projects displayed all over the walls and all the kids were talking, I automatically assumed the classroom lacked proper management. That was an error in my judgment. I grew up with a silent classroom environment where the teacher talked at us and we listened. When I saw this flipped classroom I did not understand that there was a beauty to this madness, however, as I payed more attention I saw how wonderful this classroom really was. All of the students were completely engaged in their projects. They took pride in their work and wanted to see it displayed on the walls. The teacher walked around and closely monitored the students and made sure to give additional assistance where it was needed. I was in awe at how effective this classroom was. This article further supports what I saw in this classroom. Noise is not something we should fear, we should encourage conversation and the sharing of knowledge.

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