Renovations, remodeling, and a lot of sweat equity made “Flip this House" a popular A&E series. The premise is that a house is purchased, fixed up, and sold at a higher price. It can be sold at a higher price quite simply because the value has increased. A similar situation can occur with a classroom. Although you can’t resell a classroom, you can make remake it and increase the value of the instructional time. One of the best ways to do this is to increase student engagement by flipping the classroom.
Introduction to the Concept
This is a relatively new concept so let’s begin at the beginning. What is a flipped classroom and how can it benefit your students? A flipped classroom is also sometimes referred to as backwards classroom, backwards learning, reverse instruction, reverse teaching, or reverse learning. The names are different but the notion is basically the same. It’s also very simple. In a traditional classroom, teachers introduce students to a concept for the first time. Then they assign homework to get them more familiar it and hopefully to begin mastering it.
In a flipped classroom, the opposite occurs. A student’s homework involves going to a website that has a lesson. This could a video, PowerPoint with audio, or well thought out lecture. This becomes their first introduction to the concept. When they show up in class, the teacher is no longer there to lecture, but to dive deeper into the idea(s) and take them to the next level. The traditional homework is now done in class with the instructor as a facilitator. This instructional model allows them to work in class on what they learned outside class, with the benefit being that students are more fully engaged. It also allows them the opportunity to request help and support from the teacher if they get “stuck".
Why the Increase in Popularity
There are quite a few things about the flipped classroom that are making it popular. The first is accessibility. It is becoming increasingly accessible to most of the population. The first thing you may think is “not all my students have access to the internet". The truth is, the majority of them do. The older they are, the higher the number goes. Between smartphones, tablets, computers, gaming equipment, and even access through their television devises, the bulk of students can find a way to view online videos if they desire.
The second thing that makes it popular is student engagement. Think about this. Would your students be more apt to do their homework if it was traditional homework or if it consisted of simply watching a video? It will always be more engaging for today’s students to watch a video. The added benefit is that they can pause, rewind, and review the video as often as they need. This allows you to push them further academically when they get into the classroom.
My veteran teacher friends like to say that nothing ever really changes in education, it just gets shuffled around, labeled something else, and recycled. Although I see where they are coming from and acknowledge that it’s true to a certain extent (good teaching methodology doesn’t change much), this flipped classroom concept is new. It’s something to get excited about and something that will capture the imagination of your students. The success of it though will come down to implementation and execution. If you don’t implement it correctly, you will not be successful.
How You Can Flip your Classroom
The very first thing to consider is the demographics of your students and how to best “flip" your class. There are a few different ways of going about doing this. If you’re not sure how many of your students will have access, you may want to start slow. Do a few test runs where you give students a video to watch and an assignment to go with it. The assignment can be very simple, even a 5 question assessment done in class just to assess who watched it and who didn’t.
If you plan a reward for students who do this assignment and let them know ahead of time about the reward, you will be motivating them to give you the information you need. If your students are like the students at my school, they may occasionally bend the truth when it serves their purpose and (in this case) claim they have no access. But if you’ve already established that they do have access, it defeats that argument from the beginning.
Choose Good Videos
Next, make sure you do your homework. You will need to watch the videos you assign ahead of time. There are lots of videos out there and you need to make sure you pick engaging videos that teach the concept well and are fun to watch. Yes, it’s okay for the video to be fun. The more fun and engaging to watch, the better (as long as it covers the content). Just remember, if it’s super long… it’s probably not engaging for today’s youth. If you’re completely new to this, a good place to start searching for relevant videos is www.Khanacademy.org.
Options usually promote buy in. Make your students partners in this initiative by giving them options. Let them know that if the majority of them do well with this model, your class will move from traditional homework to essentially watching video clips for homework (At this time there is no need to tell them that this means they will be doing more academic work in class instead of listening to instruction). Also, think about giving them multiple videos and allowing them to choose one. If you find three video clips on a particular algebraic concept, why not give them all three links and have them pick one? It makes them feel in control and they now have more than one video to watch if they initially don’t grasp the concept.
Continue the Process
Lastly, think about moving in the direction of a complete flipped classroom. If the concept works for you, you may be able to get more out of students in less time. If you’re getting results, you may also be able to convince your administrators to do a trial “flipped" class in which you get parent permission forms and actually schedule students into a class that is always done like this. The benefit of this model is that parents (and students) have said “we want it" and “we have internet access" to participate.
We all like to think of ourselves as good teachers, but we still can’t compete with well-constructed videos. There are no classroom distractions to compete with and often videos can be rated, causing the best to rise to the top. Sometimes, it’s apparent that these videos have had much time, thought, and energy put into their creation. The lecture is often simplified with great examples, making the concept easy to understand and digest. Flipping your classroom can absolutely have a positive effect on student engagement and mastery if implemented correctly.