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Five Best Practices for the Flipped Classroom

December 5, 2013

Five Best Practices for the Flipped Classroom

Earlier this week, I had an epiphany about the power of the flipped classroom model.  On my blog I asked, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could teach a class utilizing the flipped classroom model where students would get the content at home via direct instruction videos and simulations so I could utilize the majority of class time to teach students vital academic skills?

Yes, it would be awesome.  As a middle school teacher, I would love to spend more time strengthening my students’ skills in order to prepare them for success in high school and life.  Finding different methods of delivering content outside of class would free up additional time in class to work one-one-one and in small groups with students, and perhaps most importantly, would provide the opportunity for better differentiation.  Additionally, I am convinced that students would also benefit from the visual nature of the videos.

However, as I was driving to work yesterday*, I read a great blog post about the flipped model, which cautioned teachers that the approach was not a fix for everything.  Andrew Miller writes, “Ok, I’ll be honest. I get very nervous when I hear education reformists and politicians tout how “incredible” the flipped classroom model, or how it will “solve” many of the problems of education. It doesn’t solve anything. It is a great first step in reframing the role of the teacher in the classroom.”

Miller made a great point when he wrote that the flipped classroom model is a great way of teaching from the guide on the side approach, which is something I am firmly committed to.  But after I thought about it, the more I began to see the flipped classroom model as one tool of many in the history teacher’s tool belt.  Here’s why:

  • It doesn’t fit the needs of all learners.  While some students with strong visual and receptive language skills will benefit, sitting in front of a computer at home is still a passive exercise and isn’t the best or only way content should be delivered.  It should be one of the ways.  But as Amy Dillenbeck, a friend, pointed out yesterday in a conversation (and I’m paraphrasing here), “I think reading is important.”  I agree.  Students with strong reading skills, like my son, would benefit from information presented in a textbook or article.  Also flipped learning doesn’t adress the needs of kenethenic learners or those with weaker receptive language skills.
  • It’s a novel approach, which would draw kids in,  but I think it might get old after a while.  After all, it’s still homework.
  • It’s labor intensive.  Sure, you could find some third party videos, but if you really wanted to nail the teaching, you would have to make your own videos to control the content and make the information relevant to the students.  If there isn’t a connection, it’s going to be difficult to engage the students in class.
  • Videos may help deliver the content but students still need to cogitate and take action in order to master the material.  As Miller puts it, “Every time you have students watch a video, just like you would with any instructional activity, you must build in reflective activities to have students think about what they learned, how it will help them, its relevance, and more.”  I am in complete agreement.  It drives me nuts when one of my sons’  teachers just assigns reading but doesn’t ask them to do any critical thinking about the material.

So, the article was great in terms of spurring me to think deeply about the concept, which led to this conclusion (which may still change in the future): Sure, the idea of the flipped classroom model sounds interesting, has its merits and is something I plan on using when I get back into the classroom.  But at heart, I’m a constructivist teacher who believes strongly in project based learning.  While the flipped model is great, it’s really only one tool in my tool belt.

But I still want to learn more, as I have only scratch the surface. If there is something you think I should check out, please leave a comment below.

* Just to be clear – I did not actually read the article while sitting in traffic.  Instead, I had my phone read it to me.  I’ve discovered this feature and I am loving it.  What a great way to make the most out of the dreaded commute!  Not only does it help me learn something new, but it gets me fired up for a day in the classroom!

  1. Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth permalink

    So, first of all, been following for a while but just now realized I had to change settings so I would be getting notifications of your blogs! Yes, like the fact that homework could be reduced but not loving the passive delivery of lessons. Could lead to children not fully understanding concepts because they don’t have an opportunity to ask questions as they are learning. Ideally these questions would be answered when they are participating in the in-class activities, but maybe not.

    • Thanks for following me! I so agree with you about the passivity! Students need to do something in order to really master the material. The more I teach, the more I see the need to give students a choice in how they do these follow up activities so that they can use their strengths to learn the material. So while some students might make a video, another student might write a paragraph, while another student might draw a picture. By having the students PRODUCE something, teachers could gauge each student’s understanding and use class time to reteach.

      Are any of your kid’s teachers doing anything like this?

      Thanks again!

  2. Hi, well, I would argue that the flipped classroom gives the student more opportunity to learn. For those Ss who learn better by reading, they may supplement the video lesson with the corresponding textbook chapters. The kinesthetic learners may now have class time to be more active with the concepts.

    I am always challenged to keep my videos fun and interesting, just like my old lectures. I keep them short (6-10 minutes) and infrequent (once per week) and find this keeps most students engaged and not bogged down. It does take me more work this first year around, but the payoff to get better use of class time is worth it to me.

    • Dan – What a small world. I live in S’boro and my kids go to Trottier MS.

      Thanks so much for your reply – I really appreciate it. I’d like to get a better grapp by asking a few follow up questions:

      Do you tend to assign the out of classwork in different ways? So for example, students will watch a video on Monday, read a primary source on Tuesday and a textbook on Wednesday? Also – if you assign a reading assignment, do you also tell students that they can supplement their reading by watching a video you have created or one that’s on youtube?

      Do you create all your own videos or do you get some of them from another source? Is so – where? I think I like the idea of making my own videos – but I know there have to be some great resources out there – I just don’t know about them yet.

      DO you have the students do anything after they have finished watching the video to crystilize their thinking?

      Final question – and I know you don’t know me from a hole in the wall – but could I come observe your class in the near future? Perhaps just spend a period or two watching the class in action?

      Thanks for your help and have a great weekend!

      • Hi,

        I assign my own videos I make on the iPad using the app Explain Everything. Students are encouraged to read the textbook if they feel they need alternate explanations of the concepts. When I first flipped last school year (Mar-Jun) I did assign other teacher’s videos I found online. However, it is a real game-changer when students view your own videos.

        Upon completion of viewing the video lessons, I check students notes the following class. I am moving to using Google Forms now to check for understanding and away from note checking. Since it is not the traditional HW, it should really not be checked in a traditional way.

        Please look up my email at Algonquin and contact me to come and see a class and we can also have a conversation about the flipped classroom after.

  3. Kevin LaFollett permalink

    I’ve moved to the Flipped Mastery classroom and won’t look back. The video portion learning is a great tool but the idea that my students can learn asynchronously is my favorite part about using this model. Students have the chance to work ahead, slow down and focus on a concept, or comeback and master a unit concept with this model. I have time to pull groups, work with struggling students, and challenge learners who are moving at a faster pace. The videos get all the glory when it comes to the flipped classroom but they aren’t the foundation for the process. Do a google search for Tom Driscoll and you’ll see what I mean. Great stuff.

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