It has become something of a movement lately with enthusiastic claims being made for the difference it made to engagement and success of students in classrooms and educational institutions at all levels.
It is The Flipped Classroom. Well, one flips pancakes, how can one flip a classroom? In much the same, turn it over so that what once was done in the classroom happens at home and what students did at home (or rather often didn’t do) is done at school, in the lecture hall, with the teacher / instructor.
Or put another way, the work at home becomes outside-in where the material to be learned, the essential content of a subject is delivered through a video clip accessed through the internet. Typically the teacher / lecturer will deliver three of these each week and they can be supplemented from, for instance, the 2,500 “lectures” in the Khan Academy. The lessons are streamed and picked up by students at home or where students don’t have internet access at school.
Then the work done in the classroom becomes inside-out. The material being learned is used to develop ideas, to undertake project work. It focuses on the application of knowledge that leads to understanding. Typically this is the work that is the meat of assignments and projects done by the students for homework or self-directed study.
The Flipped Classroom makes best use of the teachers / instructors and their skills . Educause have published a handy tip sheet, “7 Things you should know about….. Flipped Classrooms.”
1. The notion is simple. It is a teaching model in which the typical lesson and the homework elements are flipped.
You do in the classroom much more of the activity students did in assignment work.
2. The pattern is also simple. A “flipped classroom” is one in which the structure hinges on the provision of pre-recorded Lectures / lessons followed by practical exercises and activity in the classroom.
These are no Oscar-winning productions. They are visual video podcasts. Imagine the potential of a team of teachers working together to produce the material required for a programme, each working to their strengths. The institution could wrap a little bit of production around the presentations.
There is already available software to broadcast PowerPoint presentations. It is surprising how simple yet effective the presentations can be – students could easily be engaged in the making of these presentations.
3. This approach is becoming increasingly popular in postsecondary programmes.
Not only in postsecondary programmes but great results are being reported in some high schools in the US. A Detroit High School after several years of working in the flipped manner reported increased academic performance and an impressive decrease in the number of discipline cases which dropped by 65%.
4. It makes much more productive use of time in the classroom.
There is a bit of a trade-off here. Teachers have to spend a little more time in pre-recording the presentations but they can be free in the classroom to support, explain, guide and encourage.
5. But the flipped classroom does require careful preparation.
Good teachers put quality time into preparation – it is simply a change in the nature of preparation.
6. The technology of the flipped classroom will evolve to support the out-of-class part of the equation.
Despite great interest in MOOCs and suchlike, it is still early days for developing the support required to produce the presentations. But MOOCs have led the way and the presentation of many of them is sophisticated making effective use of the technology. Others are more pedestrian.
7. The flipped classroom requires increased responsibility from the students for their own learning.
This is something more a shift perhaps than the actual involvement of technology. The key flip is from students arriving at the lecture or lesson ready to get the material, they arrive with the material and now tackle the hard part of learning, putting the ideas into their own words, grasping the structure of material, the key aspects. Of course the system staggers a bit if the students arrive not having looked at the presentations (3-7 minutes is an average length).
There is also a little nagging doubt I have about all this. The Flipped Classroom is gaining ground in the US where instruction in schools and other institutions has seemed to me to be a little more conservative and one way might be the case in New Zealand. Perhaps moving from the more formal teaching environment is clearly noticeably different in the flipped environment. Or am I fooling myself here? Perhaps this is just the flip we need to get higher levels of engagement.
Certainly in the US they are becoming willing to try anything that might make a difference. Only 69% of those entering high school get their high school diploma and 1.3 million drop out of high school every year (i.e. 7,200 every day)! So they need to work differently. Perhaps we need to as well.
 7 Things you should know about …..The Flipped Classoom (2012) Educause. Accessed at http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/