Students engage with the learning content at home, and undertake the practice exercises at school under the guidance of the teacher.
The flipped classroom involves a repurposing of class time; leveraging technology to accomplish this task. The lecture time is removed from the school environment; this usually means that students watch and interact with an instructional video (flipped video) before coming to class. (Bergmann, & Sams, 2015. p.5) Students do the passive portion of learning (watching or listening to lectures) outside of class time, and in-class time is spent working on tasks that a teacher is required for. Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams stumbled on the idea when they realized they were struggling to effectively teach students who had been absent for a class. They also observed that there were certain students who would find themselves stuck on certain concepts and consequently were unable to complete homework assignments (Siegle, 2013). They began recording simple lectures and screencasts to try to fill this gap, and from this the concept of the flipped classroom emerged.
As it is an emerging, innovative trend, research on the flipped classroom is limited, but growing. “Flipped classroom instruction provides students with traditional lecture materials in an alternative format outside of the classroom enabling class time to be used to actively engage students in inquiry-based learning” (Bergman & Sams, 2008; FLN, 2014; Ullman, 2013; Mazur, Brown, & Jacobsen, 2015).
This pedagogical approach to the classroom is also known as the inverted classroom. “A flipped classroom dedicates more class time to hands-on learning, replacing lectures with supplemental materials, such as screencasts and videos that the student can view outside class.” (Bull, Ferster & Kjellstrom, 2012). “At its heart, the flipped classroom lies at the intersection of emergent technologies, novel approaches to content enabled by new affordances, and new pedagogical strategies facilitated by both.” (Bull, et al., 2012).
Many teachers, when they think of the flipped classroom picture students viewing videos at home, “however, flipping a classroom does not mandate students solely watch teaching videos as their homework piece” (Siegle 2013). Lesson delivery can come in the form of videos, but may also be podcasts, screencasts, audio files, websites or other modes of instruction deemed suitable by the teacher. Videos are a dominant method of content distribution as they afford the student maximum control over their learning. “If the home activity were viewing videos, students can speed through content they already understand and slow down and review content they do not understand.” (Siegle, 2013).
“A focus on learner competencies, versus content and skills, requires an educational shift away from the dissemination of information to a process of inquiry-based learning and includes the learner’s ability to know how to learn, think critically, identify and solve complex problems, manage information, innovate, create opportunities, apply multiple literacies communicate and demonstrate global and cultural understanding (Alberta Education, 2010). The flipped classroom creates fertile soil for this type of learning environment. When the students are doing the passive learning at home, they are freed up, along with their teacher, the expert, to dig deeper during school time; to undertake larger projects with guidance. They can ask the bigger questions and seek the answers with their teacher there to guide and assist, as this time is not being eaten up with lecture delivery.
The material utilized outside class time should, as much as possible, be created by the teacher. “When we visit struggling flipped classrooms, we often see that the teacher is simply assigning video content created either commercially or by teachers outside their immediate network rather than making their own. Conversely, when we walk into successful flipped classrooms, we usually find that the teacher is the video creator” (Bergmann, & Sams, 2015). To really engage students in active learning, the teacher needs to know the target audience, the learners. While there are millions of resources available on the internet, connection with students remains at the heart of a good classroom experience. Students need the connection to their teacher. This is not to say that a teacher cannot use materials that others have created. As we will look at in the challenges portion of this paper, time is a factor to consider. A good resource that was not created by the classroom teacher can certainly be used, if, and only if it serves to advance the learning taking place. Flipped classrooms fail when the material selected for outside school viewing seems random or unrelated to the classroom activity. “Flipping the classroom is an easy model to get wrong. The focus is on students’ needs” (Siegle, 2013).
Once the teacher has generated the video, podcast or other means of delivery, students partake of it outside class time. In the instance of a video, they can pause, rewind, and watch the lesson more than once if needed. One problem with in-class lecture is pacing –at times a teacher may be proceeding too quickly for some students, while the same lecture is far too slow for others (Siegle 2013). This problem is alleviated in the flipped classroom as the student is in control of pacing, even to the point where requiring a break for the washroom does not result in any missed information from the lecture.
When the instruction is taking place outside of class time, this allows for the repurposing of time mentioned above. “With teacher-created videos and interactive lessons, instruction that used to occur in class is now accessed at home, in advance of class. Classes become the place to work through problems, advanced concepts, and engage in collaborative learning.” (Tucker, 2012). This means that in-class time is spent working on questions where the teacher is present to answer if a student gets stuck. Or a deeper learning project is undertaken where collaboration, cooperation, technology, teacher (or guest) expertise can be leveraged. Bigger questions can be tackled. “Findings suggest that flipping content review to outside of class time can allow for deeper engagement with the content during class activities with peers, which can enable more personalization and continual feedback on learning.” (Mazur, et al., 2015; Hamdan, McKnight & Arfstrom, 2013; Project Tomorrow, 2013). “In a typical classroom, students often go home with difficult homework. They do this work independently and have little or no help. Some are successful, but many are not. In a flipped class, students do the difficult tasks in class with an expert present, the teacher.” (Bergmann & Sams, 2015, p.5).
It seems counterintuitive that a measure to take lecture out of the classroom would actually increase student engagement between the teacher and the student. “Flipped classroom instruction moves some of the formally designed instructional activities outside of the classroom in order to create the opportunity for more student-centered learning and meaningful inquiry during class time.” (Mazur et al, 2015; Bergmann & Sams, 2008; FLN, 2014; Lage, Platt, & Treglia, 2000; Toto & Nguyen, 2009; Ullman, 2013; Zappe, Leicht, Messner, Litzinger, & Lee, 2009). As the teacher moves away from the constant lecturer to the expert who is present to assist with students, the relationship between student and teacher becomes more meaningful. “The change experienced by the teacher was probably identified best by Shari Kendrick, a teacher in San Antonio who adopted this model: ‘I don’t have to go to school and perform five times a day. Instead I spend my days interacting with and helping my students.’ One huge benefit of flipping is that the students who struggle get the most help. (Bergmann, & Sams, 2012).
Equity is a huge consideration when undertaking a flipped classroom model. In order for it to be successful, all students must have access to the material to be viewed at home. Bull, et al. (2012) state that there are still significant differences in high-speed internet access among demographic groups. One solution that has been utilized is the offering of an afterschool program for students to use computers (Hertz, 2012). The pioneers of this method, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams found that providing students with a CD of the contents was another solution to the problem of equity. (Bull, et al., 2012). Some schools have started soliciting old smartphones that people are replacing to act as a library of resources that students may use to access the resources outside school hours. This model shows environmental responsibility as well as provides students with devices that if lost, damaged, or not returned, does not spiral into a problematic scenario for the school’s budget.
It is important that the videos that students are asked to view outside school hours are engaging, to the point, and are of limited duration. “Videos developed for flipped classrooms typically cover a particular concept and often are 5-10 minutes long” (Bull, et al. 2012). It is not reasonable to expect students to watch several hours of instructional videos each evening (Siegle, 2013). Content needs to be compact and presented in an interesting manner. They must be stimulating, as the motivation of the student to watch and engage in the videos is a concern in the flipped classroom environment. “Students who are not motivated risk falling further behind their peers when they fail to complete the necessary background instruction at home prior to their attending class. However, flipping a classroom can sometimes motivate students who have previously been disengaged. A teacher survey of the impact of flipping the classroom found that teachers reported 80% of their students had improved attitudes toward school (Flipped Learning Network 2012) taken from Siegle 2013
As with all things technological, professional development and time management are at the core of the challenges with the flipped classroom. “Time is an elusive commodity. Where can you find the time to create all these videos, post them on a website, build in interactivity, and recreate your classroom activities? We wish we had a magic answer to tell you how to find the time, but we don’t. To be honest, successful flipped class teachers just make the time, and even more successful flipped teachers collaborate and work together to maximize their time” (Bergmann, & Sams. 2015). In order to achieve an effective flipped classroom, teachers would need release time from their classrooms to create and build the initial video content. Building such content while in the school environment can be challenging as there are constant ambient noises in a school and disruptions to the recording. At times it is almost inevitable that the teacher gets everything prepared for recording, commences the job and is then interrupted by either an intercom page, a student at the door, or a phone call to the classroom; any of which necessitate starting the video recording over again. A time and a place dedicated to the construction of content would be necessary to get the flipped classroom started. Bergmann and Sams (2015) report that once the inverted classroom is underway, the creation of content becomes easier and fits into the schedule more seamlessly. “Course redesign is a hard job” (Tucker, 2012).
“Watching an instructional video, where students must come away with some level of understanding, is a very different activity. We recommend that teachers build interactivity into the videos” (Bergmann, & Sams, 2015). A passively watching student will quickly lose focus. The teacher must have some type of activity built into the home portion of the course in order to sure that completion is achieved. Mazur et al. (2015) employed the “entrance ticket” to ensure that the homework was completed. Students had a ticket they needed to fill in as they worked at home in order to participate in the activities at school the following day. Students who had not completed the ticket were given a place in which to complete the homework prior to joining the class activity, as the knowledge from the video was necessary to be an active participant in the class.
If the flipped classroom is to work, we must actually teach students how to watch videos. “Assigning videos and assuming students will watch them is a common mistake teachers make. Students need to know how to watch an instructional video. We have discovered that this is not something that will come naturally to students. They need specific instructions on how to interact with the videos” (Bergmann, & Sams, 2015). This reiterates what Mazur (2015) showed us with the entrance ticket concept. Students must be engaged in the viewing at home if the flipped classroom is to be successful.
Michelle Baragar, 2015
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