Why Haven’t I Tried Flipped Learning Yet?

After spending the past few hours reading , watching and listening to various educators share their experiences with flipped learning, I can honestly say that I love this concept! I realize that it is not an earth-shatteringly new idea. Many of my later years in university were spent in seminar classes where all of the reading was done outside of class time and instead of coming to class to listen to a lecture, we would be engaged in a 3-4 hour discussion/debate about the readings that we had done. The seminar approach follows Dr Jose Bowen’s idea about the Naked Classroom and that university should be about changing thinking.

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And to me, this line of argument is similar to what is being lauded about the flipped classroom approach. Why waste your valuable class time with lectures or explanations when we live in a world where people can Google content information in a matter of seconds? Let the students receive the lectures or read the articles at home and make class a place where that knowledge is practiced, tested, challenged, discussed, debated and so on.

There are numerous benefits to the flipped classroom outlined in the blog post, 10 Pros & Cons of a Flipped Classroom,  such as, it allows students to control the pace at which they learn which is especially beneficial for students with special needs or ELD students. It allows for greater student-centered learning and collaboration; lessons and content are more transparent and accessible to both students and parents and it can be more efficient.

An article in ASCD, Research Says/Evidence on Flipped Classrooms is Still Coming In, does note that there is no solid scientific evidence to support that flipped classrooms really do work; but, there is some nonscientific data that suggests the benefits:

In one survey of 453 teachers who flipped their classrooms, 67 percent reported increased test scores, with particular benefits for students in advanced placement classes and students with special needs; 80 percent reported improved student attitudes; and 99 percent said they would flip their classrooms again next year (Flipped Learning Network, 2012). Clintondale High School in Michigan saw the failure rate of its 9th grade math students drop from 44 to 13 percent after adopting flipped classrooms (Finkel, 2012).

In addition, the article mentioned other additional benefits such as, improved student-teacher interaction; opportunities for real-time feedback (which has been discussed in Daniel Goleman’s book,  Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, and described in the blog post, Debunking the Myth of the 10 000 Hours Ruleas a necessary element to achieve success); and more meaningful homework.

There seems to be a lot of reasons why you should try flipped classrooms as an educator and so I began to ask myself, Why haven’t I done it yet?. As I reflected on this question, I realized that part of it was ignorance. I hadn’t really thought about or heard about this concept in depth before. But, I think more importantly, I had associated this technique with older students who are more independent and self-motivated like university students as my experience with this type of learning was predominantly from that setting.

So, I began to look for evidence that flipped classrooms was more of an age-appropriate concept and should be relegated to higher grades. But, as I poked around the Web, I realized that was not the case. I came across numerous examples of flipped learning being applied to middle school classrooms and even elementary classrooms (albeit not nearly as many as high school or middle school). In fact, the blog flippedlearning.org contains many video examples of flipped learning being done in specific subjects areas across grade levels.

In certain respects, I know that I have applied the concept of flipped learning in my classroom without realizing that I have been doing it. For example, I try to be very intentional about why I am giving homework and ask myself before I assign it, how is this going to be applied the next day? What are we going to be doing with it? If I am only going to briefly review the homework answers with the kids and then move on, I do not assign the work because what is the point if it has no real added value to the learning? Instead, I try to assign readings that we can discuss the next day or a piece of writing that will be shared and edited the next day so that I can be present to help the students with problems that they may have encountered or help facilitate a deeper discussion about what was read or written. I have often used this approach for the sake of expediency. I do not always have the luxury in class to read a text in its entirety with the students and at times, whole-class reading can cause difficulties with student engagement as they tend to zone in and out. So at times, I prefer this to happen outside of class, and use the in-class time to build and deepen what was read.

But now, I am excited to take this further with the use of technology. It would be great to do screencasts of those ppts on plot structure instead of having to spend class time doing it and instead, using the class to practice analyzing plot structure. I often have been frustrated in my teaching when I realize that I have spent half a class explaining a concept and I do not have enough time to really test what they have understood through activities or discussion. I think it would be fantastic to be able to do a voice-over narration of a text that you want the students to read so that they can hear how it is supposed to sound and see it while it is being read. That would be an incredible way to further reach your ELD and special needs students and support them.

The obstacles I foresee with using the flipped classroom for myself is two-fold. 1. The technology side makes me anxious. I always have my husband turn things into videos instead of doing it myself. So creating screencasts and imovies and youtube channels is something that I really need to practice more with. I know it’s just about taking the plunge and doing it. And I think you could get away with a bit of cheating by using someone else’s videos to help supplement your own while you are still building your collection of online instructional videos. And that brings me to my second obstacle, which is finding the time. Flipped classrooms do initially take a lot of front loading by the teacher until you have substantially built your resources. And as teachers, it is always a challenge to find the time. Josh Corbat mentions in his blog post, 6 Steps to a Flipped Classroomthat you should get in the habit of making a video schedule that you stick with like every Sunday night. One piece of advice from Josh Sowash, was to use Google Docs for your presentations so that if you make changes to the slides, it ensures that most updated copy is available for students; thereby saving you time from having to redistribute it.  Other educators, have mentioned that the key is to not try to do it all at once. Start flipping once or twice a week. So there are ways to reduce the time that you need to invest; but, really it comes down to acknowledging that at first it will be difficult and time consuming and as you develop your skills, it will become easier and less overwhelming. I just need to be more intentional in my practice and make a conscious effort to to implement some flips! Because I am completely in love with this concept!


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One Response to Why Haven’t I Tried Flipped Learning Yet?

  1. Hi Caroline,
    This is a wonderfully honest and thorough post. I really enjoyed it. I like that you were very clear about your (very few and easily surmountable) obstacles, and I believe that, now that you have pinpointed them, you will be able to overcome them in no time. Just like you, I always thought that flipping the classroom is more of an older kids kind of activity, yet at the same time I was inadvertently flipping the classroom with my middle school kids by being deliberate about the kind of work I send them home to do. I have been experiencing lately with Powerpoint voiceovers and such, and the effect that it has on work done at home has been great. It is time consuming, but once you have the base lesson ready, you can always tweak it in future years.
    Looking forward to this… Thanks for sharing.


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