The flipped classroom is one of the most exciting new forms of education becoming popular in today’s world. What is it exactly? And how does it benefit a student? This article will summarise the basic concepts.
The flipped classroom model of alternative schooling emphasizes student-driven learning at home and interactive, collaborative sessions of problem-solving and discussion at school. It seeks to turn the traditional classroom on its head. By combining digital tools to record lectures and course material for students to consume at home, flipped classrooms attempt to create a culture of self-driven learning that is hard to replicate in traditional classrooms. Similarly, by providing interaction with the teacher and their peers while solving problems, flipped classrooms want to increase engagement and clarification of key concepts by making the best use of classroom times. The central thesis is that students learning at home alone will be more active in their learning. They will have flexibility and ownership of their education.
Similarly, supporting students when they apply learned concepts will help clarify their ideas and fill out gaps they couldn’t. Students benefit from ownership and flexibility, and teachers benefit from efficient time utilization and the leeway to explain complex concepts. The problem being addressed is essentially one of flexibility and support. Students need active help not in absorbing new information but in learning how to apply them. The flipped classroom method addresses this comprehensively. Across the world, various educators are implementing their versions of flipped classroom models.
Let’s look at a few examples.
Some real-life models:
Gulf Highlands Elementary
At Gulf Highlands Elementary in Tampa Bay, a fundamental criticism of flipped learning is being addressed. In what is a departure from normal flipped classrooms with students using their time at home to learn new concepts, at Gulf Highlands, students learn from digital mediums in schools. This is still personalized enough that each child progresses individually at a pace most suited to their ability. Teachers have greater time and energy to focus on personalized instruction for each student and tackle critical areas of concern. However, this allows those students who don’t have digital access at home to partake in digital education just as quickly as their counterparts. The school removes the need for digital access by providing it in school. However, it maintains self-determination in learning and collaboration in applying new concepts. At Gulf Highlands, such a model is called the faux-flipped classroom.
At Bullis School, Stacey Roshan teaches AP Calculus through video lectures and helps her students solve problems collaboratively in the classroom. She began flipping her classroom very early on, back in 2012. Stacey’s method has seen tremendous success: 78% of her students scored 4s or 5s on the test, compared to 58% before flipping the classroom. For subjects like Math, the main advantage of flipping classrooms is students’ increased support when solving problems. This is particularly important for subjects that are historically scary for learners, such as Math.
The University of Queensland
In creating a new psychology class, “the science of everyday thinking”, Dr Jason Tangen incorporated from the beginning a method of instruction that shifted the focus from “teaching” to “learning”. Lectures would be recorded online and provided to students who would watch them from the flexibility of their homes and have the time to assimilate new information with increased flexibility. In Dr Tangen’s own words, class time would be left for “discussing the material, working through problems, designing experiments, testing dubious claims, learning to read newspapers and media reports, and challenging students to think analytically”. Dr Tangen received a teaching excellence award from his institution for his innovations in flipping his classroom.
Amherst Middle School
One of the most innovative forms of flipped classrooms is being practised in Amherst Middle School. Here, Rob Zdrojewski’s students create assignments for him to work on at school. The students learn new concepts at home, create materials or executable instructions for the teachers, and spend classroom hours teaching teachers the same concept. The subject being studied (or instead, taught) is technology, and the method of instruction is highly unordinary, even for veteran flippers. The method has since been copied elsewhere and is now known as the double-flipped classroom or teaching the teacher-flipped classroom.
Most Common Categories
So, if you wanted to flip your classroom, what are some of the most common types you could go for?
Let’s look at the various types to pick from:
Focussed Flipped Classrooms
Focussed flipped classrooms are variations of the normal flipped classroom but specifically focus on how to use classroom time. Instead of using the time to do various applicative activities or solve questions, focused flipped classrooms focus on a particular activity.
The two most common subtypes are:
- Debate/Discussion Focus: The focus in such a classroom is encouraging debate amongst students to clarify a concept. Students must come up with arguments for a particular point of view about a concept they have learned at home and participate in class discussions about it. Example: Read a piece of literature and debate the moral actions of the characters in the story.
- Group Activity Focus: The focus in such a classroom is to participate in a group activity to demonstrate knowledge of a concept. An example might be writing a historical play about a particular historical period where each student plays a character from the same period. The students must learn about the character independently and teach them to the group so the entire play can be cohesive and comprehensible.
Faux Flipped Classrooms
Faux Flipped Classrooms bring digital learning into the school classrooms by dividing time to learn independently and to debate, discuss and participate in applications of newly learned concepts. It is the application of complete classroom learning. The main criticism for such a model comes from time availability being highly reduced and teaching every new concept taking much longer than usual. The main advantage, however, comes from using this model also ensures no kid is left behind due to a lack of access to the internet or digital media. It addresses one of the key criticisms of flipped learning (lack of access to the internet) by taking online learning to the classroom.
Virtual Flipped Classrooms
Virtual Flipped Classrooms Similar to typical flipped classrooms, the critical difference is that post-learning activities are also done virtually, with teachers taking an active (albeit virtual) role in the activity. Like normal flipped classrooms, students independently use digital media to learn new concepts. Similarly, they would then engage in collaborative application exercises of their newly learned concepts in the teacher’s presence. However, unlike normal flipped classrooms, this activity will take part virtually. Think Online Zoom class debates, collaborative online coding exercises, or going through a quiz together online. The main advantage of such a model is taking such a classroom entirely off a physical location. Teachers and students of such a classroom can be based anywhere in the world with a stable internet connection and continue their learning. The main criticism, however, comes with the lack of personal engagement and interactiveness that physical classrooms bring.
Double-Flipped Classrooms (teaching the teacher)
Double-Flipped Classrooms take self-driven learning to the next level, enabling students to learn new concepts independently and teach them to their instructors during classroom hours. Double-flipped classrooms are similar to normal flipped classrooms, requiring students to learn new concepts independently at home. However, once a new concept is learned in a double-flipped classroom, students teach that concept to teachers during classroom hours. Various different methods of teaching are encouraged, and the most effective ways of teaching are rewarded. In an effective double-flipped classroom, a teacher will listen keenly to the lessons provided by her students and help them understand concepts they were unable to teach. An essential criticism is sometimes seen to be the fact that many students are unable to understand concepts well enough to be able to teach anything to teachers on the first try and are thus discouraged from classroom participation. An understanding and appreciative teacher is key to overcoming this hurdle. The main advantage is usually seen in an increased understanding of critical concepts for students who can teach some parts of the lesson. Teaching something is the best way to learn, which is common practice in double-flipped classrooms.
The key Merits and Demerits
Now that you have a basic understanding of flipped classrooms and the various models in which they manifest themselves, this part will discuss the essential advantages and disadvantages of using flipped classrooms.
The Main Advantages
- Efficiency: Classroom hours are precious, and a teacher’s wisdom is not easily replicated. In the age of the internet, almost everything can be easily learned on the internet, often taught by the same people who teach you at school! The correct use of classroom hours is not to provide standard passive instructions to students but to nurture already budding concepts by exposing them to new ideas and ways of applying their learning. A flipped classroom thus optimizes classroom hours to provide the most significant benefit to students. It makes the most excellent use of a teacher’s time.
- Parental Oversight: In flipped classrooms, it is much easier for parents to keep track of the learnings of their children and support them in areas they need help. By shifting a significant part of the learning experience online, parents can now use apps to monitor their children’s learning easily, notice areas they have difficulty in, and appreciate areas in which they excel. Parent-teacher cooperation is never more accessible than in a flipped classroom, as added transparency helps both parties understand a child’s progress.
- Student-led approach: The transition from a regular classroom to a flipped classroom marks an essential shift in education philosophy. Education goes from “teaching oriented” to “learning oriented”. In many ways, the flipped classroom model is much more student-centred than any regular classroom. Students are responsible for learning independently, using their methods, and in their own spaces. Increasing students’ authority and responsibility in their learning projects make learning feel more personal, important, and lasting. Increasing student responsibility in their learning is an essential challenge of modern education and flipped classrooms effectively address this issue.
The Main Disadvantages
- Dependence on the Internet and electronic media: Flipped classrooms are highly dependent on each student’s availability and access to the internet and electronic devices. If a student does not have access or restricted access, he is likely to fall behind in his class very quickly. This challenge is particularly pronounced for students from weaker socio-economic backgrounds, who are likelier to have no/restricted access to the internet. This, in turn, can create a big problem of equity and belongingness in flipped classrooms. Although first drafts of some solutions exist( for example, the faux flipped classrooms with digital classroom learning), such solutions are pretty rudimentary and still require a lot of improvements before effectively solving this issue.
- Increased screen time: Various studies have shown the many harmful effects of increased screen time on students. The effects manifest themselves not only on a biological level (faster loss of eyesight, loss of sleep, etc.) but also on a social level (lack of curiosity, loss of ability to make friends, etc.) This is a big challenge to adopting flipped classroom models on a large scale. Many parents, teachers, policymakers, and influencers believe that the adverse effects of increased screen time outweigh the benefits of a more interactive learning model.
- Requiring a competent teacher: It requires a highly competent teacher to pull off a flipped classroom successfully. Teacher competence is required on two levels. On the technological level, a teacher must be comfortable taking his lessons online, using slides, videos, articles, games, and so on. On the human level, a teacher must be able to identify critical weaknesses in a student’s understanding of a concept during classroom hours and make efforts to overcome that difficulty. Without such a teacher, a flipped classroom can backfire and cause mass confusion and significant gaps in learning concepts that a regular classroom would have covered.