How to Flip Your Classroom the Right Way
The education field often falls victim to the implementation of a strategy or initiative in name only. For example, we say we have Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), but we have nothing of the sort. Also, we sometimes confuse rigor in the curriculum with "more"—more homework problems or more projects, not depth and challenge. The same applies to the trend of the flipped classroom.
Flipping the classroom generally means that traditional lecture material moves outside the classroom and traditional reinforcement and homework moves back in. Too many educators are saying they have "flipped" their classrooms by turning over work to students online but not using actual class time more effectively. We don’t want to flip the format, but forget the principles of effective teaching and learning. Bring those principles to bear on the flipped model for greater student success.
The Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University identified the following key elements of the successfully flipped classroom: Exposure to course material prior to attending class, incentivizing advanced preparation for class, securing a mechanism to assess understanding, and spending in-class time on higher-level thinking, such as that which is reached when accessing higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy or Webb's Depth of Knowledge. You can't do these things if you aren't being strategic and purposeful about the flip.
Make the Appropriate Decisions in Advance
How will you flip your classroom? Ask yourself the following questions:
- What screen-recording software will I use, and how will I edit my content?
- Where will I post my content?
- How will I monitor and hold my students accountable for viewing/using it? (hint: your learning management system is a great place for this!)
- What assignments and assessments are best completed outside of the physical classroom?
- What will the rubrics look like for those materials and how will I be transparent and make them available to students?
When I flipped a major unit on the Vietnam War several years ago, I planned a year in advance. I created my own website for the unit and placed all the lessons and lesson plans online, open to all students, parents, and other interested parties. My technology resource teachers (TRTs) were full partners in the process. It took major blood, sweat, and tears to get the unit up and running, but once it was, it was completely liberating as all the major decisions had been made in advance and I could maintain a deep focus on teaching and learning.
Flipping Means Front-Loading and Freeing, Not Doubling Up
In the flipped classroom, introductory videos and lecture material should get front-loaded to students before they enter the classroom, usually through the use of your school's learning management system (LMS). By pushing all the "easy stuff" outside the class period, you gain class time for answering questions, meaningful group work, and more rigorous work.
Don't undermine your own flipped model by showing videos or recorded lectures twice, once online and once in the classroom. Students will start blowing off the flipped material, guaranteed.
Start each class with a hook or warm-up activity related to the flipped lesson and you will send the message that students will be held accountable for watching and attempting to understand the day's topic before they arrive, thus opening up more class time for deeper understanding and mastery.
As an example, let's say you are teaching a high school world history lesson and the objective is that by the end of the lesson, students will be able to list and briefly describe at least four causes of World War I. Instead of in-class direct instruction on the causes (e.g. nationalism, imperialism, militarism, the alliance system, lingering tension from the Franco-Prussian War, etc.), if you flip and front-load that information in a short video, you can spend the class assessing student understanding of the concept, engaging them in a "what if" conversation about the preventability of the conflict, and other rigorous, big-question-oriented items.
The Power of Your LMS
Your learning management system should make it easy to flip your classroom. A good LMS will make it possible for you to stay organized and keep all relevant materials in one place, providing curated content for your students. Your LMS should make it easy to communicate with students and families and to actively participate in lessons.
Real-time short-cycle formative assessment should also be possible, allowing you to know what your students know at all times. Your learning management system is the hub through which everything flows and from which learning radiates.
You Don't Have to Flip All at Once
Any time you try to do something new in your classroom, it can feel overwhelming to try to change everything at once. The good news is, you don't have to!
I started by flipping one unit, the above example regarding the Vietnam War. The next year, I found more ways to flip lessons and units in my preps. My classroom never completely flipped, but I would estimate that I was flipping at least once or twice every few weeks.
Focus on the philosophy of the flipped classroom in terms of student learning, strive for progress and not necessarily perfection, and you will be doing it the right way, not just paying lip service to the flipped model.
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