How to Make the Flipped Classroom Work When Students are Completely Remote
The Flipped Classroom
There is no single model that constitutes the flipped classroom. Still, it’s generally understood that in the flipped classroom, new content and lecture material is presented before the whole group meeting with the teacher—often by video—and the majority of class time is spent on “guided and independent practice.” Thus, what is normally done in class is done at home, and what is normally done at home is done in class.
So, what happens when students are being educated in a completely remote setting? How do you make the flipped classroom work then?
Flipped-Mastery in a Remote Learning Environment
An interesting and inspiring aspect of one of the “original” flipped classroom models is espoused by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams in their quick and informative book, Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day, which documents their “flipped-mastery classroom.”
Essentially, “flipped-mastery” means that students work at their own pace (or, if working collaboratively, at a pace appropriate for small groups of students) to meet learning objectives. The teacher uses formative assessment to guide students toward mastery, and students demonstrate mastery on summative assessments. If they do not meet the standard on the first try, they are provided with remediation and have the opportunity to try again.
This flipped-mastery concept can be effective in an all-remote, asynchronous environment. You could set up your learning management system by module—much like any online training environment or course in which you have engaged—and allow students to progress through each module at their own pace. At the end of each module or unit, students have a formative checkpoint, some of which would require working one-on-one with the instructor before moving forward. Then, summative checkpoints could be built into the course to formally assess mastery of course objectives.
The scary thing for many educators (me included!) is that this model has the potential to completely kill “seat time” or decoupling content delivery from the traditional quarter/semester/year model in education. I’m willing to bet students aren’t afraid of that concept, however! The flipped-mastery model—if done the right way and with robust flipped instruction—can be a really strong way to create a new paradigm in education.
Combining the Flip with Inquiry-Based Learning
Online learning can be tough because, when you go fully remote, you lose many of your traditional classroom management tools. Suppose students aren’t compelled to engage due to the absence of traditional rules (attendance requirements, for example). In that case, care needs to be taken to make the content as engaging and intrinsically motivating as possible.
In Authentic Learning in the Digital Age, author Larissa Phomov makes a strong argument for the key facets of authentic, inquiry-based teaching:
- Student choice
She then demonstrates how to carry out these aspects through a process of constructing inquiry-based experiences, creating active research opportunities, embedding collaboration and effective presentation skills, and providing time for meaningful reflection on the learning.
Fortunately, these key aspects can remain intact even when the learning goes remote! If anything, providing students with choice and allowing them to ask bigger and better questions becomes more important than ever because that natural inquiry will help engage them in the content.
For example, let’s say you want students to learn and be able to explain the components of the food chain. In a flipped remote environment, you could provide an instructional video on the food chain via a learning module in the LMS. From there, students could choose to:
A. Demonstrate knowledge of the food chain in a manner of their choosing (online presentation/oral explanation, picture collage, graphic organizer, etc.) and upload it to a class discussion board
B. Collaborate with the course instructor to ask a specific question about an aspect of the food chain and prepare a presentation for the rest of the class in a synchronous jigsaw session. Formal “class time” would be used to explore and prepare these items.
The goal is to provide learning experiences that are personal, relevant, and meaningful while still adhering to the relevant content standards.
A Pivotal Moment in Education
The pandemic has accelerated important remote learning trends that were already seeping into the traditional model of schooling. These changes are daunting because effective remote learning takes a lot of time and intentionality to make the experience as robust and meaningful as possible. But, when it is done the right way, remote learning can meet student needs. The flipped model, in which students can asynchronously engage with content before coming together with peers and/or the course instructor, provides an avenue for students to build intrinsic motivation, work at their own pace, and develop mastery of content. It is a pivotal moment in education, and—as educators—we should seize the opportunity.