5 Best Practices for the Flipped Classroom
Okay, I’ll be completely honest with you. When education reformists and politicians talk about how “incredible” the flipped-classroom model is, or how it will “solve” many of the problems in education, I get a little queasy. It doesn’t provide any solutions. There has been significant progress in redefining the role of the teacher in the classroom.
It encourages the mentality and role of the “guide on the side” rather than the role of the “sage of the stage,” which is detrimental. It contributes to shifting the culture of a classroom toward student construction of knowledge rather than the teacher having to tell students what they should know. The teacher, according to Salman Khan, is now “liberated to communicate with [their students]. ”
Through a variety of instructional activities, it also provides opportunities for differentiated roles to meet the needs of different students. However, just because I “liberate” someone does not imply that he or she will know what to do next or how to do it effectively. As the conversation about the flipped classroom progresses and becomes more mainstream in both public and private education, this is where the work must be done to be successful. Creating engagement must come first, and then considering structures, such as the flipped classroom, that can help to facilitate that engagement. Here are some things to think about and consider if you are considering or already using the flipped classroom model as an educator.
1) Need to Know
What methods are you using to create a desire to know the content that has been recorded? For example, just because I record something or use recorded material does not imply that my students will be interested in watching it or see the relevance of watching it. I mean, it’s still a lecture, after all. Also, this “need to know” is not motivated by “the fact that it will be on the test” or “the fact that it will be useful when you graduate.” While this may be true, these justifications do nothing to engage students who are already struggling to find meaning and relevance in their educational experiences. To be truly innovative, the flipped classroom must be combined with a transparent and/or embedded reason to be familiar with the subject matter.
2) Engaging Models
One of the most effective ways to instill a “need to know” is to implement a pedagogical model that requires it. Find an effective model to implement in your classroom, whether it’s project-based learning (PBL), game-based learning (GBL), Understanding by Design (UbD), or authentic literacy (or a combination of these). First, become an expert in those models, and then use the flipped classroom to supplement and support the learning. Take, for example, mastering the design, assessment, and management of project-based learning (PBL), and then investigating how you can use the flipped classroom to assist with the process. Perhaps it is an excellent method of differentiating instruction or providing support to students who require another lesson in a different mode of delivery. Students may approach you with a “need to know,” and you will respond with a recorded piece to assist them. This will assist you in becoming more comfortable in your role as a “guide on the side.”
Do you have any technology that can be used to support the flipped classroom? What technological gaps do you think there are that could be a hindrance? Because the flipped classroom is based on recorded video, it goes without saying that students would require technology to participate. There are numerous factors to consider in this situation. Will you require all students to watch the video, or will you use it as a way to differentiate and give them a choice? Will you allow students to watch it on their mobile devices or will you rely on them to do so? Again, these are only a few of the technical considerations to keep in mind. It is not necessary to abandon the flipped-classroom model because of a lack of technological resources; however, some planning and differentiation may be required in this case.
As with any instructional activity, you must incorporate reflective activities into every video students watch. These activities should encourage students to think about what they learned, how it will benefit them in the future, how it is relevant to them, and so on. It is unlikely that the flipped classroom will be as effective if reflection does not occur regularly in your classroom culture. Students require metacognition to connect content to objectives, whether they are making progress in a GBL unit or working towards an authentic product in a PBL project, among other things.
5) Time and Place
Do you have the necessary structures in place to support this? When and where is the learning going to take place? Students should be allowed to watch the video outside of class time, but I believe it is unfair to require them to do so for a variety of reasons. Although having a blended learning environment provides a more natural time and place for students to watch videos, it will be more difficult to ensure that all students watch a video as part of their homework assignment. Additionally, avoid creating epic videos that last for hours. Students should be able to manage the learning contained within the videos. This will assist you in formatively assessing students to ensure learning, and it will appear doable to them as well.
I’m well aware that I may have “thrown a wrench in the works” for those who adore the flipped classroom. It is not my intention to imply that the flipped classroom is a bad idea. Rather, it is only the beginning. The emphasis should be on teacher practice, followed by the development of tools and structures. The flipped classroom is one method of assisting teachers in their pursuit of better teaching, but it does not guarantee it. Focus on ways to improve your instruction before deciding to use the “flipped classroom,” just as you would with the suggestions above.