Understanding the Flipped Classroom: Part 2

Editor’s Note: Part 1 of this article looked at the history of the flipped classroom. Today we look at what it takes for someone to teach effectively in a flipped classroom.

Although the flipped classroom is garnering a lot of attention of late, simply flipping the classroom alone does not increase student success. The instructor must seize the opportunity to guide and interact with the students. Looking at this new definition of homework in a flipped classroom, there are many details to consider.

Flipping doesn’t work when the home lectures (in whatever form they take) are too long or simply replace valuable teaching from the instructor. Lecturing is more effective presented in small chunks and as brief as possible. A good guideline is to keep the videos at or less than 10 minutes. A talking head video, where the camera points at the instructor and the instructor simply talks for 10 minutes does not work well. If possible, it is important to make the video engaging with multi-media (Houston and Lin, 2012). Many use screen capture software such as Jing or Camtasia. Also, Firefox has add-ons that can be used to screen capture and record as well. Many resources make the task of creating a quality, engaging homework lecture quite manageable. It is also worth considering that the lecture does not have to be a lecture at all.

While potentially daunting, planning and preparation can make or break a flipped classroom. The first step is to require students to compile any questions they have after watching the video. If the students have no questions, then some suggest requiring the students to summarize the topic to demonstrate understanding. Ideally, the instructor will sort the questions before class and develop scenarios to address them. The instructor attempts to avoid teaching what students already understand. This is the most difficult part, especially if students do not supply questions. The upside is that collecting questions over time builds a quality library to continue the process in future terms (November, 2012).

Actual class time is spent briefly reviewing content and checking for understanding (Houston and Lin, 2011). The instructor helps the students unpack the content. Students work on problems while the instructor circulates. The instructor can hear and correct misunderstandings on the spot. Students learn how to think and the instructor learns what topics cause confusion for the students (Berrett, 2012). This is one format for a flipped classroom session. In Dr. Eric Mazur’s physics classes at Harvard, he follows the same general principal but he has a very effective system for the students to teach one another their understanding and convince one another of correct answers. Truly any use of the class time that includes application and practice of concepts with more access to the instructor takes advantage of the opportunities that flipping a classroom provides.

What about common concerns regarding the flipped classroom process? A primary concern addresses students with poor or no Internet access outside of class. This is always a concern when the activities outside class rely on technology, but there are ways to accommodate the access to technology deficiency, such as burning the lecture onto a DVD.

The other big concern exists through all stages of education history. What if the student does not do the homework? As long as there has been homework, there have been students who fail to complete homework and simply show up for class unprepared. While this is an understandably valid concern, failure of some to complete homework should not be the reason to dismiss the flipped classroom concept. Instructors can track the knowledge gained from homework or they can adjust class activities for unprepared students if they are in fact unprepared. Some test for understanding through the questions students ask after watching the homework. When students ask questions that can be found in the lecture or prep material, it is clear they did not prepare. Quizzes are used frequently to track understanding of the lecture content and most LMS’s allow you verify (to some degree) that students viewed the lecture (Houston and Lin, 2012).

Trends come and go in education. Flipping a classroom is not a new concept to education. Using video lectures to present lecture content as homework, thus freeing up valuable face-to-face class time is the latest trend born out of a years old method. If the concept is good enough to exist for years and years, updating it for 21st century learning seems, at face value, to be a pretty good idea. It does take a little work, but planning, implementing and revising are all doable tasks and each effort builds a block upon which the next term can be built.

Pamela Kachka, MAEd is an academic trainer and consultant for Pearson eCollege. https://www.facebook.com/eCollegeATC

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