What is a flipped classroom?
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A flipped classroom is an instructional strategy. “Flipping” a classroom entails switching up the usual model through which students encounter new knowledge. In a flipped classroom, students have required reading or lecture videos before the class meets, and then class time is used for discussions, problem-solving, or other kinds of active learning that will help them actualize and assimilate this new knowledge. To frame this model using Bloom’s revised taxonomy (2001), the “flipped” classroom has students undertake the lower levels of cognitive work (gaining knowledge) on their own beyond class time, and then has them focus on the higher levels of cognitive work (applications, analyses, evaluations, etc.) during class time, where they can take advantage of scaffolding support from peers and the instructor.
See also: How to create an online course
Here are some first steps for teachers considering “flipped” classrooms:
Step 1: Consider whether the “flipped” model makes sense for a particular course, taking the following questions into account:
- Do certain class sessions already have an in-class activity planned? Is this activity one that often takes time to complete, and that requires students to apply the knowledge or skills that they’ve just learned?
- Does the class involve concepts that students often struggle to understand, and often need the teacher’s help with? Based on past assignment grades, which concepts are these?
Step 2: Think about how students in a particular class or subject matter could benefit from engaging in applied learning that incorporates peer and instructor feedback. Here the most crucial issue is for teachers to consider how class meeting time could be used: students need to be engaged and challenged by the material, and the teacher’s own subject matter expertise should be put to use. There is no one best way to plan an active, collaborative learning experience – in the end, everything comes down to finding the approach that works best for a particular group of students learning particular course content! Here are a few approaches:
- Peer instruction
- Team based learning
- Problem based learning
- Inquiry based learning
- Case based learning
Step 3: Spell out the connections between the different sides of the “flipped” model: what students gain “first exposure” to before class, and then the homework-like applications that then take place during class time.
Teachers can consider the following questions as they begin designing their own flipped classrooms:
- What should students be understanding and learning how to do, by completing this portion of the course?
- How do these learning activities fit into the larger overall picture of the course?
Which parts of a current homework assignment would be done better if students had practice and help applying its concepts? Are there any in-class learning activities that are being rushed for lack of time during class?
- What kinds of practice do students need in order to successfully complete larger assignments on their own? Will students be able to make connections between the in-class activities and the larger assignment?
In this “flipped” model where students read or watch lectures before class and engage hands-on with concepts during class time, the work that students do after class is more flexible than it would be for the traditional model – teachers can decide how they think their particular students would best retain new knowledge. For instance, teachers can assign students to finish the activities they started during class time, to complete more challenging readings about the topic, to practice more on their own, or many other activities. (When planning, though, teachers should also bear in mind that students will be completing this after-class work at the same time as the lectures or reading to prepare for the next class session. Because of this overlap, managing workloads becomes especially important for a “flipped” classroom.)
Step 4: Adapt class materials so that students can acquire the course content ahead of class. Running a “flipped” classroom means that students must come to class prepared, since otherwise they can’t benefit from the day’s active learning, so teachers should consider their options for pre-class work carefully. Students may be asked to make use of one or more of the following options:
- Required readings (introductory chapters, applicable articles, etc.)
- Video and/or audio materials accessible online (recorded lectures, simulations, etc.)
A simple start is best, since students will be used to a traditional classroom model and may take time to get use to reading or lecturing first, and then homework-like activities during class time. Teachers should start out by using existing resources – their own, or reputable online content – instead of creating new materials from scratch. Teachers should also:
- Make sure students realize they are accountable for the pre-class readings or lectures
- Give students some way to ask questions about these reading or lectures, before the in-class activities
Step 5: Plan ways to extend the active learning experience beyond the classroom, either through individual work or additional collaborations. Think about how students’ new knowledge and skills from a “flipped” class can play into the larger design of the course – are they building on new concepts with each subsequent class, are they working on the pieces of a larger project, etc.? These questions become especially important since students may think they have gained mastery with the in-class work alone, which is rarely enough to meet all learning outcomes.
Teachers might consider one or more of the following options to help students reinforce their new knowledge and skills:
- Using online forums (discussion boards, social media, etc.) to continue discussions begun during class time
- Assigning additional problem sets or assessments to give students practice on their own. Such additional work can be made available on learning management systems (LMS) and graded online so that students get feedback quickly
- Creating smaller assignments that will require students to apply new knowledge and skills to different situations or in different contexts
- Encouraging the formation of informal learning groups where students can continue class discussions or collaborate on additional assignments
- Developing peer-led, in-person study sessions where students can also continue work or discussions that expand on class learning