Why Students Are Going to Flip for the Flipped Classroom
May 18th, 2012 by Dr. Bruce Johnson
Have you heard? College classrooms are getting flipped. What’s that? It’s an approach to teaching that instructors are using as a means of engaging students in the class and making the learning process more meaningful. And it seems that students who have been able to try out a flipped classroom have discovered that learning comes to life in a new way and now the traditional lecture-based approach seems outdated and ineffective. Let’s find out more. Maybe once you’ve discovered what it is and why it works well you’ll want to be part of the flipped classroom trend.
What is a Flipped Classroom?
In Flipping the Classroom: An Introduction, educator Melissa Venable explains the intent of this instructional methodology: “The flipped classroom approach offers another option – essentially flipping the time and location of these activities, so that students view recorded lectures and read course materials outside of class, then meet to engage in problem solving, discussion, and practical application exercises with their instructor.” The purpose of changing the classroom format is not to entertain or minimize the instructor’s involvement, rather it is meant to strengthen the instructor-to-student working relationships and make the process of learning meaningful.
When college instructors flip a class they assign materials as homework that would normally be utilized during class time for students to digest prior to the class meeting. During the scheduled class time, an emphasis is placed on individual and group learning with immediate feedback provided by the instructor. Educator Dr. Robert Beichner indicates that this approach “frees up the instructor time from what I call the ‘tyranny of content delivery’ because we don’t need to do that anymore,” and instead, instructors “can go around and help students use the materials that they’ve been studying.” Through this approach, instructors move out from behind the podium and discard their formal lectures for direct one-on-one interactions and learning activities. The following video illustrates the underlying approach for use of the flipped classroom concept.
As discussed, lectures are transformed into videos and podcasts that students view and listen to outside of the classroom. Instructors may use class time for group work and individual assignments, and in return, students receive responsive constructive criticism and guidance.
One of the reasons why educators have embraced the flipped classroom as an instructional strategy is that it has the potential to promote higher-order learning. Bloom’s taxonomy has been used as a guide for development of learning activities as it ranks cognitive abilities from lower to higher. At the bottom of the taxonomy, or the lower order cognitive skills, are knowledge and comprehension, which means that students are given knowledge or it is transmitted through traditional classroom lectures and then assessed through tools such as written assignments and exams. Students are encouraged to develop and demonstrate use of higher order cognitive skills, which includes application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation, as that’s how knowledge is internalized and moved into long-term memory. This is accomplished when instructors include visual and audio media in the class, along with interactive learning activities.
At present, instructors are utilizing Open Courseware websites for sources of multimedia presentations. Kahn Academy and TED-Ed are two popular websites that offer video resources for a limited number of subjects. Coursera contains a repository of courses that are free to access and include offerings from Princeton University, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Instructors also find videos on YouTube and YouTube EDU. I know from my own experience that finding quality videos takes time and when used effectively, the end result is a presentation that helps students to consider the course topics from multiple perspectives.
What Students and Educators Are Saying
When utilized in primary education schools, students’ responses to the flipped classroom were described as enthusiastic. Educator Aaron Sams indicated that students found the flexibility of the course design very appealing. High school teacher Stacey Roshan also found that students responded positively to the change in structure and the found it made a meaningful learning experience. Roshan explained that “students process material at different rates, and the video lectures provide a differentiated learning experience that is customizable to the student.” A similar response has been observed in college classrooms that implemented this approach.
Suze Murphys, an instructor with Algonquin College shared this initial view of the flipped classroom: “I am anticipating that the experience will be much, much richer for both my students and myself. After 12 weeks in this environment, they will not just be familiar with the concepts. They will have created and achieved things that they can be proud of.” Murphys has created a website devoted to the flipped classroom, SuzeMuse, and she indicated that when this approach was implemented her “students are confident and most importantly they are having fun learning new things – and attendance in class is at an all-time high, in fact many of them are in class and already working when I show up!” That indicates a positive reaction as college students will quickly tune out class or not show up if they do not believe the course is relevant to their needs and/or is not interesting.
Educator Brian Bennett made an important point about the flipped classroom when he stated that it “is not a methodology, it is ideology.” This indicates that it is an approach that should be adaptive to students’ needs. Bennett includes videos as part of the required course materials “because it is a tool that helps meet remediation needs for learners that have missed class or for learners that just need more time with material.” Videos are not used as a replacement for instruction, they are meant to be part of an interactive instructional strategy. The purpose of flipping or changing the classroom structure is to focus on improving the students’ learning experience and increasing their level of engagement in the learning process.
Are You Ready to Flip?
For students, the flipped classroom offers a change in strategy that requires them to be more involved and active in class. There are similar components to participating in the traditional classroom – reading materials, viewing videos, and taking notes – but the sequence of these activities has been modified. Now when you come to class you are going to participate in a different manner, one that provides one-on-one interactions with other students and your instructor. For instructors, you can make learning a meaningful experience if the assigned homework and class activities have a purpose. Flipping the classroom is not just about viewing videos, it is a method of promoting higher order thinking through purposeful activities that bring the course materials to life in an interactive manner.
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