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Stephanie Chasteen




“Flipping” your classroom

posted: April 29, 2011 by

When I talk to people about education reform — about doing innovative things like using clickers and peer instruction, or interactive demonstrations, or small group work, a lot of instructors balk.

  • How can I give up that much lecture time?  We have a lot to cover.
  • Students don’t do the reading — so they’re not able to discuss the material yet, they’re starting from scratch.

One great solution to this is called Flipping the Classroom.   The “flip” has to do with where the content is presented.  The standard instructional model is something like this:


But that leaves the toughest part — applying the ideas to homework and problems — to students, struggling on their own.  “How often have you wished you could help confused students as they were doing their work — instead of trying to pick up the pieces the next day?” asks a recent article in The Science Teacher.

The flipped classroom is one answer to that.  The fully flipped model is something like this:


“I no longer go to work to ‘perform’ five times a day; instead, I look forward to going [to class] and interacting with my students all day,” says high school teacher Jonathan Bergmann, who along with Aaron Sams has been actively promoting the idea of the flipped classroom in high school.  In the flipped class, instructors create video podcasts for students to watch — either of lectures, or solving a problem, or demonstrations — and post those for the students to watch at home.

I feel like the fully flipped classroom, with the lecture time used exclusively for hands-on and interactive work, is likely to continue to be more of a draw in K12 education.  In university culture, it’s difficult to go completely interactive given the larger class sizes and the higher expectations that students will spend time becoming proficient in the material on their own as well.  But there is a movement towards creating coursecasts in higher education — where an instructor can videorecord an entire lecture (for watching instead of a live lecture, or for archiving purposes), or perhaps outline a problem or important details.  The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has created web-based lectures for their physics department.  These pre-lectures walk students through key concepts or problems — not replacing the reading, but helping to guide students through the important ideas.  Their research shows that the pre-lectures help make students’ studying more efficient, because they’re oriented to the important principles in the large lecture series.  And here in my home institution of Colorado, the Chemical Engineering department has made an impressive number of screencasts, typically narration by an instructor to supplement the lecture.  A variety of research (like this paper) suggests that the addition of vodcasts can be helpful tools.

Anything that can be done to take some of the content out of lecture and save lecture time for actually working on understanding and applying that content – the better for student learning.  Even if you don’t consider a fully flipped classroom, some of these more small-scale ideas can be valuable changes to any course structure.  After all, what value should the class time offer?  If all students are getting is static information delivery, they can get that from a book.  Your expertise as an instructor is better spent working on the challenging parts of using the information.

The Flipped Class Network

Bergmann and Sam’s website

A very nice post by Derek Bruff on the inverted classroom, posted at the same time as this one!

Images:  Mosborne01, Science Education Initiative.

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Categories: Engagement, Higher Education, Uncategorized
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