May 312012

Education Reform:  The truth about flipped learning

Education Reform:  By Aaron Sams and Brian Bennett; Read more by Contributor

A flipped classroom is all about watching videos at home and then doing worksheets in class, right? Wrong!

Consider carefully the assumptions and sources behind this oversimplified description. Is this the definition promoted by practitioners of flipped classrooms, or sound bites gleaned from short news articles? Would a professional educator more likely rely entirely upon video to teach students, or leverage video, when appropriate, and incorporate other educational tools as needed for successful student learning?

Many assumptions and misconceptions around the flipped class concept are circulating in educational and popular media. This article will address, and hopefully put to rest, some of the confusion and draw a conclusion on why flipped learning is a sound educational technique.

Assumption: Videos have to be assigned as homework.

Although video is often used by teachers who flip their class, it is not a prerequisite, and by no means must a video be assigned as homework each night. As with everything else, the use of a particular learning tool (teacher-made videos, hands-on experiments, online simulations, supplementary text, or current news articles) needs to be carefully evaluated and implemented by the teacher to accomplish the learning objective.

Resulting misconception: Videos are just recorded lectures.

Yes, in a flipped class a short video (usually 8 to 12 minutes in length) may be a recorded lecture, but educators are using video as a medium to pose questions, generate conversations, provide instructions for projects or experiments, assist with remediation, create lessons that can be used during a student’s absence, give example problems and solutions, and clarify misconceptions. Teachers are also encouraging students to create videos to foster greater peer-to-peer learning practices.

For more news about flipped learning, see:

Engaging Students with Flipped Learning

Resulting misconception: Homework is bad; therefore a flipped class is bad.

Flipped class practitioners create a learning environment in which student work can be completed in class. This requires a change in the way a class (or school) is structured. Flipped classrooms may look more like “learning centers” where students are working on different tasks at the same time. Our classrooms are quite chaotic: small groups gather at the corner tables, a one-on-one conversation up front, experiments at the stations, and yet others writing in their research journals.  On a larger scale, an entire school could be restructured to reflect the value that unstructured and “unprogrammed” time has on student learning and well being. Providing students with time during class to complete their school work also reflects a respect for students’ time and life outside of school. Because the class time is no longer the teacher’s to control, time in school is now focused on student progress rather than teacher-determined timelines.

Resulting misconception: Students must have internet access at home.

If a teacher chooses to assign a short video as homework, equitable access to the video must be ensured. For those students who do not have access at home, teachers are giving flash drives to students who have computers at home, but no internet access; burning DVDs for students with no computers, but DVD players; and providing additional access to computers either in class or before, during, or after the school day. Equity is a very important (and a legal) consideration, but creating equitable access to instructional tools is not an insurmountable hurdle. The issue surround equity can be solved with a little creativity and pooling of resources.

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