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Best Practices for the Flipped Classroom

October 15, 2013 by Hanover Research


The term “flipped classroom” can apply to a wide range of blended instructional methodologies in which students remotely access pre-prepared lecture materials and then engage in structured in-class activities. While there is no singular model for a flipped classroom, the underlying concept is to reverse the traditional approach, with digital lecture materials viewed at home in advance of class, and in-class time used to work through problems, advance conceptual knowledge, and engage in peer-centered learning activities. Though the most commonly employed model requires that students watch a series of five- to seven-minute video lectures from home, some teachers choose to present these videos in class, and others choose to utilize entirely different mediums for instruction.

Before implementing a classroom flip, educators should carefully assess whether the model is appropriate for their curriculum and students. Critical considerations include whether the students will be receptive to a change in instructional ideology, whether the subject material will translate well to the new format, and whether the technology is accessible for all teachers and students. Below are several other considerations and best practices for effectively implementing the flipped classroom model.

General Considerations

  • The most basic consideration in contemplating a classroom flip is whether the students will be receptive to the new learning environment. Some practitioners warn that the model may not be appropriate with students unwilling to take initiative of their own education or those that have become used to the established predictability of the traditional learning model.
  • Most practitioners advise that flipping a classroom does not need to be an “all or nothing” proposition. Rather, educators may begin with a small-scale experiment, choosing the lessons or units that would benefit most from the alternative instructional format.
  • Teachers must consider whether their classroom demographics will allow the model to be equitably implemented. Critics have expressed concerns that this model may exacerbate existing inequalities within a school; as such, educators have touted the model mainly for schools in affluent suburban districts where students are more likely to have access to broadband internet.

Implementation

  • Though examples do exist of large-scale flips at high schools, most flipped classrooms are enacted by individual teachers who have shown interest in the model. Nonetheless, schools should provide these teachers with consistent hardware and software along with adequate training to ensure that they know how to efficiently and effectively use it.
  • Most practitioners and researchers agree that educators implementing a classroom flip should select simple, accessible, and familiar technology. While more sophisticated platforms offer additional capabilities – such as integrated quizzes and polling – the model’s initial success is largely dependent on the system’s accessibility and ease of use. Many teachers choose to create lectures using simple video editing software, such as Apple’s iMovie, and upload them to platforms familiar to students, i.e. YouTube.
  • Additionally, teachers should clearly communicate the benefits and the reasoning behind such a dramatic classroom shift to students. Teachers who have explained the theory underlying the flipped classroom model often report improved student attitudes.

Content Delivery

  • A common pitfall occurs when teachers assume that all prepared in-class lectures will translate well to digital mediums – reducing a full lecture to a succinct seven-minute video is inherently difficult. Additionally, many teachers fail to incorporate effective scaffolding activities into the lecture to help students absorb, reflect on, and ultimately learn the material.
  • Advocates of the flipped classroom model typically recommend that teachers rely primarily on their own digital content, despite the challenge of creating meaningful digital content and increasing availability of third-party online lecture materials.
  • Another potential pitfall exists in the belief that teachers assume that all students will know how to effectively learn from the digital medium – though Millennials are generally accustomed to common digital platforms, the concept of treating them as educational tools may well be foreign. Many practitioners advise that teachers have at least one in-class lesson detailing how to best approach these lectures.

Encouraging Student Participation

  • Unsurprisingly, many teachers find that students who are unlikely to complete homework in a traditional classroom are just as unlikely to review lecture materials and thereby come to class unprepared. While unprepared students can be difficult in any classroom setting, they are especially disruptive in a flipped classroom where participation in classroom activities requires a basic understanding of the concepts presented in online lectures.
  • Practitioners have developed a number of strategies to motivate such students, including:
    • Developing a series of online, post-lecture quizzes that may or may not be factored into a student’s overall grade,
    • Beginning class with a short recap and Socratic discussion of materials presented in the lecture, and
    • Beginning each class by reviewing students’ lecture notes or requiring that each student ask at least one relevant question related to the lecture material.
  • These rapid assessments can potentially encourage students to actively engage in the video lectures and to increase teachers’ responsiveness to students’ needs.

Do you have experience with implementing a flipped classroom model? Do you have any additional best practices that we may have missed? Let us know in the comments section below.