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Turning Education on Its Head: How to Teach Using a Flipped Classroom

Experimenting with a new teaching strategy can be frightening. Still, your students’ needs and changing circumstances in the world demand innovation.

Knowing that other teachers have been successful with a particular teaching method can make innovation less intimidating. Having concrete steps you can take to replicate their success in your classroom makes it even more manageable.

Popular among recent educational innovations is the “flipped classroom.” What is a flipped classroom, and should you try flipping yours?

In fact, the evidence suggests at least some statistically significant positive impact on learning in the flipped classroom.

So how can you replicate this success in your classroom? Read on to learn more about the flipped classroom and how you can make it work for you.

What Does It Mean to Flip Your Classroom?

The flipped, or inverted, classroom turns traditional education on its head. Traditional classroom practices prioritize teacher-led instruction. This often involves lectures and note-taking. Under the traditional approach, students do practice using the knowledge and skills they learn in these lectures. However, this practice most often takes the form of homework.

Advocates of the flipped classroom point out that this traditional approach allows students to be most active when they are outside the classroom.

Under the traditional approach, students in the classroom are largely passive. They sit at their desks and listen to their teachers. They may take notes and ask questions. They may even have the opportunity to practice a new skill in a guided, large-group format. A student might, for example, work through a math problem at the board as other students and the teacher provide feedback.

Under the traditional approach, however, opportunities for more independent practice in the classroom are limited.

Advocates of the flipped classroom argue that this approach of in-class lecture followed by out-of-class practice is upside down. They suggest flipping it.

In a flipped classroom, students continue to receive direct instruction. Teachers still lecture, and students still take notes. However, students watch these lectures and take notes outside of—and in preparation for—class.

Thus, lectures and note-taking become the homework, while practice becomes the work of the classroom.

What Are the Advantages of Flipping Your Classroom?

Research and real-world practice suggest that the flipped classroom brings significant benefits. These benefits can be especially profound as educators adapt to virtual teaching and blended learning.

The Flipped Classroom Increases Student Engagement

One of the biggest advantages of the flipped classroom is its potential to increase student engagement. Studies consistently show that flipping the classroom increases student participation, confidence, enjoyment, and interaction.

In a flipped classroom, students are more active during class time. Studies link learning not only to increased engagement but also increased achievement.

The Flipped Classroom Uses Class Time More Effectively

Advocates of the flipped classroom also argue that it makes more effective use of class time. According to this perspective, students can watch a video lecture and take notes without much teacher intervention. In contrast, students often need significant help as they begin to practice new skills independently.

Assigning video lectures and note-taking for homework frees up classtime for precisely this independent practice. In turn, it gives students direct access to their teachers and classmates as they engage in this practice.

When a student encounters difficulty in completing a series of practice problems, she can ask a teacher or a classmate for help. Thus, flipping the classroom can correct misunderstandings earlier and prevent them from becoming ingrained.

If a student is writing an essay, a flipped classroom surrounds him with a dynamic learning community. This community can help him combat frustration and provide feedback as he writes.

What Are the Challenges of Flipping Your Classroom?

Despite the benefits, flipping a classroom—or even a lesson—involves challenges. Successfully flipping a classroom requires addressing these challenges.

The Flipped Classroom May Widen Educational Disparities

Among the most significant disadvantages of the flipped classroom is its potential to worsen educational inequalities. Flipping the classroom and assigning video lectures for homework only works if students have access to those videos at home.

Even during the pandemic, only 74% of families with children reported “always” having access to a computer for schoolwork. A similar 73% reported “always” having reliable access to the internet for online instruction.

Educators who attempt to flip their classrooms must ensure equality of access to instructional content.

The Flipped Classroom Makes Holding Students Accountable Even More Important

Another challenge teachers face when flipping their classrooms involves holding students accountable.

Under the flipped model, students have more freedom to opt-out of lectures. As with traditional homework assignments, students can simply choose not to watch assigned lectures. In these cases, the class period that follows, which was intended for practice, becomes much less effective—if not impossible.

Of course, maintaining students’ attention and managing behavior during in-class lectures is likewise challenging. Even students who are physically present for an in-class lecture can sleep or zone out. They can engage in misbehavior or otherwise miss out on the instruction. In the physical classroom, however, a teacher is better able to observe, respond to, and even prevent these distractions.

Teachers who flip their classrooms, therefore, must take steps to ensure accountability. Starting class with “admit slips,” or entrance tickets, is one way to hold students accountable. Requiring students to take notes on lectures also enhances accountability. This is especially true when teachers check these notes for points or allow students to use them on graded in-class activities.

The Flipped Classroom Requires Teaching Students to Watch Videos Effectively

Of course, taking effective notes is itself a skill. Teachers who flip their classrooms must explicitly teach their students the skills they need to benefit from video lectures. In addition to note-taking, these skills include:

  • Monitoring themselves for questions and misunderstandings throughout the lecture
  • Noting questions and raising them during the following class period
  • Evaluating the credibility of a presentation and its presenter
  • Watching a presentation multiple times and for different purposes

The Flipped Classroom Requires Effective Behavior Management

Behavior management is important in every classroom. In a flipped classroom, behavior management becomes even more important. Without the right tools, moreover, it can be even more challenging.

A flipped classroom means that students are more active and interactive in the classroom.

Establishing and communicating your expectations for appropriate behavior during these interactions is a must. Teaching students to follow these expectations and modeling appropriate behavior are essential practices. Equally important are consequences for misbehavior and behavior intervention plans for students who struggle.

Flipping Your Classroom: When Upside Down Is Rightside Up

The flipped classroom is a popular, research-backed innovation. Teachers interested in flipping their classrooms should explore the advantages and prepare for the challenges above.

Meanwhile, school counselors, psychologists, and behavior interventionists can support teachers by learning more about managing student behavior in our free monthly series.

Our individual behavior management workshops are also helpful. They offer more than 40 hours of K-12 behavior management training.

Finally, directors of special education can schedule a 30-minute online demo of our software. In this demo, you’ll find out how Insights to Behavior can help create legally-defensible behavior intervention plans in under an hour.

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