Why Flipped Classrooms Are Here to Stay
Through much of our respective teaching careers, we had often been frustrated with students not being able to apply the content from our lectures to their work and daily lives. Then one day, after a combined 26 years in classrooms, we had an insight that would change our world.
It was a simple observation: The time when students really need educators to be physically present is when they get stuck on homework questions and need individual help. They don't need the teacher in the room to talk at them and give them information; they can receive that knowledge and content on their own.
We asked ourselves, "What if we prerecorded our lectures and students viewed the videos as part of their 'homework,' and then we used the class period to help students with the concepts they didn't understand?" Thus, our flipped classrooms were born.
How Our Flipped Classrooms Operate
We began using the flipped classroom model in 2006, while we were both teaching chemistry at Woodland Park High School in Colorado. Our students were on a block schedule, meaning they had 95 minutes of class time every other day. Every other night our students watched one of our videos—either online, from a flash drive, or on DVD—as homework and took notes on what they learned. We conducted laboratory experiments during class just like we had always done, but instead of rushing through the lecture and setup to get to the actual hands-on work, we were able to use the entire period to conduct in-depth scientific experiments.
In that first year, we gave the same end-of-unit tests as we had before we converted to flipped classrooms. After comparing the test results from both years, the data showed our students were learning more in the flipped environment than in our traditional classroom setting. Since then, our students' test scores have continued to improve, and the anecdotal feedback from students and parents has been extremely positive.
Educators are increasingly pressured to find ways to reach all of their students—each with very different needs. The personalization of education, or differentiation, has been proposed as one solution. The movement toward personalization has much merit, but for a single teacher to personalize education for 150 students is difficult and does not work in the traditional, lecture-based education setting. One weakness of the traditional approach is that not all students come to class prepared to learn. Some lack adequate background on the material, some are uninterested in the subject, and some have simply become disenchanted with the present educational model.
Flipping the classroom establishes a framework that ensures students receive a personalized education tailored to their individual needs. As we present our flipped learning model to educators around the world, we often hear comments about how it is reproducible, scalable, customizable, and easy for teachers to wrap their minds around.