Edudemic’s Guide to Flipped Classrooms for 2015

For the past few years, Edudemic has covered the rise of the flipped classroom and its subsequent evolution. Each year, we find that more teachers are testing this new learning strategy and creating new ways to improve current methods.

While some teachers are trying it out for the first time this fall, others who used the flipped classroom method in 2013 are making changes to build on their lesson plans for the 2014-15 school year. Read this brief guide to learn why flipped learning is an increasingly popular choice, and review a few steps for teachers wanting to try it out.

What Is a Flipped Classroom?

Image via Flickr by flickingerbrad

Studies have found that students K-12 are assigned an average of three hours of homework a day, but many parents question whether the quantity of work matches the quality of learning. Some schools are banning homework in 2014 altogether and trying to maximize learning in the classroom. (We touched on this a bit in July, as some European countries have gone without homework for years.)

Instead of banning homework completely, a growing trend in 2014 is the implementation of the flipped classroom. Students listen to a lecture online at home and then work through assignments with the teacher when they arrive the next day. The at-home assignments are still there, but they are meant to help students learn at their own pace while making the classroom experience more interactive.

The Benefits of a Flipped Classroom

The number of teachers embracing flipped learning has increased across the board in the past two years. One study published in February 2014 found that the percentage of teachers embracing it in language arts in particular nearly doubled from 12% to 23%. Most teachers are new to the trend, with 80% of respondents saying that they only implemented a flipped classroom during the past year or two. Overwhelmingly, those who try it find considerable benefits:

Students Learn at Their Own Pace: When students listen to lectures at home, they’re able to pause and rewind as much as they need to take notes or rehear the information. Meanwhile, other students might understand the content after only listening once. Everyone learns at different paces, making at-home lectures ideal for all students.

Teachers Stay on Track: In a flipped classroom, students can talk with teachers one-on-one about what they’re struggling with, and teachers have more time to answer the questions without worrying about falling behind. In a traditional classroom, a lesson could be rushed because of questions, or students would have to meet outside of class to get the answers that they need.

Better Student Engagement: Instead of asking a question to the whole room, students ask their teacher or the group of peers with whom they’re working. This dynamic potentially can make shy students more comfortable in the classroom setting. Group collaboration also prepares students for the real world, where teamwork is crucial.

Schools Reduce Paper Use: The flipped classroom moves the lecture online, which means students aren’t bringing books home and completing printed packets as homework. If students use the computer at home and in the classroom, the class can go almost completely paperless — which readers of Edudemic know is something many schools are working toward. That’s also good news for middle- and high-school students, whose backpacks can weigh more than 30 pounds between books, binders, and paper.

How Can You Implement It?

Implementing flipped learning in your classroom doesn’t require you to completely overhaul your plan for the year. Here are a few ways that teachers are starting small and growing their lessons in 2014 and 2015.

Start With Just One Lesson: Find a YouTube video or online resource that you feel explains the lesson comprehensively. Don’t bog down your students with an hour-long video; stick to a 10-20 minute tutorial. The next day, hand out a worksheet asking questions about the content of the video, or have the students solve problems that were explained in the tutorial. Talk one-on-one about the video with the students, and have them form groups to answer discussion questions.

In March, 2014, UK teacher Chris Waterworth started testing the flipped classroom by emailing two YouTube videos for students to watch each night, asking kids to come in with questions the next day. Because these questions were based on their current level of learning — where they got stuck in the video — Waterworth was able to gauge how far along the pupil is and how much attention each student needed. His method was even evaluated by council members who said it was, “An innovative use of e-tablets when learning about mathematics enabled pupils to make outstanding progress.”

DIY Lesson Creation: If you want to take classroom-flipping to the next level, create your own videos, and customize the lesson to completely cover the material. You don’t have to be a movie star; just set up a webcam and give the lecture as if you were in class. Limit videos to 5-10 minutes, and only assign 3-4 videos per night. These materials can be used for years, so you’re creating a foundation for future in-class ideas.

Fill-In Class Time: Once you have your video materials selected, build out in-class assignments. You want to engage students as much as possible, but also to evaluate how much they actually learned from the video. This could involve group presentations, open-ended debates, or in-class writing. If you’re concerned about grading, assign a five-minute quiz on the material at the beginning of class to see who actually watched the video.

Flipped Classrooms are even growing on the university level. Dr. Russell Mumper of the University of North Carolina discussed the results of a three-year study about the flipped classroom at the Active Learning Conference in June, 2014. Mumper found that implementing a flipped classroom raised test scores by five percent, while more than 90% of students said the flipped model enhanced their learning experience and built skills for their career in the classroom.

The Cons of a Flipped Classroom

Despite its rapid growth and popularity, flipped classrooms still face criticism by some teachers and school boards. The following are a couple concerns that often are expressed concerning this learning style:

Lack of Digital Resources: Mary Beth Hertz, a teacher in Philadelphia, says that this couldn’t work in her urban classroom. Not all of her students (and other students in both urban and rural areas) have computer and Internet access at home. She believes that alternative solutions such as burning DVDs or going to the library are impractical for both parties — especially when the library or school computer lab only has 10-20 computers.

Reliance on Student Motivation: Learning at your own pace only works if your students are motivated to learn. Students might skim through the tutorials to get the basics or sit back during group discussions. While the freedom might be appreciated by your top students, it could be abused by those who don’t want to learn.

Teachers Need Multiple Sets of Eyes: While a teacher works one-on-one with one student, another student might be struggling or need an equal amount of help. There may not be enough time to help all of the students, or the rest of the class might not stay on task while a teacher focuses on one person or group.

Despite the various criticisms that exist for, there’s no doubt that more flipped classrooms will be seen in 2014. Not only does it work well for K-12 classes, but professors at major universities are also trying it and having success. Set a goal to flip your classroom for at least one lesson this year. Who knows? You could start a complete learning revolution at your school.


1 Comment

  1. Kimberly

    January 30, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    Flipped Classroom seems interesting to implement. Thank you for the suggestions on how to get started. The part about Lack of Resources is what I had thought about. Would you suggest that would be the small group to begin with since they didn’t learn the material beforehand? Or would you suggest to let them engage (knowing the student doesn’t have access to technology at home) in the activity and then provide one on one support?