To flip or not to flip? That is not the essential question. In assessing the optimal classroom dynamics, I would argue that we need to take a good look at what our classrooms look like right now, what activities our students gain the most from, what we wished we had more time for, and what things about our class we wish we could eliminate.
Do I flip: yes.
Would I recommend it: enthusiastically.
But let’s start by rewinding for a minute, to my 2009 AP Calculus class. Most days when the end of period bell rang I felt like our class had just stepped off of this huge treadmill running at full speed for 45 minutes. I had so much material to get through, I had a very anxious class, and there simply was not enough time to have the calm, excited, inspiring classroom atmosphere I so desired.
Worst of all, I felt that I never got to hear from my students because they were trying their best to digest the newly presented material. We just did not have the time to engage in the thoughtful discussion that is necessary in developing higher logic thinking.
So I asked myself the same questions that I posed at the beginning of this essay: what is working, what is not, and what do I wish I had more time for? My solution: eliminate lecture. But how could I pull that off?
That summer, I went to a technology conference and learned about Camtasia Studio – a screen capture program that would allow me to record my screen and audio, with rich editing features – I knew I was looking at something that was going to change my classroom completely and I haven’t lectured new material in AP Calculus since.
In math, we often have the preconceived notion of a boring, rigid learning environment where the teacher lectures and the students do endless practice problems until the skill is mastered. The flipped classroom greatly improves this dynamic by sending the teacher-driven activity home and giving the students a voice in the classroom.
Flipping has brought life back to my classroom, and the limited ‘data’ I have collected shows that it’s working. My students’ scores have been up, both for in-class assessments and on the AP Exam. In the first year I flipped, the mean AP score was up over half a point (on a 5-point scale) from our highest recorded average in previous years. But more than that, my students seem so much happier and alive in the classroom.
To those who say that technology in education feels automated, I would argue the exact opposite. Using technology has brought the compassion back into my classroom, giving me time to hear from my students and to work with them one-on-one, getting to know them better as individuals.
It allows me the opportunity to listen to their discussions and see them take ownership for their learning. They’re teaching one another instead of me having to do the majority of instruction, and I am now there to immediately catch a misconception rather than have a student go home and reinforce that mistake.
But beyond the improved test grades and AP scores, the differentiated and customized learning experience the flipped classroom provides, the lasting resource I have given my students to reference throughout the year (and beyond), and the significant improvement in performance I have seen with some of my students with learning accommodations, the flipped classroom has allowed me to create a supportive, positive, calm environment where learning can truly thrive. And that is the greatest thing of all!
Stacey Roshan is AP Calculus teacher in Maryland who uses lecture-capture technology to flip her classroom. Rather than spending class time listening to her lecture, Stacey’s students watch lectures at home and then do the traditional homework in class, where she can help them 1-on-1 with any problems they encounter.
- As a result of the flipped class model, Stacey has been able to dramatically decrease anxiety among her students, while increasing grades and AP test scores.
- After the flip, 77 percent of her students scored a 4 or 5 on the exam (the best possible score is 5, while 1 is the lowest).