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Best Practices for Flipped Classrooms

So what’s all the fuss about “flipping”?

Flipping the classroom means using Web-enabled instructional strategies that allow educators to spend class time interacting with students rather than lecturing. Most often, this involves assigning students an instructional video to watch online as homework, while problem-solving or other hands-on work occurs class time.

best practices for flipped classrooms
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The motivation behind flipping is that students can receive more one-on-one attention from the classroom teacher if they are actively working on an assignment in class. Proponents claim this leads to better understanding of a given lesson.

In addition to watching videos, students (if the school has arranged a platform ahead of time) can do practice exercises and complete assessments from any computer with Web access. Educators can view each student’s progress in detail, so that they are prepared to deliver individualized interventions once kids return to class.

To explore the concept in depth, read Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day, by classroom-flipping pioneers Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann.

Benefits of a flipped classroom include:

  • Students experience less frustration. Specifically, kids can note parts of the video that confused them, and teachers can differentiate by re-teaching those concepts to students who need extra help.
  • Less class time is spent on lecture, and more is spent on “activity learning” in the form of collaborative work, concept mastery exercises, labs, etc.
  • Teachers can spend less time grading, since kids are doing what used to be “homework” in class, and getting instant feedback on it.

Those who have successfully implemented a flipped classroom give rave reviews:

In A Realist’s Guide to Flipping the Classroom, chemistry and physics teacher Sherry Spurlock of Pekin Community High School in Pekin, IL, noted that her students “are much more involved in what’s going on in class than they ever have been in the past....I’m getting much more interesting questions.”

She added, “Flipping the classroom…takes away any places to hide. There is less opportunity for them to just copy a friend’s homework and hand it in.”

Susan Murphy of Algonquin College, who teaches video editing, said, “Students have told me that they feel more relaxed coming to class, because they feel prepared to sit down and do their assignments. Students at all levels—from very beginner to more advanced—were engaged, and attendance was at an all-time high!”

(See some of Murphy’s tutorial videos here.)

The practice of flipping is still too new for conclusions to be drawn regarding effects on student achievement, but early results are promising: In Clintondale High School near Detroit, flipping not only increased the percentage of students passing classes, but also reduced discipline problems.

So teachers merely have to record videos or screencasts of themselves delivering lessons, or find a relevant video online? Well, it’s not quite that simple.

Experienced “flippers” recommend the following best practices:

  • Consider whether your course subject matter lends itself to flipping; it’s noteworthy that the most commonly flipped classes tend to focus on math, science and technology. Murphy notes that “flipping your classroom is not a one-size-fits-all solution. I have found that for teaching concepts, like software, it works really well. But for more theory-based courses, there’s still a place for [in-class] lectures.”
  • Allow yourself time for experimenting with tech tools—you may need a whole summer to prepare before you launch your first flipped lessons. Use a Learning Management System (LMS) that allows you to distribute materials and track student progress, and allows students to ask questions. (Moodle and Blackboard are popular LMSs; see key criteria for choosing a system.)
  • Buddy up with one or more teaching partners who can help you record lessons and serve as a sounding board for ideas.
  • Don’t try to do too much at once…try flipping a few lessons and build up until you’ve flipped one entire class. Then use lessons learned to flip other classes.
  • Keep video lectures short (10-13 minutes is ideal).
  • Prepare students and families for the transition to a flipped setup, and use their feedback to refine your practices.
  • Form small student groups that serve as ongoing workgroups for in-class activities. This not only facilitates learning, but also gives kids a preview of real-world work, where group problem-solving and project-based learning are routine.


Article by Celine Provini, EducationWorld Editor
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