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Study Assesses Effectiveness of Flipped Classroom Approach

As flipped learning becomes an increasingly popular instructional strategy, many are wondering whether it's effective enough to justify the hype. The Flipped Learning Network (FLN), Pearson and researchers at George Mason University conducted case studies to answer that important question. 

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.

FLN defines flipping as a "pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter."

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.

The Pearson article Extension of a Review of Flipped Learning explains the findings of the school case studies. 

Benefits of flipped classrooms included the ability of teachers to present different "methodologies," the freeing up of class time and the chance to encourage and engage in more individual and small-group instruction. 

In addition, schools often (though not always) saw better student achievement in flipped classrooms, as opposed to traditional lecture classes. 

  • In Niagara Falls High School in New York, math teachers Amy Kilmer and Ed Ventry flipped their classrooms in 2013 to use class time for more applied activities and one-on-one instruction. Kilmer and Ventry recorded their lessons and posted them on an online collaborative platform. Students then got guided notes to complete while watching the videos at home. In class, students worked on "homework" assignments, while teachers were able to discuss the problems with students face-to-face. 

    Eighty-three percent of students in the honors Algebra II/Trigonometry class passed the Regents exam, compared to 71 percent the year before, and 35 percent of students achieved mastery, compared to 14 percent the year before. In the General Algebra class, 55 percent of students passed the exam, compared to 35 percent the year before, and 7 percent achieved mastery, compared to 4 percent the year before. 
  • At Ashland Middle School in Massachusetts, two seventh-grade French classes were compared. One class was taught using a flipped learning method, while the other received traditional lectures. In the flipped class, students watched video lectures at home and particpated in project-based learning and workbook assignments in class. 

    Homework completion rates for both classes were at 79.8 percent, but for the flipped model, homework completion increased to 98.7 percent. On a French grammar quiz and written assignment before and after the flip, the flipped class scored better on the grammar quiz (78 percent vs. 88 percent) and written assignment (87.3 percent vs. 92 percent). 
  • Stacey Roshan at Bullis School in Maryland flipped her AP Calculus course by having students watch videos outside of class and use class time to work individually or in small groups. 

    "She stated the proportion of students who scored a 4 or a 5 on the AP exam increased from 58 percent the previous year to 78 percent after the flip," the article said. "At Madeira School [in Virginia], Wendy Roshan, her mother and a math teacher at the school, implemented it in her first year teaching AP Calculus. She also reported success, stating that after the first year of flipping, 80 percent of her students scored a 4 or 5 on the AP exam."
  • At Public High School in Louisiana, teacher Kevin Clark used flipped learning in two ninth-grade Algebra I classes. Students watched videos and listened to instructor-created podcasts outside of class and spent class time working on math problems in groups. Students scored an average of 80.83 on the end-of-the-period test. These scores did not differ much from those of students in a traditional lecture class, who scored an average of 80.00. 

Researchers concluded that while a promising strategy, flipped learning does not work in all contexts. They stressed that more research is needed to determine how and when flipping works to improve student learning. 

Related resource

Best Practices for Flipping the Classroom

Article by Kassondra Granata, EducationWorld Contributor
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