A Realist's Guide to Flipping the Classroom

A Realist's Guide to Flipping the Classroom



Standing on your head is harder than it looks, and flipping the classroom is, too. That’s especially true for instructors just getting started with a flip. And with a concept this new, most are ...

Standing on your head is harder than it looks, and flipping the classroom is, too. That’s especially true for instructors just getting started with a flip. And with a concept this new, most are beginners. Those who have been at it the longest say the strategy for successful flipping combines enthusiasm with
a healthy dose of realism. In this guide, you’ll learn from their experiences and get some tested-in-the- real-world tips for doing a flip of your own.



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    A Realist's Guide to Flipping the Classroom A Realist's Guide to Flipping the Classroom Document Transcript

    • What is the flipped classroom? Just what it sounds like: a learning model in which the classic structure does a somersault and lands upside down. Your first thought: that seems painful. Actually no—it provides a wel- come new perspective. In more concrete terms: Students use digital tools to listen to lectures and review other resources on their own time(outside of the classroom). In class, they work together on activities and concepts—withthe help of the teacher —putting what they’ve learned into practice, often times learningfrom each other.Since its emergence circa 2007, the flipped classroom has gotten a lot of buzz.It is praised as a way to do the following: • Engage active learners with a collaborative and customized educational environment • Increase time for individualized, one-on-one instruction • Encourage more and better student-instructor communication • Enable high-performing students to expand their knowledge while giving strug- gling students more tools for catching up • Involve parents more meaningfully in the learning process What you’ll learn from this guide Standing on your head is harder than it looks, and flipping the classroom is, too. That’s especially true for instructors just getting started with a flip. And with a concept this new, most are beginners. Those who have been at it the longest say the strategy for successful flipping combines enthusiasm with a healthy dose of realism. In this guide, you’ll learn from their experiences and get some tested-in-the- real-world tips for doing a flip of your own. 2
    • Anatomy of a FlipThe inspiration: When Sherry Spurlock decided in 2011 to flip her classes at PekinCommunity High School in Pekin, Ill., she had the necessary enthusiasm. And she understoodwhat she was taking on—mostly.Spurlock had attended a workshop by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, Colorado highschool teachers who are considered architects of the flipped classroom. Their message wasinspiring, especially since their success recording lectures and using face-to-face time to shep-herd student learning was forged in a chemistry classroom. Spurlock asked school administra-tors to back her plan to flip all of her classes—four chemistry courses and a physics course—inone fell swoop. Then she spent much of the summer getting ready. “I warned my husband: ‘Ithink this really is going to make a difference for the kids, but is going to take a lot of time.’”The preparation: “My free time was spent putting together materials for the pod-casts, making videos, creating worksheets,” Spurlock said. “Once the school year started, thingswould come up that needed to be redone or that I wanted to add. And so a typical day wouldbe to show up at school at about 6:30 a.m. to get everything ready in the classroom for thestudents and spend the rest of the day working with four-person student groups. At the end ofthe school day, I would have a list of things that I needed to do to get ready for the next day.”The flip: Spurlock’s class was transformed. “In my tradi-tional classroom, the students came in and sat in neatlittle rows. I lectured for 45 to 50 minutes, and theytook notes and occasionally asked a ques-tion. And then I assigned homework de-signed to reinforce what we talked aboutin the class. They went home, tried tofigure it out, got discouraged, came backthe next day, and we went over the materialagain,” she said. “Now, they go home and watchthe content. They come into class and form groupsof four. They work with each other on problem sets andworksheets, ask each other questions and ask me ques-tions. I am right there as they’re going through those Section continues on next page. 3
    • reinforcing exercises. I can walk them through the process, if they need me to. I’m there toquestion them until they understand what’s going on and can then move on. And they actas each other’s mentors and keep one another on track.”The payoff: Spurlock survived her first flipped year, and now is reaping the rewards of her hard work. It’s too soon to say whether students’ test scores have im- proved in the flipped classroom, although Pekin High is studying that. “What encourages me to continue with the flipped classroom is the attitude and the perception of the students,” Spurlock said. “They are much more involved in what’s going on in class than they ever have been in the past. That’s a much better sign for me than their test scores. And, from a time-managementperspective, the second year has been much, much easier. A lot of the content is donealready. It’s just a matter of organizing and posting and making improvements. This yearthere’s less of that setup work and much more active time with the students.” Genesis of the Flip Chemistry teachers Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann are considered class-flipping pioneers. Their lectures and explanatory videos, originally posted online for their Woodland Park, CO, high school students, have become go-to tools for stu- dents and instructors around the world. Their book Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day is now a prime resource for novice flippers. In this 2011 blog excerpt, Bergmann explains that they started with a self-serving plan but quickly realized the benefits to students: In all honesty, we recorded our lessons out of selfishness. We were spending inor- dinate amounts of time re-teaching lessons to students who missed class, and the recorded lectures became our first line of defense. Our absent students loved the recorded lectures. Students who missed class were able to learn what they missed. Some students who were in class and heard the live lecture began to re-watch the videos. Some would watch them when reviewing for exams… We began to share the links to the recorded lectures, and teachers from all over the country began to take notice… All in all, it was amazing to see what we were doing in our small town being noticed across the country. 4
    • The Benefits ofUpside Down Instruction Sherry Spurlock describes how flipping her classes has made learn- ing—and teaching—more rewarding: • Personalized instruction: “Since flipping the classes, I not only know all my students by name, I also know what they can and cannot do. I know what I can and cannot say to them. I know how far I can push them and what I can expect from them. It’s a whole different interaction with them.” • Student engagement: “Students are more deeply engaged, and I know that because I’m getting much more interesting questions. I used to hear, ‘I just don’t get it.’ Now, I hear, ‘What do you suppose would happen if this were to occur? If I change this around, what will happen?’” • Skills for the real world: By working in groups, students are get- ting a preview of what their postsecondary and real world experience will look like, where group problem solving and project-based learn- ing are part of the daily routine.• Learning beyond the lesson: “Flipping the classroom puts a lot of responsibility back on students; it takes away any places to hide. There is less opportunity for them to just copy a friend’s homework and hand it in. If they don’t get something done, it’s not the teacher’s fault or the school’s fault. They have to accept that responsibility. And most of them step up to the plate and do it. They really grow.”• Improved quality of life: “I still start about 6:30 a.m. to get the lab set up. But I leave between 3 and 3:30 p.m. I don’t have to take home grading because students do most of their work in class, and it’s graded there so they get immediate feedback. I give students my home phone number in case they are confused at home about what they’re doing. Before the flipped class, I would get up to 30 calls a night. Now, I get one or two a week. Students can rewind my lecture and listen again and again. They can bring questions into class the next day where they can get hands-on help. And my working day ends with the school day. I get to spend time with my family in the evening, and that makes a big difference.” 5
    • Tips forSuccessful FlipsFlipping the classroom is a new idea, but every teacher who tries it doesn’t have to reinventthe wheel. Go online to see what flipped strategies others have come up with and learn fromtheir successes and mistakes. Here are a few tips to get you started:1 Know your tools. Understand how to use the classroom technology and learning man- agement system tools at your disposal. Can you post a video clip via your LMS? Can students exchange ideas or ask questions in an online environment that also allows you to distribute materials and track grades? Leverage tech tools to make your flip—and your job—easier. Tips continued on next page. SPOTLIGHT: Flipping as a team At the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, consistency is key to ensuring a quality online education. So, when teachers began flipping their classes, they stuck to a single game plan. And they discovered that flipping in sync made the whole process less daunting. “We gave the teachers who were doing our flipped classroom pilots some examples,” said Jennifer Shoaf, PA Cyber’s curriculum director. “We said, ‘Your pages need to look like this. Your video should be this long. Your lesson should last this long. It should include these components. Now, you make it work for your subject and your teaching style.’” Those parameters were freeing, rather than limiting, said flipped classroom teacher Christine Crow, who noted that instructors still put their own unique spin on lectures and materials. Sticking to the guidelines made flipping her class less overwhelming, she said, and because all the teachers follow the same format, peer-to-peer advice was on-point and incredibly valuable. “We are all in it together.” 6
    • 2 Don’t do the bulldozer. Spurlock flipped all of her classes at one time. In hindsight, she says, that all-in approach added to her workload and stress and didn’t leave much time for experimentation. Start by flipping one class and use what you’ve learned to flip others.3 Find a partner. Flipping pioneers Bergmann and Sams attribute much of their success to teamwork. Working in sync with peers has made the flip more manageable for PA Cyber teachers. And those like Spurlock who forge through alone say it would have been easier to share ideas and materials with another teacher. Working with a partner also makes a flip less overwhelming because you can share content-creation duties.4 Set expectations. At the beginning of this academic year, Spurlock put together a PowerPoint presentation for parents and students. It explained how a flipped class- room worked and what students’ responsibilities would be. Setting those expectations early—and with the entire family—helped ease students’ adjustment to the flipped environment. Grading the Flip “One of the big marks in the ‘con’ column of the flipped class- room right now is the lack of systematic research on its effec- tiveness,” said Robert Talbert, Mathematics professor at Grand Valley State University and flipped classroom experimenter. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm and interest, but not a lot of data.” At Pekin Community High School, Information Specialist Cynthia Hinderliter is overseeing a plan to gauge how the flipped classroom stacks up when it comes to test scores. Using ACT’s College Readiness assessment, the school will evaluate subgroups of math and science scores to compare how students in Spurlock’s flipped chemistry and physics classes perform compared with students in traditional classes. The results will show whether the anecdotal evidence of student success in flipped classes can be verified and quantified. 7
    • On the Flip SideWith each passing academic year, technology will make flipping classrooms even easierand more motivating. Is flipping the classroom right for you? Only you can determine that,but here’s what we do know: trying a flipped classroom is right for everyone.Stay Connected and Learn MoreAbout Flipping Your Class 8