"Flipped Classrooms?"

Guest Blog by David Truss from Pair-A-Dimes for Your Thoughts

If you are planning to use the ‘flipped classroom’, you might want to think about a few key ideas.

Background:

On Connected Principals Jonathan Martin has written a couple posts on the Flipped Classroom. In his first one, Reverse Instruction: Dan Pink and Karl’s “Fisch Flip”, he says:

Increasingly,  education’s value-add is and will be in the coaching and troubleshooting when students are applying their learning, and in challenging students to apply their thinking to hands-on learning by doing and teaming:  so let’s have them do these things in class, not sit and listen.   We know that collaboration is a critical skill set which can’t be developed easily either on-line or at home alone– let’s have students learn it with us in our classrooms.   Let every classroom be a collaborative problem solving laboratory or studio.

And in his second post, Advancing the Flip: Developments in Reverse Instruction, he says:

Flip your instruction so that students watch and listen to your lectures… for homework, and then use your precious class-time for what previously, often, was done in homework: tackling difficult problems, working in groups, researching, collaborating, crafting and creating.   Classrooms become laboratories or studios, and yet content delivery is preserved.

Further down in this post, he quotes a few educators, a couple of whom say things very relevant to my post… both in support of my points below…

Leanne Kuluski: She says the kids tell her they love it; one of her pieces of advice is to embed into them funny parts, with jokes and silly accents and things which surprise and amuse her students.

And also contrary to my points below…

Dr. Scott Morris advises other teachers considering this approach to not sweat the details.  ”The key is to not get too bent out of shape about production quality; just bang it out.  It is more important to get it out there and online than that it be perfect.”

The flip side of flipping

First and foremost, this is just ONE teaching strategy. It’s a good one. It isn’t the only one. I don’t know any teachers that are both one trick ponies and also good teachers. Add this trick to your repertoire, don’t make it your repertoire. Secondly, consider how these points, and related questions, can help improve your flipped classroom.

I’m not saying ‘don’t use a flipped classroom’, I’m just saying, ‘be thoughtful about how you use it!’

3 keys to a flipped classroom

1. Homework

One of the biggest challenges I faced as a teacher was getting all my students to do their homework. If you expect that students are getting the lesson at home, but some students don’t do their homework and watch your ‘flipped’ lesson at home, well then what is your strategy for getting them up to speed?

The reality is that not all students complete their homework. Not all students understand a one-way lesson where they can’t raise their hands and ask questions. Not all students will find this approach engaging. Not all students will see this single strategy as meeting their learning needs.

How do you engage the students that struggle with the flipped classroom approach? How do you meaningfully meet these students’ needs?

2. Lesson Quality

There are two aspects I’ll examine here:

a) Depth vs Breadth

No student is going to accept a barrage of 1 hour long lessons that they have to view at home on a regular basis. How much do you give them to watch online, at home? How deep do you go? How do you balance what students need to know and how much you put in your videos and screen-casts?

Also, how much does your flipped classroom either teach/promote higher order thinking skills or provide the scaffolding for higher order thinking skills in your classafter students have viewed the lesson at home? This point relates to the other aspect of lesson quality below.

b) How vs Why

Are students just being given direct instruction on how to follow an algorithm or are they learning why that algorithm works? Here is a small example to illustrate my point: I can give students the ‘rules’ for multiplying positive and negative integers, but teaching them ‘why’ is critical for their understanding of the mathematical concept.

Are you using the flipped classroom to teach both the how and the why? Which is better to be delivered at home, rather than in class? Which do you give the students first, (and is this true for all students or all concepts)?

3. Production Quality

Dr. Scott Morris advises, ”The key is to not get too bent out of shape about production quality; just bang it out.  It is more important to get it out there and online than that it be perfect.”

I think that if you are going to produce 1,2 or even 5 of these kinds of lessons in a 13 week course, then Dr. Morris’ advice might be valuable. However, if this is something you are going to do week after week, if it is something that delivers a critical amount of the syllabus, then production quality becomes vitally important.

I also think it’s great that Leanne Kuluski gives advice to, “…embed… funny parts, with jokes and silly accents and things which surprise and amuse her students.”

I’m not saying we have to be entertaining but I am saying that we need to be engaging. Let’s face it, if a lesson in class isn’t engaging, you might still be able to hold a student’s attention by way of them being in your classroom. Producing a boring, uninteresting or bland lesson that you expect a student to watch at home, with a few hundred more distractions than a typical classroom… well, that seems pretty counterproductive to me.

We expect students to produce great work for us, we should do the same for them.

- – – – -

"Doulbe Standard by WhatEdSaid on Toondoo"

Conclusion:

Previously, I’ve said three really simple concepts about teaching today: Teaching is different, harder and more rewarding!

A well executed flipped classroom is an excellent example of these three points! Providing a flipped classroom and getting the lesson delivery out of the way so that class time can be used to collaborate, and practice concepts, and problem solve, is actually a great teaching strategy to use. I think we just need to be careful not to overuse it. We need to consider that this approach may not work ideally for all learners and with all concepts. We need to think about depth vs breadth, and also go beyond teaching the algorithm void of analysis in our flipped classroom videos and screen-casts. We need to make our lessons engaging and present them in ways that capture our students’ interest and attention.

We need to be thoughtful about our use of a flipped classroom.

David Truss is an educator (Vice Principal) with the Learning Innovations Network Coquitlam (School District #43 in British Columbia, Canada), with Coquitlam Open Learning & the new Inquiry Hub. He writes several incredibly informative blogs, you can learn more about David and his works here.

 

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