There are many valid reasons why teachers are flipping classrooms. Flipping is a proven pedagogy, not a gimmick or just the latest buzz word.
A possible answer
Teachers are increasingly flipping their lessons. Not necessarily all, but some, and that is legitimate.
Before teachers can decide whether flipping is for them, first let us explore what flipping is.
Definitions and models abound. The explanation that follows makes the most sense of what flipping is and its potential as a vehicle for great teaching and learning.
The concept of flipping is driven by answering two fundamental questions:
Am I teaching to the group from the front far too much?
Am I using my face-to-face time with my students well, befitting the trained professional teacher that I am?
When teachers begin to unpick and answer these two questions, their practice begins to change and the elements of good teaching come to the fore.
Taking it outside the classroom
The first thing that changes in establishing a flipped classroom is the amount of time spent “lecturing to the class”. The time spent doing this is cut right back – slashed! Quite a drastic step and it must be replaced with “something new” or the teacher and the students might as well go home. It is what this “lecturing to the class” is replaced by, that begins to define flipped learning. Out with “lecturing to the class” – in with “something new”!
In flipped classrooms, the “something new” can take a variety of forms. In one popular brand of the flipped class, the “something new” is the video. The video replaces the teacher “lecturing to the class”. The creation of these videos needs a fair bit of attention. They need to be engaging and polished, but with a bit of effort, assisted by today’s great capture and distribution technology, quality videos are easily developed and made available to students. In this form, the teacher gives the lesson through the video and the students watch the video, usually outside of the classroom for homework.
With the production of these videos, the flip has begun. The teacher is now able to give the lesson outside of the classroom and in-class time is freed up.
As an aside, it is important to say that videos of this nature are not the only resource available to give the lesson outside of the classroom. There are many commercial and open source products available to teachers that allow them to put together a quality lesson for students to engage with, outside of the classroom.
What happens in the classroom?
This is where it gets exciting and it is a very simple development that changes the nature of teaching. The teacher now has more time in the class – for what? To exhibit the skills and knowledge acquired through their professional training. Now that the lecturing is gone they simply have more time to teach in the true sense of the word.
With time freed up, many of the elements of a flipped classroom begin to emerge – elements that are synonymous with good teaching. It is the flip that started the change!
The teacher encouraging and fostering higher order thinking in their students is now more possible. Learning can be taken deeper for every student no matter what their capabilities. Students have a better chance of getting help on difficult topics, the teacher has more time to allow for differentiation and students are able to learn at their own pace. In short, flipping facilitates deeper and personalised learning.
With this important change, the classroom dynamics change from one of teaching to one of learning. The dynamics are student-centric, not teacher-centric and that brings with it another element of good teaching – learner agency. Students are given a greater chance of being autonomous and being heard.
Through flipping, relationships are affected. Relationships between teacher and students change for the better. Students get closer to each other. All brought about by the increased two-way communication and rich dialogue made possible because in class time has been freed up.
A not insignificant feature of the flipped class is the teacher’s ability to manage those things which are traditionally difficult to manage. Teacher and student absence is no longer the problem it was. Direct instruction is now rarely missed because it is available 24/7 in the videos or some other resource. Through absence, students will miss out on the in-class higher order activities, but with the learning now personalised, quality teachers can quickly and expertly assist a student to move forward.
Some bits are tricky
Moving the lecture out of class time and replacing it with a quality resource to be viewed by students outside of class, creates significant work for the teacher at the front end. Creating resources takes time and skill. Designing personalised activities for students in the classroom that will enhance the subject matter and motivate students to participate in deeper learning and higher order thinking calls on a teacher’s professional training, knowledge and skills more than ever.
Will students watch the videos or engage with other resources for homework? They may not, but nothing has changed there. It has been ever thus that students at times fail to do their homework. Teachers will manage this aspect as they have always done – holding students accountable, encouraging and monitoring.