Around the country, high school students, teachers, and parents are flipping for a new trend in education: the flipped classroom.
Teachers, seizing on their students’ love of YouTube videos, are creating classrooms where students have greater control over their learning. The idea is simple: Students are introduced to a concept via an Internet video lecture, which they watch outside of class—typically at home. During the next class, students do what would traditionally be considered homework, based on the topic of the video lecture they watched. They work on related math problems or write papers, depending on the subject, and the teacher goes from student to student offering help.
In other words, students learn new material at home, outside of class, and do their homework, based on what they’ve learned, in class—hence, the “flipped” classroom.
The benefits of this new movement in education are multilayered, teachers say. Students get help with, for example, a math problem they don’t understand from a teacher instead of a parent, who may not remember how to solve an algebraic equation. And while watching video lectures at home, they can pause, rewind, and review a concept that doesn’t make sense. They can take notes at the speed they’re comfortable with and take bathroom and snack breaks when needed.
The method allows bright students to surge ahead while students who are typically left behind can rewind to the exact concepts they missed and catch up. In addition, teachers can spend more time giving individual help.
There are drawbacks, however: Not every student has a home computer. Some students lack the discipline to watch a video. And some may have a hard time learning the material without being able to ask questions along the way, an ability they would have in a more typical classroom.
Still, high school classes across the country—in affluent, middle-income, and lower-income schools—are doing the flip because educators feel the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
Here are stories of successfully flipped classrooms in two very different schools.
The Madeira School, McLean, Va.: At this private, all-girls boarding and day school outside Washington, D.C., teacher Wendy Roshan was initially skeptical about flipping the classroom for her AP Calculus students. Her daughter, Stacey, a math teacher at another school, convinced her mother to try it. “I had lectured all my life and done it the old-fashioned way,” Roshan says. “I was wary.”
But she soon saw advantages for her students, who ended up having less homework to do at home because they only had to watch a video lesson. The next day, as students worked on problems in class, Roshan helped them through the rough spots. One student who could not fit AP Calculus into her schedule was able to create an independent study, with Roshan helping her at school when she needed it. “I talk very fast, and that’s a comment I get a lot,” she says. “With a video lecture, [students] can pause it.”
“And when [students] are absent, you don’t have to catch them up,” she adds.
Roshan says she’s now hooked, and she and her daughter are planning to create video lectures together. But the real success of this flipped classroom is in the test scores. Eighty percent of Roshan’s students got a 4 or 5 on the AP exam, which is graded on a scale of 1 to 5. Every student received at least a passing grade of 3. And the student who was able to turn the flipped classroom into an independent study? “She got a 5!” Roshan says.
Clintondale High School, Clinton Township, Mich.: At first glance, Greg Green’s public school in Michigan doesn’t seem ideal for the flipped classroom model. Many of his students come from low-income families and don’t have home computers.
Yet Green has flipped every academic class from English to math, a move that has eliminated traditional homework assignments.
“We had to ask ourselves, ‘Why do we keep sending homework home and then complaining when it doesn’t get done?’” Green says. “Why are we having our kids practice math problems at home with their well-intentioned parents, when we have an expert right here [in the classroom]?”
Before the flip, a student might be assigned 40 algebra problems and get stuck, say, on #6 while at home with no one able to help. Now, a teacher helps the student with problem #6, and the student can continue with the rest of the problems without any frustration or wasted time.
“We used to have five teachers giving five different lectures on the same topic,” he says. “Now we can have the best teacher make a video for everyone to use, and teachers can focus more on learning and what goes on in class.”
As for the lack of students’ home computers, Green’s school has computers students can use before and after school and during lunchtime. The school also has computers in the counselor’s office where students can learn while they wait. The computers are basic models but they work fine, Green says.
The flipped classroom model works well at a school that serves a range of kids, he says. Kids who are behind can start at the point where they got lost. Kids who are advanced can move quickly without having to wait for classmates to catch up. When a student arrives two months into the school year, she can start at the beginning of the course.
Someday soon, the flipped model will enable his school to offer a specialty course like German to a single student, Green says.
To Green, it’s the way of the future. “It stems from everything we’ve learned about families and schools,” he says.
When a school moves to a flipped classroom model, parents might understandably be hesitant, wondering about the quality and content of the videos their children will be watching and questioning how their traditional learners will handle the switch. Following are five questions parents should ask about the move to a flipped classroom and five tips to help their children adjust to a flip.
5 Questions To Ask About a Flipped Classroom:
1. What types of videos will be assigned? Will they be created by my child’s teacher? By several teachers at the school? Teachers from another school? A textbook company?
2. How will videos from outside sources be vetted?
3. How much time will my child be expected to spend each week viewing videos for each class?
4. Will my child have opportunities at school to view the videos?
5. What if my child has trouble learning the material by watching videos? What plans are in place for students who don’t do well with the flipped classroom model?
5 Tips for Helping Children Successfully Switch to a Flipped Classroom:
1. Make sure your child has a regular opportunity to use the home computer to watch videos.
2. Be available to help, but encourage your child to learn independently through watching the videos. Remind her she can pause, rewind, and rewatch. Encourage her to take notes and write down questions to ask the next day in class.
3. Set expectations and consequences for failure to treat the videos like homework--tell your child she must watch the assigned videos, just like you would if the homework involved completing math problems or writing an essay.
4. If your child doesn’t have time to watch the videos, review his schedule with him to see what activities might have to be put on hold.
5. Monitor your child’s progress, and meet with the teacher sooner rather than later if your child is falling behind.