Flipping the Classroom

Overview

For the last several centuries, the most common classroom environment has been dominated by instructor-lead activiies such as lectures, demonstrations, and whole-class discussions.  Students are expected to acquire an understanding of the content by reading the textbook and by participating in class activities. Instructors and students often find, though, that students develop very limited understanding of the content by passively listening to lectures. Not all students, though, are prepared to learn at the same pace. Instructors find it difficult to find a mix of activities that neither bore the more advanced learners nor lose the less prepared students behind. Most instructors aim for providing a challenging environment for students in the middle of the distribution, boring the more advanced students and losing many of the less advanced.

A "flipped classroom" is one in which the focus of the class shifts from teaching to learning. There are a few common components of a "flipped classroom:

  • Materials, such as lectures, that were traditionally covered in the classroom are shifted to out of class activities. Most typically, this involves having students watch videos on topics that would typically be the focus of lectures. These videos may be provided by the instructor, or may be videos created by others (many are available from YouTube, TedEd, and  the Khan Academy). Advanced students sometimes watch these at speeds up to 200% of normal, while students struggling with the material make effective use of the pause and rewind options. The material covered in these videos is generally broken up into more granular topics, with videos typically lasting from 5-15 minutes.
  • Most class time is devoted to a mix of individual and collaborative activities that might include such approaches as project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, or team-based learning. Some form of just-in-time-teaching is an integral part of the flipped classroom environment. The instructor's role under this approach is to provide students with the help they need, when they need it.

Mastery-flipped classroom

One variation of a flipped classroom that carries individualized instruction even further is to implement a mastery-learning quizzing system that allows students to progress through material at their own pace. This approach was initially advocated in the 1980s, but was not followed through at the time because of the complications associated with giving different versions of exams to students at different times. The use of online testing available in course-management systems, though, make this approach much more feasible today. Under a mastery-learning approach, students take tests on a topic as many times as needed until they achieve a "mastery" level (typically specified as a score of 70-75% on an evaluation instrument). Under this approach, students cannot move on to more complex topics until they master the foundational concepts.

 

Free online instructional videos

Open courseware initiatives

 

Software for creating instructional videos

 

References:

Workshop videos:

"Flipping the classroom" - John Kane, January 24, 2013