As education in general, and learning tools and methods in particular, continue to evolve, flipped classrooms are getting a lot of press. The idea is intriguing—the flipped classroom is a type of blended learning approach that “flips” the old teaching model most of us are familiar with. The traditional approach goes something like this: students read a section of text outside of class, discuss it the next day during class and then write a paper or complete a project to demonstrate their knowledge. But in the flipped classroom, students begin by studying topics independently, usually via video-based lessons that are prepared by their instructor. During class time, instructors take on a more tutorial or coaching role as students apply their learning through project-centered or task-based work.
Benefits of the Flipped Classroom
Promotes a more direct, personalized instruction. Since time in the flipped classroom isn’t typically devoted to lecturing, instructors are free to explore more personalized and interactive learning activities with their students. Learning obstacles and challenges can be identified early and addressed head-on, before a student’s foundational mistakes affect his later success.
Allows for more varied and applied teaching. Likewise,flipped classrooms include applied lesson work that can be more easily customized to a student’s learning style. Instructors are able to quickly gauge success and either change tactics or coach students through the process of assimilating new knowledge. Results suggest that this type of teaching approach can better address understanding, application, and long-term retention.
Provides opportunities for coursework catch-up. Since much of the learning in a flipped classroom happens through a combination of independent study and videotaped lessons, it’s easier for students to catch up on missed work. A family emergency or extended illness doesn’t have to spell disaster for a student’s prerequisite planning or derail his graduation track.
Challenges of the Flipped Classroom
Access to technology. Critics have suggested that flipped classrooms rely too heavily on technology as a primary teaching aid, placing rural students or others who have limited internet access outside of school at an immediate disadvantage. Instructors can overcome this challenge by using saving video lectures to CD or flash-drives, or by encouraging students to organize study groups that share a single web connection.
Adjustments for adult or returning students. Discussed less frequently, but just as important, is the adjustment flipped classroom environments pose to returning students who are used to more traditional teaching structures. Though no formal studies have been done, it’s easy to understand how flipped classrooms might require a behavioral shift for some students. Instructors can help by encouraging students to set aside time for independent study, connect them with technology tutors, and generally guide them through the fundamentals of this much more self-directed and interactive learning process.
Like the evolution of any teaching model, the real value of flipped classrooms lays in its potential to improve upon the status quo. It encourages teachers and the industry at large to reconsider how we teach and rethink how students learn. Getting creative, looking beyond the old models, and challenging the business-as-usual approach has the potential to reinvent education as it might reinvent any other field.
Similarly, flipped classrooms tap into an important trend in education—leveraging technology in tactical ways not only to make teaching more efficient, but to make learning more customized. As students and our broader constituents focus more on educational outcomes, innovations that prove to be successful are worth exploring and applying in the smartest way possible.
Enrollment Builders consults on a host of teaching tools and methods for institutions of all sizes. If you’d like to explore how flipped classrooms or web-based instruction can benefit students at your school, we can help. To learn more about what we do, call us at 513-518-7824, or request information here.