It’s a concept so simple, many educators wonder why they haven’t been doing it all along: Deliver the nuts-and-bolts information as homework, and spend precious class time actually engaging with the material.
The rising prevalence of online video, combined with increased student access to technology, has helped drive the flipped learning movement, which aims to improve student outcomes by offering more engaging, individualized, student-driven learning opportunities. Teachers who post their lectures online as homework free up class time for projects that cultivate critical digital age skills, such as:
- Critical thinking
- Problem solving
- Active learning
- Inquiry-based learning
However, even as educators across the globe continue to adopt the concept—more than 12,000 educators have joined the Flipped Learning Network so far—others have questioned whether flipped learning is here to stay, or whether it’s just another trend that will fade once the novelty has worn off.
While there’s little research to indicate the effectiveness of flipped learning, a recent literature review found that the model incorporates many methods of learning that are supported by years of research—active learning, assistive technology and cognitive load theory, to name a few. There’s also a growing body of anecdotal evidence: In a survey of 453 teachers who flipped their classrooms, 80 percent reported improved student attitudes, and 99 percent said they would flip again the following year.
“I think it’s going to become ubiquitous,” predicted Jerry Overmyer, mathematics and science outreach coordinator at the MAST Institute of the University of Northern Colorado and a pioneer of flipped learning.
“I think the days of lecture in schools are pretty much numbered because we have so much information on the internet. I know so many high school and college students who don’t like their teacher’s style of lecture, so they just Google it, and there is probably a better lecture that makes sense to them out there.”
But teachers shouldn’t interpret that to mean they’re becoming obsolete.
“We live in a world of information overload. Now that students have all this information available online, teachers actually become more important because we need to teach students how to sort through and find the quality information they need.”
With all the buzz around flipped classrooms, some education leaders have cautioned against approaching it as a blanket solution that will fix all of our problems. And there’s no doubt that while there’s no single “right” way to implement flipped learning, there are plenty of wrong ways.
Overmyer offered the following advice for educators who are experimenting with flipping their classrooms:
1. Focus on face-to-face time first.
A common mistake when adopting flipped learning is to put too much emphasis on creating lecture videos and then skimp on planning in-class activities. Using the freed-up class time for workbook-style homework is a waste of a golden opportunity that could be maximized with dynamic, collaborative projects, Overmyer said.
“The first thing to consider is what’s the best use of your face-to-face time with your students? If you come to the conclusion that a lecture is the best use of face-to-face time, then there’s no reason to flip. But that’s not usually the conclusion,” Overmyer said.
“Start by planning out what the face-to-face time is going to look like. Then ask yourself, ‘Now that I’m not lecturing in class, what information do students need?’ That’s what you should put in the video.”
2. Keep lectures short and to the point.
It’s easy to assume that the novelty of video will make your lectures more interesting to students. In truth, the novelty of the medium wears off after about 10 minutes.
“A boring lecture makes an even more boring video,” Overmyer said. “One thing flipped educators try to express is to keep the videos really short, maybe 10 minutes maximum. Just skip right to the facts you really want to get across.”
3. Curate video content thoughtfully.
The internet is loaded with lecture videos on virtually any subject. For teachers who are new to flipped learning, using pre-existing videos can be an attractive alternative to making their own from scratch. While this is a legitimate practice, Overmyer urges educators to carefully vet videos from outside sources, present only quality materials to their students, and explain to the class why they’ve chosen an existing video rather than making their own.
“There are always going to be some students who want to hear the information from their teacher. There’s still quite a push for teachers to make their own videos, but I don’t think that’s always necessary as long as they explain to their class, ‘I found this video that explains the subject better than I could.’ ”
4. Communicate with parents.
Parents can be skeptical of flipped learning, assuming it’s a way for teachers to slack off and let the internet do their work for them. It’s critical to communicate clearly with parents and offer some transparency regarding the engaging work students are doing in class. Many educators send letters home to explain what flipped learning is and what it helps them accomplish. Enlisting the support of the community helps ensure the success of a flipped classroom.
5. Take it slow.
Flipping a classroom, school or district isn’t like flipping a switch. It’s a multi-year process that demands ongoing professional development and plenty of collaboration between educators. Set modest goals the first few years.
“Try one video a week students can watch during study hall, or just create a few videos students can use to prepare for an exam,” Overmyer said. “Usually what happens is that teachers are like, ‘Hey, wow, this worked pretty well. I’m going to do a little more.’ ”
Want to learn more about flipped learning? Join Jerry Overmyer for his September 25 webinar, Blend and Flip: Learning in the Digital Age. And check out the book that launched the movement, Flip Your Classroom by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams.