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The flipped classroom: turning learning on its head

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 16 2012 1:49 p.m. MDT

Students in a flipped classroom watch videotaped lectures at home and work through assignments at school.

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Classroom flipping is an education strategy that is catching on at schools around the country. The traditional learning model — in which a teacher lectures during class time, and students do assignments at home — is reversed in a flipped classroom.

Students in a flipped classroom watch videotaped lectures at home and work through assignments at school. There, the teacher is present to keep students on task, answer questions, and create interactive learning activities between pairs or groups of students.

The model is gaining popularity at K-12 schools and college campuses around the United States, wrote University of Tennessee-Knoxville's Teaching and Learning Center blogger Karen Brinkley.

The model lets students go through lectures at their own pace, repeating tricky concepts as needed. It also lets the instructor maximize time with students.

"Instead of students listening passively to a lecture, they are engaged in hands on or active learning; they might tackle problems together with help from the instructor," Brinkley wrote. "With the lecture already out of the way, there is time for discussion, labs, team projects, and more."

Flipped classrooms work for many subjects, but are especially popular in science, math ands history classrooms. The reasons for flipping the classroom instruction model are based on research showing that engaging students in active, collaborative work increases learning.

Gregory Green, a principal at Michigan's Clintondale High School, created a pilot program in classroom flipping for his school's ninth-graders during the 2009-10 academic year. Teachers used educational software to create videos that showed problems being worked as teachers talked, and share the best videos with others in their teaching areas.

Student failure rates plummeted from 30 percent to 10.8 percent during the first year of the pilot program, according to Fast Company magazine's Co.EXIST blog about innovation. English failures among Clintondale ninth-graders declined from 52 percent to 19 percent; social studies from 28 percent to 9 percent; math from 44 percent to 13 percent; and science from 41 percent to 19 percent.

Clintondale High School has since expanded the flipping model to other grade levels and now shares its videos with schools around the country that are adopting flipped classroom models.

A possible downside to classroom-flipping is that disadvantaged students might be further left behind by the trend, wrote Sarah Butrymowicz of The Hechinger Report.

Classroom-flipping has been shown to increase learning among at-risk students, but its success relies on students having internet connections and computers at home. That has raised concerns that the achievement gap between low-income students and their peers could be widened by the flipping trend.

“It’s an obstacle,” said Karen Cator, director of the Office of Educational Technology in the U.S. Department of Education, as quoted by Butrymowicz. “We do need to figure out ways that students, regardless of Zip code, regardless of their parents’ income level, have access to technology inside and outside of schools."

Westside High School in Macon, Ga., which serves a high proportion of disadvantaged students, was able to provide netbooks to students through a federal grant. Student assessments have begun showing modest gains in achievement, and other benefits are evident.

Karen, Douglass, a teacher at Westside High, told Butrymowicz the results of flipping her classroom have been "nothing short of revolutionary."

Giving students control over their learning pace improved their desire to learn and improved behavior in class, she said.

“They were getting to choose to push the play button,” Douglass told Butrymowicz. “They were very, very excited about accepting that responsibility. They actually like having the power to make decisions. That’s the biggest impact I’ve seen in my classroom — the ownership has gone from teacher to student.”

As the flipping trend spreads, online networks that allow teachers to share classroom videos are springing up. EduVision's Flipped Learning Network is one of those. It includes a searchable online library of videos that lets teachers upload and download videos, get information about classroom flipping, and share ideas.

EMAIL: cbaker@deseretnews.com

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