“Bueller? Bueller?” This is a phrase that crosses the mind of many when they think about school. Students sitting in perfectly aligned rows either hanging on every word the teacher says or their heads down taking a quick nap. In this classroom from the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the teacher stands at the front of the classroom endlessly speaking in a monotonous tone about this and that.
Luckily, classrooms no longer operate in that fashion. New teaching techniques, and advances in technology, have changed the direction of classrooms. Now, “flipped classrooms” are combining that technology and a new style of teaching that placesstudents at the center of learning. Vanderbilt University defines this new type of classroom as a way for students to gain exposure to new material outside of class by reading or viewing lecture videos at home, and using class time for more in-depth knowledge exercises, through problem-solving, discussion or debates.Flipped classrooms are changing and enhancing student comprehension by allowing for student ownership of learning, student-directed learning, as well as easier access to content for both students and parents.
Student Ownership of Learning
Videos are often seen as a key element of the flipped classroom. Viewing these videos at home allows students to progress at their own pace. They have the option to pause or rewind depending on their level of understanding, and learning the content at night allows students to develop questions ahead of time for their next class. In a traditional class setting, there are many times where a student does not think of her question until after the class. There are even times where the student might be apprehensive about asking her question. Videos allow students to process the content overnight, which, in turn, prepares them for the next class.
A common phrase in education for many years labeled the teacher, “a sage on the stage.” With a flipped classroom, the common phrase for the teacher is now, “guide on the side.” This places a more direct emphasis for learning on the student. With the normal classroom activity now taking place at home, it allows for more interaction among students and between students and teachers within the class. Students take the lead in the classroom by participating in debates, Socratic seminars and presentations. Learning that places students at the center allows for activities that encourage critical thinking and analysis. Having more time in the classroom provides for more opportunities for collaboration and deeper thinking while applying concepts learned at home.
Easier Access to Content
For many students, the No. 1 benefit of a flipped classroom is access to content. When a student is absent from school, they no longer have to worry about receiving notes from a classmate. Videos explaining the content are always available for students on the class website. These videos also provide students another element of review prior to an assessment. Students have the opportunity to go back and review those concepts they may have struggled with the most. This easy access to content is also available for parents. It allows parents to have a better idea of what their child is learning and the activities taking place in the classroom.
By far the greatest benefit of a flipped classroom is the further development of the teacher/student relationship. Because this method lends itself to more interaction within the classroom, teachers have the opportunity to learn more about their students. With this style, students are unable to sit and observe - participation within many different formats is necessitated. Through group work, oral presentations and one-on-one meetings, which are all byproducts of flipped classes, teachers have a better understanding of each individual student’s needs. The differentiation of instruction, as well as the home videos, allow students to feel more comfortable within the classroom space. Both students and teachers feel more of a connection.
As with any teaching technique, there will be snags along the way. Having students become acquainted with the new style in the beginning of the school year tends to be the greatest hurdle. Students in my own classes have quickly adapted and it is quite clear from both the teacher and student perspective as to the benefits of a flipped classroom.