The idea of a “flipped classroom,” or classrooms where video lectures replace the bulk of teacher-student lectures is becoming more popular, says a report from Education Week. The movement to replace traditional teaching with video instruction was made mainstream by Salman Khan, who created a free online course covering various topics.
The crux of the flipped classroom mentality is that students swap homework for classwork—they watch the video lectures at home instead of listening to them at school. This then frees up class time to allow teachers to engage students in activities related to the coursework they watched outside of school.
The methodology is not set in stone says the Education Week report, and some teachers incorporate the videos into class time, while other educators allow students to select from a variety of instructional aids covering the same topic.
Not all educators are sold on the flipped classroom idea, however, many feel it is just a way to reinvent lecturing—which is considered antiquated among some educational groups.
“My concern is that if you’re still relying on lecture as your primary mode of getting content across … you haven’t done anything to shift the type of learning that’s occurring,” said to Education Week Andrew Miller, an educational consultant who works with the Alexandria, Va.-based professional-development group ASCD and the Novato, Calif.-based Buck Institute of Education.
Miller added that flipping a classroom does not mean that students will watch videos at home. “How are you engaging your kids?” he asked.
His concerns are shared by Ramsey Musallam, a chemistry teacher at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, a private Catholic high school in San Francisco, who stated flipped classrooms are deceptive because they focus on the idea that children dislike homework; however, when evaluated from a step back, the process “is grounded in the same didactic, lecture-based philosophy. It’s really a better version of a bad thing,” reported Education Week.
According to Education Week, Musallam was an advocate of flipping initially, even using it in his own classroom. But when he saw little to no improvement in his students, he modified the process to use videos only after the exploratory process.
Supporters of the process agree with Musallam’s viewpoint, but overall feel that video instruction can be used in an effective and engaging manner. The most successful methods seem to be based on the premise of allowing students to work at their own pace, performing assignments when they are ready rather than as a joint class.
“For students who had not been challenged in the classroom, this was an opportunity for them to just fly,” said Deb Wolf, a high school instructional coach for the 24,000-student Sioux Falls district in South Dakota, who discussed the modified flipped classroom technique with Education Week. “For others, it was an opportunity to take the time that they needed to move slower. And for some, self-paced became no pace.”
Wolf and a group of teachers in her school used the flipped classroom technique in a modified manner known as the mastery-based technique.
Wolf told Education Week that she found that by letting students work at their own pace, the ones who weren’t engaged in class were no longer being dragged along during the course work, but were able to complete it on their own time.
In addition to assisting students with better study comprehension, many feel flipped classrooms allow teachers to take on the roles of mentors rather than lecturers.
“[In the current model], one student goes home to educated parents who can help him with his homework, while another student goes home and gets no help,” Havana Community Unit School Superintendent Patrick Twomey said, Education Week reports . “In the flipped model, both of those kids come back to the classroom after receiving the content, and now all of the help with the homework is given by the expert in the field.“