The Rise of Flipped Classroom Learning
Flipped learning is a constructive development in the methods and practices of teaching. A flipped classroom is unlike the conventional learning format wherein a pupil receives information through classroom lectures, and then applies that knowledge to assigned work at home.
In a flipped classroom, rather, students assimilate content via videos, audio, text, and interactive media at home. Then learners apply that learning in class, in collaboration with peers, and assisted by the teacher.
Traditionally, students have received information through lectures in a classroom. While that works for many, it doesn't engage others, and assimilation of knowledge and exam performance have suffered. In a flipped classroom, class time is mainly for understanding and applying knowledge and concepts via discussions, joint exercises, projects and quizzes.
A Brief History of Flipped Classrooms
The germ of this method likely emerged in the 1990s, when Eric Mazur, a Harvard physicist, introduced a method called "peer instruction." Students were asked to prepare before coming to class by reading and answering questions about the topic at home. In class, the instructor would give students a question to ponder and answer individually.
Responses were then reviewed, and students grouped together to discuss how each one of them arrived at their answer. Following that discussion, they would be given the option of modifying their answer. These answers would be reviewed again, and the instructor would decide whether the question needed further explaining, or to proceed to the next question.
Flipped classrooms generally follow this approach. In 2000, the University of Miami-Ohio published a paper "Inverting the classroom." The concept failed to catch on, however, probably because the Age of YouTube and video-sharing hadn't yet arrived.
Launched in 2005, YouTube made it possible for anyone to record and post videos for others to share. It was easy and inexpensive. Two years later, Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams, science teachers in Colorado, began recording and creating video presentations of their lectures to enable students who missed classes to listen to the lectures at home.
A year later, they applied this method for all their students. Pupils were asked to study the presentations at home and come to class prepared to discuss with other students and apply what they had learned. This made the students active participants in their own learning, and enabled Bergman and Sams to gauge a pupil's conceptual understanding and guide each accordingly.
Breaking from the Norm
The flipped learning approach enables students to study the topic at home at their own pace, and then review and apply the concepts in classroom collaborations with peers and guided by teachers.
The emphasis is on understanding concepts and applying knowledge, rather than passively receiving information in class and later recalling it on an exam. Within a flipped classroom setting, students prepare before coming to class, so that class time is devoted to applying and analyzing information and ideas through discussions, exercises and projects together with peers.
Though video-based learning is popular because it engages the student and facilitates higher retention, videos are not the only format for content delivery. Other commonly used formats include text, audio and multimedia. Instructors curate and capture material for students to consume at their convenience. Thanks to technology, content can be presented in a range of formats to suit different styles of learning.
What Are the Benefits?
Students Control — Learners study at their own pace. and have the option of rewinding lectures or rereading sections that were not clear initially. They can jot down doubts to be discussed with the teacher. Students also find recorded lectures helpful when studying for exams.
Parent Access — Parents also have access to videos and other lecture materials, and can better help their students learn, as well as stay up on their progress.
Accessibility of Content — Since lessons are available online, students study at their convenience, at any location with an internet connection. Students don't fall behind due to emergencies, sickness, or extracurricular activities.
Active and Engaged Participation — Students discuss concepts, interact on projects and learn from each other. Teachers can spot weaknesses and assist those in need. It also fosters the ability to think independently.
What are the Drawbacks?
Limited Access to Technology — Not all students have electronic devices or robust 24-hour internet access, so teachers must find ways around this obstacle.
Student Responsibility — Flipped classroom learning is only effective if students are prepared. Less motivated and less self-directed learners may not view lectures in the absence of supervision.
Getting the Ball Rolling — Initially, teachers might need to devote more time and effort to setting up flipped classrooms. Recording and posting lectures, curating content, and planning classroom activities all take time.
Testing Gap — This method does not generally prepare students effectively to take standardized tests.
Is Flipped Classroom Learning More Effective?
Though research on flipped learning outcomes has increased during the last few years, it is still limited and not all studies are of the same quality.
According to a 2014 survey by the Flipped Learning Network, 71 percent of teachers who participated reported that their students' performance had improved. A 2015 study demonstrated student appreciation of the flipped learning method.
Other studies (2016) examined the connection between student appreciation and grades. One key finding was that the grades of "flipped endorsers" and "flipped resisters" showed some improvement when course conveners based their flipped teaching strategy on a theoretical perspective, made assessment a part of classroom activity, and flipped the full course.
Researchers reviewed 28 higher education surveys and found that flipped learning was implemented mostly in in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) disciplines, particularly health, applied, and pure sciences.
Although the flipped learning model is applied in the social sciences, languages and arts, several studies do point to higher adoption rates in classes teaching STEM subjects. One likely reason for the appeal to math and science teachers is because these disciplines require substantial time and effort to be devoted to problem solving.
All evidence points to a wider implementation of flipped learning as more students gain access to computers and the internet.