The Flipped Classroom


A popular concept in education, which is reviewed on Inside Higher ED’s website, is the idea of a “flipped classroom.” The basic definition of a “flipped classroom,” which varies depending on your source, is that the typical lecture and homework elements of a classroom are reversed. This means students would listen to a pre-recorded lecture at home and do homework in the classroom. Several different business models and organizations already promote this idea, like the well-known Khan Academy non-profit model, but is this model optimal?

Don’t get me wrong; the “flipped” model has its benefits. (1) Students can go through the material at their own pace in a comfortable environment. This approach allows students who blaze through the material to be more efficient with their time and less confident students to spend as much time as they need to understand the content. (2) Students who are struggling with a problem or concept in class can ask an instructor for assistance who will guide them to the answer. Speaking from a student perspective, it is much easier (and memorable) to have an instructor work with you to solve a problem than it is consulting a textbook or searching for the answer online. (3) Plenty of opportunity to discuss and compare approaches with other students while in class. Students often solve problems and run into the same issues while working through problems. It can be very helpful and time efficient to collaborate with other students to achieve I higher degree of understanding. These benefits all contributes to a greater understanding of the content and a stronger awareness of troublesome areas that require greater attention.

So why hasn’t everyone adopted this model? Simply put, it’s in our human nature to resist change. The traditional method of suggesting material to read over before class, lecturing during class, and assigning homework after class has been in place for centuries. This traditional “teacher experience,” arguably, can never be replaced. As a student, one fatal flaw I’ve experienced in the current system occurs at home. I often find it difficult to concentrate and motivate myself to read from a textbook or learn a new topic that doesn’t particularly interest me, especially if the content isn’t specifically brought up in class. I relate this experience to a chore I never liked doing, but is required for a greater cause, like my parent’s satisfaction (or graduation). Of course, it isn’t a perfect system, but we implement support initiatives to redeem its shortcomings. Many of these initiatives mirror the benefits of the “flipped classroom,” for example Academic-Zone’s personalized online approach. Lecturing for more than 50 minutes may not maintain student attention and be effected by diminishing marginal returns. However, the lecture still plays an important role in highlighting the key information in a mountain of text. Instructors also make themselves available after class to clarify information.

Final Thoughts
Similar to the article written by Pamela E. Barnett, a potential solution would be an integration of both systems. Taking the best of both models with the help of modern technology can improve the effectiveness of teaching. For example, having a short lecture, in-class exercises, and relevant online material/assessment could be a possible layout for the lectures of tomorrow. With this model, we have the opportunity to try a new approach and personalize learning for students of the 21st century.

What are you thoughts?
–     Do you think this “flipped classroom” model could work?
–     Would it be easier for students to learn information using this model?
–     How about instructors to teach?

I look forward to your opinion!

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