Flipped Classrooms: Are They Worth Flipping Out Over?

flipped classroomThere are a lot of “buzz words” in education right now. Collaboration, differentiation, and ‘project-based learning’ are just a few. All of these words are rooted in one general idea: providing students with a more interactive, hands-on, student-based learning atmosphere. These words and the idea behind them are being integrated into schools in both the private and public sector at all age levels, and are backed by a significant amount of research. Studies have shown not only a direct correlation between student-based learning and intrinsic motivation but between intrinsic motivation and overall student achievement both in college and post-grad life. This means that students who are in classes with a student-centered focus are often going to college with better critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills. These students are also earning higher marks and typically find employment quicker after college.

What is a Flipped Classroom?

One of the most progressive ideas being implemented is the idea of a “flipped classroom”.  The flipped classroom allows for students to receive direct instruction at home through means of lecture slides or online videos, while doing the activities that support learning in class. In other words, students get the traditional class at home and their homework in school. The goal of flipped classrooms is to allow for more individualized support in the classroom, meaning that mom and dad have to do less teaching at home.

The idea has been highly disputed by both educators and parents alike. Those in favor cite the fact that the percentage of students passing both English and math at the high school level jumped significantly in classes that switched to the flipped approach. They also note the fact that the discipline cases in those classrooms dropped significantly when classes flipped. Students in flipped classrooms have reported feeling like they’re receiving more interactive learning and say that they enjoy going to school more.

What are the Downsides?

However, there are plenty of educators and parents who are not in favor of the flipped classroom. One of the biggest complaints is the idea of at home direct instruction. Parents have complained that a flipped classroom relies on the use of the internet and even more heavily on student motivation. If a student doesn’t go online and watch the lecture, then he or she will be lost in class the next day. Students have complained that online lectures are impersonal and that not being able to ask a question immediately detriments their learning.

While public opinion is up in the air about the validity and effectiveness of flipped classrooms, one thing is certain: they are here to stay. Both Fairfax and Arlington County have held or are holding teacher in-service days on how to implement flipped classrooms, and a number of independent schools have already begun employing the technique. With more and more websites and services such as KhanAcademy.com, launching daily and more educational YouTube videos being uploaded per day than ever before, it is clear that the trend of online learning is in for the long haul.

The Flipped Classroom and Self-Regulation

So what does this mean as parents and educators? Well, it can mean a lot of different things, but one thing is sure, the classroom is evolving. The results of this evolution are going to vary depending on the student. For some students who are in favor of technology and can easily regulate their attention at home, a flipped classroom may be a great solution for individual attention. However, for students who struggle with their attention, especially when at home surrounded by distractions, the flipped classrooms method is going to pose some problems. For these students, or students who may not learn best behind a computer screen, it may be worth considering having a private tutor work one on one with the student to cover the lecture material. Often, students who struggle with regulating their attention or who feel that the online lecture approach is impersonal do best working with a professional individually. If the student is really struggling with attention, try taking the online lecture or homework outside of the home. Sometimes a trip to the library can help to limit distractions.

The long-term verdict on flipped classrooms is still out, but parents should expect to see more of it. With the move to e-textbooks and the bring-your-own-device program in place, the flipped classroom method is likely the next technology initiative to take many of our schools by storm.