Wednesday, February 18, 2015

To Flip or Not to Flip

Flipped classrooms are a hot topic in education today. Many teachers believe that they can do more meaningful mathematics when they use technology to support their students' learning. The idea of a flipped classroom is that the students will learn the content, that normally would be taught with a lecture style, outside of the classroom with the use of technology. This then allows the teacher to be able to use class time doing activites that apply the students' knowlege. Normally students will learn the material by using a combination of videos and coinciding worksheets. These worksheets are normally checked and counted as a "homework" grade. Other teachers may use quizzes at the beginning of class to keep their students accountable for watching the videos the night before.

One of the struggles of teaching is that not all students learn at the same speed or in the same way. While some students may succeed in a traditonal classroom setting, other students may fall behind. The flipped classroom model allows students to rewatch the videos multiple times if they are not grasping a concept on the first try. Also by watching the videos before the next class students can come to class with questions, some teachers even put a spot on their guided worksheets for such questions. 

Having students learn the material independently also allows teachers to give students more individual support. Since class time in a flipped classroom is used to do activites, the teacher is then able to walk around the room and get immediate feedback about where their students are as far as understanding the content. Therefore, if a particular student is struggling then their teacher can spend one-on-one time addressing their questions.

In the Februrary 2014 issue of Mathematics Teacher there was an article about flipped classrooms. Two teachers, Amanda Moore a 7th grade math teacher from Battle Creek, MI and Matthew Gillett an 8th grade math teacher from Armada, MI, observed the effects of flipping their classrooms. Both teachers saw homework (watching instructional videos and completing guided notes) completion rate rise, with one class even increasing by 19%. After doing a unit of flipped instruction both teachers agreeded that by flipping their classrooms student engagement increased in class and they also said they had more time to do meaningful mathematics. The homework completion rate indicated that more students were doing mathematical work outside of school, and students were also engaging in more problem solving in class that previously was provided through homework. 

The last two semesters I have volunteered in Tara Maynard's 8th grade math classes in Zeeland Public Schools. Mrs. Maynard uses a flipped instruction model in her classroom, so I have been able to see the benefits of flipping first hand. Mrs. Maynard uses videos that she makes (with her own voice using an app called ShowMe) for her students' instruction. The students in Mrs. Maynard's class can access these videos without the use of internet at home through their iBooks app on their iPads (Zeeland Public Schools are 1:1). Mrs. Maynard also provides the students with a note packet to complete while they watch the videos. 

Here is what Mrs. Maynard says are the benefits of flipped classrooms:
- She gets to have conversations with everyone of her students everyday
-Truly know what the students understand and what they haven't yet grasped
-There is more time to do explorations, activites, demonstrations, labs, and deeper questions
-Students are able to move at their own pace and learn with their own style
-Supports anywhere anytime learning
-Parents can't give the excuse of "I can't help"

As with everything in life there are also some negatives to flipped classrooms as well. Here are some of the things Mrs. Maynard says she struggles with:
-Time (creating videos, creating activities etc.)
-Still giving paper and pencil assessments
-If its just a video and a worksheet it is not flipped instruction
-Videos can be done wrong (bad lecture, too long, boring, etc.)
-Students still come to class unprepared and waste time

Here is a video of a typical day in Mrs. Maynards flipped classroom.

Mrs. Maynard also asked her students what they thought of learning in a flipped classroom, here are their thoughts.

Almost all of the teachers who have flipped classrooms can agree that students are able to engage more in the mathematics they are learning. While flipped classrooms might have some downfalls I believe the positives outweigh the negatives. I would love to some day use a flipped model for my own classroom. I think that flipped instruction can provide so many learning opportunities for students and isn't that why we are teaching to begin with? 


  1. Good post introducing the flipped model. It's a great opportunity to get to be in Tara's class to see it in action. 5Cs: +

    My want to know more would be how does Ms. Maynard deal with the possible negatives you point out?

  2. I agree that a flipped classroom has more benefits than negatives, especially for the students! And I like how you talk about both the pros and cons for students and teachers. A flipped classroom certainly gives teachers and students more flexibility with their learning. With that said, unfortunately not all schools in the USA have the same budget (for example, in Allendale all students get a school laptop), nor does everyone have the same access to electronics and the internet. If that's the case, then a flipped classroom needs to be less internet/electronic based.