Flipped Learning Continues to Change Classrooms Nationwide

“Flipped Learning” — also called the “flipped classroom” — is a nickname for a method that’s changing the meaning of homework for some high school and middle school students. Instead of working out problems at home, the students do what used to be homework under the supervision of their teacher, who is right there to help when they have questions. This is possible because their new homework is viewing the lecture they would have otherwise witnessed in class.

Associated Press reports that the typical 40 minute class period doesn’t allow time for both lecture and homework help. In the last few decades, most high school math classes began with going over homework as rapidly as possible, often by having students write their solutions on the chalkboard. The teacher then looked at each solution and point out its mistakes as students in their seats compared their own work.

Corrected homework was passed in for the teacher to grade, and then the lecture began, followed by more time spent going over homework and answering questions about last night’s work meant less time for today’s explanations. Students who were struggling to grasp the point when the bell rang were still faced with homework that night. It would be up to them (and sometimes their parents or friends) to make sense of it without the teacher.

Flipped learning changes the traditional classroom model to address those shortcomings. Students in flipped classrooms arrive in class with some understanding of the day’s lesson, and then the class period is devoted to homework while the teacher circulates, answering questions.

It’s made possible by technology that allows teachers to record lectures on video and upload them to a website where students can watch on their own. Although the system initially creates more work for teachers, their reward is students who are more engaged.

Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann, who taught chemistry in Colorado, five years ago began producing their lectures on video:

“The first year, I was able to double the number of labs my students were doing,” Sams said. “That’s every science teacher’s dream.”

But not all students have internet access and computers at home. Students with computers and no internet access need lessons to be distributed on DVDs or another portable data device. Students who have no computers at home may need to stay after school or watch the lectures during study halls at school.

Greg Green, a principal in the greater Detroit area, is one of the system’s greatest fans. He converted the whole school to the new model in 2011. Clintondale High is one the schools plagued with low graduation rates and many discipline problems; its student body, who are mostly poor and minority, have usually struggled. For this school, Flipped Learning was the answer, as many of these problems went away and grades went up. “Now teachers are actually working with kids,” Green told the Associated Press.

Parents have found the change hard to understand at first. Homework doesn’t look like homework. “My grandma thought I was using it as an excuse to mess around on the Internet,” reported one California student in a flipped math class. Teachers have had to educate parents on the change, but success is the best advocate. For some students, doing homework with guidance has made a big difference. Class time means being engaged, not being bored or falling asleep. Greater comprehension and rising grades have convinced many students that change is worth it.