The concept of “flipped classrooms” has been a hot topic for the past couple of years. Traditionally, class time is used for explaining concepts, and homework is assigned for reinforcement. Flipped classes invert this structure, with lecture materials studied at home and reinforcement work done in class.

How can flipping help your students?

You’ve heard about 21st century skills, also known as the 4 C’s: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity. Currently, 21 states are officially focusing on these standards, and that’s a good thing. These skills help students articulate ideas and feelings effectively, work well with others to achieve common goals, make sensible decisions, and become drivers of innovation. (A comprehensive educator guide is available here).

The Association of American Colleges & Universities study, conducted in 2015 by Hart Research Associates, famously detailed the skills gap between college graduates and employers (see it here). Unfortunately, some of the biggest current skills gaps fall within the 4 C’s.

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Clearly, there is an immediate need to improve these skills, and improvement can and should happen at all grade levels.

How do you flip your classroom?

The typical use case we see involves teachers providing lesson materials the night before class as online video, podcasts, blog posts, or interactive courses. Class time is then devoted to collaborative projects that build 21st century skills through peer to peer communication, collaborative problem solving, and creative and critical thinking.

Flipped classrooms with a broad range of subjects. Science, geography and other courses that enable students to explore, experiment, and investigate clearly benefit. However, we have known teachers who flip their English classes, too. One example: students read novels during class and then respond to those works by writing blog posts at home.

We spoke with Versal teachers about the pros and cons of flipping their classrooms. Here is what they told us…

The pros of flipped classroom teaching

  • Passive student learning is removed, and teachers move into a coach or advisor role. Students are encouraged to work with their peers.
  • Students assume ownership of their own learning. Students are more likely to master concepts and less likely to do only the minimum for a grade.
  • Students review online material at their own pace, revisiting information until they are satisfied. This helps keep more of your students on the same page.
  • Classroom time is used to work on higher cognitive activities, inquiry learning models, application of new learning, and assessment tasks.

The cons of flipped classroom teaching

  • You need to be organized and plan ahead. You may need to create instructional material, including exercises that were previously done verbally. The investment of time and effort pays off in the long run, though, as online lessons can be easily repurposed and updated in subsequent semesters.
  • You must be comfortable using different forms of technology and willing to learn new skills.
  • Some students prefer the traditional face-to-face lecture type classroom format. You may need to do a bit of hand-holding along the way to get everyone on board with the new way of doing things.
  • Online access poses a barrier to students without computers/connectivity at home (aka the “Digital Divide”). Make sure your Learning Management or Content Management System is optimized for mobile to help circumvent this potential issue.

Conclusion

Like all new education initiatives, flipped classrooms take effort from both teachers and students to be successful. The method isn’t necessarily for every class, every lesson, or even every subject, but the flipped model is a big help when it comes to the 4 C’s, and providing students with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century has to happen.

 

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