Trends and concepts come and go in all walks of life, but they are rarely more prevalent or transient than in the world of education. One such example that has gained a lot of attention over the last couple of years is the so-called “flipped classroom”.
The concept of the flipped classroom can be summarised as follows: the lessons are watched at home, and the class time is used to work on what used to be assigned as homework. This model has many key proponents, often based in the US, the most notable of which is probably the Khan Academy, whose videos have been watched over 170 million times.
Now, as I type these words, I can almost sense the mutterings and head shakings. There are many common objections to this system of learning. What do you do if your students do not watch the video before the lesson? What do you do if they do not understand the video? Surely teachers should teach, and not supervise what is essentially a glorified homework club?
These are all fair objections, and ones I have raised myself. But it is only when I started to delve deeper into the concept of the flipped classroom and try it out, that I realised the benefits far outweighed any potential costs.
The first thing to realise is that it is certainly not a single model – “flipped classroom” is a broad term that envelops many variations. The key ethos is ensuring that time spent in the classroom is as effective and meaningful as possible, whilst encouraging students to take greater responsibility for their learning.
In the comfort of their own home (on their phone, tablet or computer) students can watch a video which guides them through a key concept, usually with some worked examples and activities to try. If they miss something, students can simply rewind and watch again, crucially learning at their own pace. They then come to the lesson armed with a certain amount of information and experience of the topic, ready to have their understanding assessed and extended. And here is where the teacher comes in, designing follow-up tasks to support and stretch students, and being on hand to iron out any misunderstandings and misconceptions – to turn this information into knowledge. This allows the teacher to deliver a far more personalised and effective learning experience.
But where are these videos coming from, I hear you ask? Well, there is a growing body of UK based teachers producing them, many of which will appear on TES in the coming months. And with the prevalence of free screen capture software such as Jing and BB Flashback, it is becoming increasingly straightforward and quick to produce your own videos for students.
The flipped classroom may not work for all students, all of the time, and it may require a major shift in the attitudes and experiences of students and teachers. But with the increasing need to provide differentiated learning experiences for pupils, and to encourage them to take more responsibility over their learning, all I would say is don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
Listen to the TES Maths Podcast on Flipped Learning for more