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The Flipped Classroom Model

Friday, 14 November 2014


Technology has completely changed the way we live—in such a way that it is hard to imagine life without it. It has changed the way we communicate, socialize, cook, shop, entertain ourselves, store and use information.

 

Technology has also played a key role in changing the way we learn. In recent times educators have been exploring innovative ways in which technology can help make teaching methods more learner-centric. The flipped classroom model is one such way which has helped educators turn the traditional classroom model upside down.

 

High school teachers Jonathan Bregman and Aaron Sams of Woodland Park High School are credited with the development of the ‘Flipped Classroom Model’. Bregman and Sam were spending an appreciable amount of time conducting backup classes for students who had missed their classes. So they came up with the idea of recording their live lectures and posting it online for reference. However, the teachers found that the online materials were also being accessed by students who had not missed the class, for reinforcement and review. This led to the idea of the ‘Flipped Classroom Model’. Here the students go through instructional videos before attending the class and then use the in-class time to discuss what they learned, clarify questions and engage in collaborative activities that promote higher order thinking.

 

In the traditional approach, the role of a teacher is like a sage on a stage. The teacher spends most of the classroom time lecturing and the students spend most of the time listening and taking notes. The understanding of the students is tested by making them do individual home assignments.

 

These traditional teacher-centered methods have been used by educators all around the world for hundreds of years. However, the approach has several disadvantages. Firstly, the one-size-fits-all approach does not take into account the fact that different students learn in different ways and at different pace. Secondly, students end up spending more time listening, leaving little time for interaction and discussion of the concepts and their application. All this more often than not means that students learn by rote without really understanding the concepts.

 

According to the Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive levels, the skills in the cognitive domain can be classified into six levels: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

 

bloom-taxonomy

In the traditional approach, the focus of classroom teaching is on the lower cognitive levels such as remembering, understanding and, to some extent, application. As these cognitive levels involve very little student participation, the learning tends to be passive. The higher cognitive levels such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation, which lead to active learning and develop higher order thinking, are often neglected.

On the contrary, in the flipped classroom model, the role of an educator is not that of a dispenser of facts (sage on the stage) but that of a designer of learning environments. The flipped classroom model, also known as the inverted classroom model, inverts the traditional model. In this model, the students go through study materials, which may be in the form of pre-recorded lectures or interactive videos, outside the classroom. The in-class time is used to carry out activities which help students target higher cognitive levels such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation. The class time is utilized for discussing queries of individual learners, peer learning, activities that promote critical thinking and hands-on practice. Even though there is no set approach to apply this model, its basic essence lies in the fact that the students go through instructional material outside the classroom and the in-class time is used for activities that promote active learning and critical thinking skills.

Flipping a classroom not only helps students achieve better learning outcomes but also provides teachers an opportunity to improve the quality of their inputs.

traditional-approach
    • Self-paced learning: Each student learns at his or her own pace. A traditional classroom in which the educator uses a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching cannot effectively cater to students who learn differently. However, in a flipped classroom, the availability of online videos and instructional material enables a learner to pace the learning process according to his or her learning needs. Learners have the flexibility to learn any time during the day. They can choose to pause, rewind or replay an instructional video—which they cannot do when they are in a conventional classroom. This helps students understand concepts, compile queries and take notes at their own pace. On the other hand, such a model also provides quick learners with an option to accelerate their learning process.
    • Multiple Ways of Learning: Since the instruction is not restricted to classroom teaching, the teacher has an option of sharing with students different types of content. A teacher may share interactive animations, simulations, informative websites and any other content which can help students understand the concepts better.
    • Effective Feedback: As the students go through the instructional material and compile their queries in advance, the in-class time is used by the educator to give effective feedback. The teacher can use the extra time available to have individual interactions with students and provide extra inputs to students who find it difficult to understand the concepts.
    • Student-Centered Learning: The in-class time can be used by teachers to promote active and deeper learning. The teachers use different approaches such as problem solving, collaborative learning, peer instruction and carry out activities that focus on higher cognitive levels and promote critical thinking.
    • Effective “Homework”: As opposed to the traditional approach, in the flipped classroom model, the students solve exercises in the classroom in the presence of the teacher. This helps teachers provide timely feedback and assistance to students individually. This improves the problem solving ability of students, thereby increasing their confidence levels.

 

As with any other model, the flipped classroom model also has some disadvantages.

 

  • Technological Barriers: In this model, the students are expected to view online lectures which in turn require them to have access to computers and the internet. The fact that large sections of student population do not have access to such resources is a big challenge in implementing this model.
  • Lack of Student Motivation: Student participation is critical to the success of the flipped classroom model. Unless the students go through the instructional material and video lectures in advance, the in-class time cannot be used by the teacher to provide effective feedback and carry out activities that promote higher order thinking skills.
  • Ineffective Design of Learning Environment: The flipped classroom model requires the educator to identify the different components of the learning environment so that students benefit from the model. The model would fail to achieve its objectives if the online lectures are not effective and the in-class activities are not well designed and planned.
  • The core to the success of any approach to teaching is that the methods should be learner centered and not teacher centered. The flipped classroom model despite some of its disadvantages provides a great opportunity to the educators to make learning learner centered and thereby improve the learning outcomes. Nevertheless the role of educators will become much more important as they would no longer be information dispensers but designers of learning environments. Even though there is little scientific research base to indicate the success of the flipped classroom model, the fact that the model encourages learner-centered methods is a good enough reason for educators to try it out.
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