To Flip or Not to Flip

ISTE is having a point-counterpoint discussion over at the ISTE NING and here is my submission.  I would encourage you all to go over there and join in the conversation. 

When Aaron Sams and I started flipping our classes six years ago, we started because we want to answer one important question:  What is the best use of our face-to-face class time?  As science teachers we know that instead of standing in front of students and lecturing to them, it was a better use of our time to be in amongst our students helping them with difficult concepts and problems.  We also knew that problem based learning and inquiry needed to be better incorporated into our classrooms.  Thus, we flipped both Chemistry and AP Chemistry classes and we have not lectured in our classes in six years.  

Some might argue that we simply have taken a bad mode of instruction, lecture, and put in on video and that we are simply perpetuating a bad that teaching method.  And to some degree, I agree with these folks.  But the amazing thing about flipping is that it enabled us to move from a lecture based classroom to a learner-centered, problem-based, inquiry-driven hub of learning.   In fact today, our videos are optional.  We give students choices in how they want to learn.  Most of our students watch our videos, but others are learning from their textbooks, or from online simulations.  We have essentially given over the responsibility of learning to our students.   

Some reasons you should consider flipping are the fact that your students will take more responsibility for their own learning.  They will be more engaged and active in your classroom, they will learn how to work collaboratively.  They will see you more as a mentor and a coach instead of a disseminator of knowledge.  I know for myself, I could never go back to the old stand and deliver method of teaching.  I will forever be a flipped teacher.

So should all teachers flip?  I think most teachers should consider the idea of flipping at least some of their classes.  Aaron and I flipped everything.  No more lectures.  But I am finding that this all-in approach doesn’t work in all grade levels.  In my new role as a technology facilitator, I am working in a K-8 school and I am finding that flipping makes more sense, especially at younger grades, as a teaching strategy.

What should you flip?  Are all subjects flippable?  Probably not.  It seems to work best with subjects that tend to be more linear.  Subjects like Math, Science, and Foreign Language.  That said and we have seen PE teachers flip, English teachers flip, and at every level from elementary to college.    

So should you flip?  Yes!  But… first, you must ask yourself one important question:  What is the best use of your face-to-face time with your students.  When you answer this, you will quickly realize that either the all-in flip or simply flipping a few lessons just makes sense. 

11 Responses

  1. Adam Cross

    Is it common for students to have skipped watching the videos or simulations?  What do you do then?  

    Do you use frequent diagnostic and formative assessments to shape in-class activities?  Do you have examples?

    Have you experienced any push back from students or parents without internet access at home?  How did you handle it?

    1. There are still students who don’t do the homework. I think one of the keys is not to “rescue” them by then doing your standard “lecture.” That will teach those who watched the video to not watch the video and will defeat the purpose. So those students then watch the video in class while the others are working with you. That, at least, has been my solution.

      Formative assessment is one of the great advantages of the flipped class. I talk to every kid in every class every day. And while I am walking around interacting with students, I am doing formative assessments. Flipping is perfect for formative assessments.

      For those without access, we burn the videos onto a DVD and students watch them on their TV. All of them at one point have watched a blockbuster movie. We give these DVD’s out (with about 5-8 videos per DVD).

      1. Christine Tan

        I'm new to this mode of teaching/learning but think it can be effective IF the majority of students in the class are motivated to learn and take responsibility for their learning. I'm not a teacher, but I've conducted classroom observations and there were some classes where 90 – 95% of students weren't even paying attention during instruction. They were busy chatting among themselves even when the teacher was trying to redirect the inappropriate behavior. Would you recommend flipping such a class when students are obviously disinterested in being in school?  
        Do those who are made to watch the videos in class significantly lag behind those who did, considering they don't get to work with the teacher then? 

  2. Jeni Harden

    I am new to this mode of teaching but wondered whether it would apply to large class teaching (200 students)  in a higher education setting. I am responsible for teaching a sociology course to first year medical students and we have problems engaging the studnets in the issues in a lecture environment but cannot move entirely over to small group work in tutorials because of resources and timetabling.

  3. Adam Cross

    Thank you for the followup.  I am excited about this as it seems to be a far better use of class time.  This model should also allow students to, somewhat, proceed at the their own pace.  They should be able to spend a little more time on concepts they struggle with and then move quickly through the components they grasp easily.  However, to incorporate labs, groups, certain demonstrations and other in person or hands on learning activities I assume that the class must be kept close to the same level or position within the unit.  How do you deal with the students who are routinely skipping the videos/simulations and falling behind?  Do you have more frequent summative assessments to keep students more or less on the same page?

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