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What you need to know about flipped classrooms

Today's classrooms require a much more fluid learning model that builds an experience around the students and teachers

Posted by Joe Lawson-West | April 27, 2017 | Secondary

By Elliot Gowans VP of EMEA at www.d2l.com

The classroom we all think of, for the most part, was likely the same classroom Socrates taught in thousands of years ago. Though we’ve seen some changes since this time, Socrates would have taught in the open air on the stones of the Agora while we sat at desks in school rooms, fundamentally, the art of teaching and learning hasn’t changed much in the last few millennia.

The traditional way of learning has often involved one teacher instructing a group of around 20 to 30 students with the same materials at the same pace. Students have been delivered content by their teachers in the classroom and given instructions to work on these materials as homework. However, a shift can be seen in the way younger generations are being taught. Through the use of technology, classrooms can now be “flipped”, reversing the learning environment by delivering content that teachers would have previously shared in the classroom online and bringing activities often associated with homework into the classroom.

Indeed, modern-day learning increasingly involves students watching lectures on their phone, tablet or laptop when they’re at home, moving the traditional “classroom” into out-of-hours. The work that used to be done at home can now be done during the day. The flipped classroom means that students are given materials before class, and then told to analyse and engage with the content during class hours. This encourages greater collaboration amongst students and gives teachers more time to answer students’ questions and help with the learning process. 

Modern-day learning increasingly involves students watching lectures on their phone, tablet or laptop when they’re at home, moving the traditional “classroom” into out-of-hours

The flipped classroom isn’t a new concept. Chemistry teachers Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams pioneered the model in 2007, and it was later championed by Sal Khan, who founded Khan Academy based on this format and spoke about it at a TED Talk in 2011. Since then, the concept has gathered more mainstream attention and, today, a growing number of higher-ed faculty are using flipped learning.

What’s useful is that, because the flipped classroom has been around for a while, we’ve seen many times how this should and should not be implemented. For example, flipped classrooms need to be about more than just video lectures. Educators need to keep the focus on making classroom time meaningful. The model also fails when educators forget to apply varied teaching strategies. Furthermore, it’s important to start small as opposed to implementing a flipped classroom on a large scale. Students need to understand the model and see how it can add value to them and their education; teachers need to ensure students are able to transfer their knowledge to new situations; and parents need to take the time to learn about how the concept works and what they can do to best help their child. It’s also worth noting that the flipped model is not an “all or nothing” proposition — it can be used as part of the “mix” of educational tools.

When implemented properly, the flipped classroom can have incredible benefits. It creates stronger relationships and better interactions between teachers and students, which can help students feel less pressure and subsequently achieve higher test scores. Weaker students, in particular, benefit from flipping the classroom as they have more opportunities to engage with teachers and other students, discuss ideas and work through any problem areas. For teachers, a flipped classroom enables them to personalise lessons, assessments and reporting so that students fully understand and can work with the material.

The concept of a flipped classroom is becoming more widely spoken about in the education industry for many reasons. Today’s classrooms require a much more fluid learning model that builds an experience around the students and teachers, allowing them to nurture relationships and improve engagement levels both in and out of the classroom. With the use of technology, this is now able to happen.

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