I’ve been doing some reading about the flipped classroom lately and I must say, I’m intrigued. The idea behind the flipped classroom is to make better use of student time, and better use of teachers as facilitators of educational experiences, rather than as lecturers. Instead of taking up precious class time with a lecture, students view the lecture as homework and use class time to work on labs, solve math problems, create a reader’s theater or other collaborative project. This would have really changed my experience with math. I always understood the lectures and demonstrations as the teacher was doing them, but when I would get home and try to complete the homework independently, I wouldn’t remember the steps. In the flipped classroom, students work on what would previously have been homework in class, so the teacher is there to immediately answer questions and offer support. In general, I like the idea of the flipped classroom. I do have some concerns, however.
For one thing, good lectures and direct instruction doesn’t consist of a robotic teacher reading from a prescribed script. Dynamic direct instruction involves a teacher who is reacting to student’s interests and needs. An effective teacher senses when students are lost and will immediately react by clarifying information, explaining in a new way, or providing examples. I don’t think we can replace all lectures or direct instruction with videos.
Another concern I have with the flipped classroom is that students don’t have time to watch 3 or 4 lectures per night. This is why I was happy to read some new ideas about best practices for the flipped classroom on http://www.edutopia.org. This blog gave me ideas about ways to use the idea of the flipped classroom more effectively, to get the most out of all methods of teaching.
I liked the idea mentioned in the blog about using the flipped classroom to differentiate instruction. For example, if you have students with different math needs, these students could watch different math videos and have different work in class without the teacher having to spend time teaching four or five different lessons to small groups. Instead, each student would watch his video and all the students would be working on different problem sets in class as the teacher rotated around the room helping anyone who was stuck. In this way, differentiation can become much more manageable.
Another suggestion that I thought made the flipped classroom more palatable to parents and teachers, is to have the students watch the video during class time, while the teacher works with small groups. If a video is fifteen minutes long, there could be three rotations of activities with one being to watch the video. In this way, the teacher can be present and available for the students who are working on projects or other assignments, instead of being tied up with direct instruction.
Rather than my initial visualization of the flipped classroom being a complete flip of lecture and working on assignments, I’m glad that there are ways to flip some instruction to free up the teacher to work with small groups or support the class as they complete math problems. I know I’ll be using more videos to support instruction in my classroom to free me up to give more students the individual attention they need.