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Classroom Q&A

With Larry Ferlazzo

In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to lferlazzo@epe.org. Read more from this blog.

Teaching Opinion

Response: To Flip, Or Not To Flip, A Classroom - That Is The Question

By Larry Ferlazzo — December 29, 2013 7 min read
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(This is the first post in a two-part series on this topic)

Attilio Galimberti asked:

What are best practices to make a flipped classroom model work?

I have to say that I have absolutely no experience with a flipped classroom (the term commonly used to describe the practice of having students view instructional videos as homework and therefore creating more time in class for personalized instruction), so I called on several educators who did to respond to Attilio’s question. But, not having experience doesn’t preclude me from having an opinion :) or from creating a balanced list of resources at The Best Posts On The Flipped Classroom Idea.

I’ve had some concerns about how a flipped classroom has sometimes been implemented around the country -- and the world. So, in addition to having guest responses from enthusiastic proponents like Peter Pappas and Andrew Miller, Josh Stumpenhorst shares reservations similar to mine in his response.

Part Two in this series will include equally positive responses from educators Jonathan Bergmann and Troy Cockrum. In addition, it should also include the first weekly ten minute BAM! Radio Network podcast I’ll be doing with guests who contribute answers here. I interviewed Jonathan and Troy for this inaugural episode and, I have to say, they did a good job of alleviating a number -- though not all -- of my concerns. Part Two will also include comments from readers, so there is still time to get them in!

Response From Peter Pappas

Peter Pappas is a teacher, writer and national consultant exploring the intersection of critical thinking, teaching and new technologies. His popular blog, Copy / Paste is dedicated to relinquishing responsibility for learning to the students. It’s filled with loads of lesson ideas - many for the history classroom. Follow Peter on Twitter @edteck:

The flipped classroom is not a new instructional method, a replacement for teachers or a video substitute for homework. Flipping’s not a YouTube fad - it’s an instructional approach that frees up class time for student collaboration, inquiry, and reflection. The information landscape of the traditional classroom featured a one-way flow of information. The teacher took the role of information gatekeeper, deciding what’s important to know and be able to do. The students were passive content consumers - taking in instructional content during class time and then (maybe) assimilating the learning outside of classroom via homework.

The digital revolution has made it very easy to share Information. Why we would use up valuable class time “telling” students things? Flipping the classroom shifts the transfer of information to the homework. That means class time can focus on critical thinking and more deeply exploring course content and skills.

Teachers who flip their classes now find time for classroom discussion, debates, Socratic seminars, PBL and student presentations. At home, students can skim quickly over material they already know or take more time to review content as needed. Multiple videos can make it easier to differentiate the transfer of content.

To get started flipping the classroom a teacher has to ask four design questions:

What “lower-order” content of the unit am I currently delivering via lecture?

Could parts of lecture can be shifted to homework via video or other web content?

What student-centered classroom activities would I now have time for?

What web resources exist (or could we create) to support those activities?

There’s no need for teachers to suddenly become a video producers - loads of video content is already online at collections like Teacher Tube, Khan Academy, EDU YouTube, and Apple iTunes U. Students can take active role in helping to find and curate online video material to support the lesson. TEDEd provides free teacher tools for teaching with flipped videos - adding questions, viewing guides, even tracking student viewing and responses.

Flipping is a powerful catalyst for transforming the teacher from content transmitter to instructional designer and changing students from passive consumers of information into active learners taking a more collaborative and self-directed role in their learning.

(You can view Peter’s SlideShare presentation The Flipped Classroom: Getting Started)

Response From Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller is educational consultant, ASCD Faculty member, National Faculty member at the Buck Institute for Education, and regular ASCD and Edutopia blogger:

Although we could talk about important pieces like length of video, and technology related questions, I think the two most important things to focus on are engagement and formative assessment.

Many educators wonder and worry that students won’t watch the videos, or won’t “get” the content of the video. The only way to ensure this is to to first contextualize the flip in some sort of engaging scenario, problem, or challenge. Project Based Learning, for example, makes sense here. PBL creates a “need to know” the content, which in turn can can foster the need to engage in the content that is flipped. Game Based Learning also makes sense. Because games create a situated learning experience, the game requires you to learn and use the content. This content could be flipped or differentiated through the classroom. Again, with engagement comes the need to learn and engage in flipped content.

The second piece is formative assessment. Great teachers use formative assessment often to not only ensure students understand the content, but also to reflect their practice. It only makes sense that that teachers formatively assess students after they engage flipped content. This can not only allow for differentiation, but also reflection on the teaching and learning experience. Engaging models of learning paired with formative assessment can ensure that the flipped classroom is a more effective model of instruction.

See a summary of this and other tips on my Edutopia Blog.

Response From Josh Stumpenhorst

Josh Stumpenhorst is a 6th grade Language Arts and Social Science teacher in suburban Chicago, IL. He is the 2012 Illinois Teacher of the year, 2012 Illinois Computing Educator of the Year and an ISTE Emerging Leader in 2011. He blogs at www.stumptheteacher.blogspot.com and tweets as @stumpteacher:

The notion of the Flipped Classroom or the Flipped Model is something I have written about before and many people view me as a “Flipped Enemy”. I consider Jon Bergmann a great educator and some of the conversations that have arisen from his work have been tremendous. As with any new movement or strategy, there will be early adopters as well as skeptics. It is often in that space in between that the best learning can be found.

To be perfectly clear, I am a fan of individualized learning and helping each child reach their potential on personal level. I am a fan of changing things up and providing students options in terms of receiving content as well as a diversity in instructional methods. Jon speaks about the Mastery Model of learning and I see great value in that method and I too teach using similar concepts.

My concern boils down to two simple ideas within the traditional Flipped Classroom model or what Jon calls Flipped 101. The first is the use of homework and the second is the reliance on lecture for every student. While it may not be fair to criticize an entire “movement” over these, a vast majority of teachers are outsourcing lectures to the home and therefore extending the school day for students. In addition, all students are being forced to watch these often poorly made lectures at home with little or no support. So in actuality, I am not against the Flipped Classroom model as much as I am about those particular elements and individuals that operate in that manner.

If we restructured the school day as well as lightened curricular loads to provide teachers adequate time with concepts at a deep level, would models of teaching like this be needed? The flipped classroom continues to gain pop culture status and as a result has gained numerous bandwagon jumpers and silver bullet seekers who need to critically evaluate what they believe about teaching, learning and the spaces in which those two things happen.

Thanks to Peter, Andrew and Josh for their contributions!

Please feel free to leave a comment sharing your reactions to the topic or directly to anything that has been said in this post.

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at lferlazzo@epe.org.When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind. You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

Anyone whose question is selected for this weekly column can choose one free book from a number of education publishers. I’ll be highlighting one particular publisher every two months, and will be starting the new year with ASCD.

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You can also see annual lists of my most popular posts.

Education Week has published a collection of posts from this blog -- along with new material -- in an ebook form. It’s titled Classroom Management Q&As: Expert Strategies for Teaching.

Look for Part Two in a few days...

The opinions expressed in Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.