Technology is changing a lot of things these days—how we communicate, how we conduct business, and how we learn about the world around us. Students take notes on laptops and tablets, read textbooks on e-readers, and even take tests online.
But learning isn’t the only part of education that’s changing. Teachers now have access to more and better instructional resources from across the Internet, and technology continues to transform how we deliver information to students.
One new approach that is currently gaining popularity as more proof comes in that it is an effective way to increase student engagement and teacher productivity is the Flipped classroom. Flipped classrooms are becoming an alternative to the traditional learning environment for students and teachers alike.
So, what are flipped classrooms? And what do flipped classrooms mean for today’s teachers?
Flipped vs. Traditional Classrooms
A flipped classroom takes the learning structure of a traditional class and, well…. flips it.
Traditional classrooms generally look something like this: students arrive in the classroom, listen to lectures, take notes, and ask questions. Teachers are front-and-center playing a role that is often described as the “sage on the stage.” Homework is done after class, as are most other assignments and projects. Feedback comes after homework is turned in and graded, and then issues with applying the material can be addressed.
A flipped classroom looks completely different. In a flipped classroom, students often watch lecture videos outside of the classroom, actively taking notes, jotting down questions, and re-watching those sections of the content they want to be sure they understand. Afterwards, they complete assignments and activities in the classroom, facilitated and supervised by their teachers who model what to do and provide expert feedback. Many teachers also supplement at-home video lectures with in-class discussions to clear up any confusion around the topic. Flipped classrooms build on the concept of an active learning environment—students get hands-on experience with teachers’ guidance and build their baseline knowledge of the subject through media-based learning at home. The key is for students to take the initiative to learn the basics of the instructional material before they come into class, and then apply the material with teacher supervision. If students have trouble applying the material, teachers are there to address the issue immediately and guide them through the process.
From “Sage On the Stage” to “Guide On the Side”
With this new learning structure comes a new role for teachers. Teachers must adapt to giving fewer lectures and becoming experts in using technology, finding great content, and structuring their lessons in ways that encourage students to become more active in their own learning process.
However, the core role of teachers doesn’t change.
In traditional classrooms, teachers are considered experts. They command the stage. They are there to teach, and students are there to listen and learn.
In flipped classrooms, teachers are still the experts. It’s only the application of their expertise that has changed.
By conducting group activities and hands-on exercises instead of lectures in the classroom, teachers facilitate active and social learning through the use of media based content and problem-based, collaborative learning. The result is that teachers talk with their students instead of at them. They give up their stage and join the audience. They become experts in applying knowledge and finding great supporting content and activities from across the web in addition to being experts on the material itself. When spending class time overseeing projects and assignments, teachers can provide instant feedback during activities and be sure students truly grasp the material from previous lectures before moving to new concepts.
In addition to a hands-on teaching role, teachers also have a new role in the lecture process. While it is passive in the sense that teachers will not physically be in front of students, the new approach to pulling together instructional resources and presenting them in the most effective and appropriate manner still results in a very active role for the teacher. Video lectures must be incredibly thorough, as teachers will not be in front of students to stop and explain concepts, which is why educators must find and develop media to support their lectures – this process is also known as “content curation”. Teachers must also provide supporting activities that allow students to interact with the media content such as online quizzes, games, and links to social learning forums.
Yes, some flipped classrooms include the opportunity for students to message peers or the teacher during lectures. Others give quizzes at the end of lectures to provide immediate feedback on how well students grasped the material. These new teaching mediums implement innovative technologies and have the flexibility to make lectures more than just the traditional hour-long speech.
It requires a good deal of advanced preparation from teachers, but also a large amount of flexibility and creativity in creating lectures. The best thing for teachers is that once they are produced, these instructional materials can be used across multiple class sections and from year to year. Every teacher now has the opportunity to build re-usable and shareable instructional resources that save them time in the future and heighten their students’ engagement
Flipped classrooms aren’t just an adjustment for students, but for teachers, too. However, recent research is indicating promising results for this approach to teaching and learning. Students are showing increased learning gains, and heightened motivation, as they engage in active learning through the use of both in-class activities and exercises done in flipped learning environments.
In this environment, teachers have the ability to guide students through the entire learning process—from learning the material to applying it. Better yet, students are able to take an active role in their education.
But one thing remains the same, whether your classroom is flipped or not – expert teachers are an absolutely critical part of the process, as is ensuring these teachers have the training and support they need to help students excel.
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