Through my journey of exploring the flipped classroom, I investigated what promising practices are currently documented in scholarly literature. To help inform my practice, I wrote a critique on these published practices and, by incorporating my personal teaching experiences, created a list of promising practices. As this information cannot be disseminated if it is just sitting in a file on my computer, I thought it best to share here. Below, you will find definitions of “the flipped classroom” and “promising practices”, the promising practices identified in scholarly literature, my critique of these practices, and my recommendations for secondary educators.
Definition of the Flipped Classroom
The flipped, or inverted, classroom is a pedagogical concept that replaces the in-class lecture with opportunities to explore and review materials outside of the classroom through video clips, readings, or screen casts (Prober & Heath, 2012; Toto & Nguyen, 2009; Young, Hughes, Inzko, Oberdick & Smail, 2011; Zappe, Leicht, Messner, Litzinger & Lee, 2009). Face-to-face instructional time is transformed into an inquiry-lead student-centered learning environment where students are encouraged to actively engage in activities such as knowledge building, collaborative discussion, and problem solving (Foertsch, Moses, Strikwerda & Litzkow, 2002; Toto & Nguyen, 2009).
Definition of Promising Practices
Due to the recent emergence of flipped classroom literature, strategies identified as effective in supporting this pedagogical approach are best described as promising practices. A practice qualifies as promising when it successfully addresses a common problem in one context and has the potential for replication (The National Resource Center, 2010). The practice makes an effort to demonstrate how to achieve optimal performance (Robinson, 2008), and has the potential for becoming a best practice with a long-term, sustainable impact (The National Resource Center, n.d.).
Promising Practices in the Flipped Classroom – From Literature
Scholarly literature identifies implementation strategies that support flipped classroom pedagogy. Specifically, research highlights three emerging promising practices for executing flipped classroom instruction. These practices emphasize the importance of the composition of appropriate resources, assurance of access to resources for the learner, and replacing instructional time with relevant, student-centered learning activities.
Composing Flipped Instructional Media
Early research identifies the composition and creation of high-quality flip instructional medias as vital to the success of the classroom flip. Findings report that students are easily distracted from learning when watching or listening to video lectures (Toto & Nguyen, 2009; Zappe et al, 2009). Consequently, several criterion of video composition must be adhered to. Distractions, such as background noise, must be limited (Foertsch et al., 2002). Lecture quality must be high, specifically the volume, size of video window, and platform compatibility (Gannod et al., 2008). Also, incorporating various methods of multi-media will maintain student interest and engagement (Gannod, 2007). Alternative formats include podcasts and screen cast video blogs (Bergman & Sams, 2008; Gannod et al., 2008).Last, the length of the flipped lesson is key. Lectures less than thirty minutes in length effectively maintain the learner’s attention (Zappe et al., 20009; Toto & Nguyen, 2009). Creating high quality medias will assist in establishing an effective flipped classroom framework.
Addressing the Digital Divide
Once created, flip materials must be accessible to learners. Flip lectures can be uploaded into learning management systems (LMS). Many educational institutions provide students free access to a LMS, such as Blackboard Academic Suite or Desire to Learn. If this is not the case, free online alternatives, such as Moodle, exist (Ullman, 2013). For students without home internet access, resources can be burnt to DVD’s or uploaded onto USB sticks (Fulton, 2012; Kachka, 2012; Ullman, 2013). For learners without computer access, allowing class time to watch videos when assignments are completed or providing access to computers outside of class will help limit technological barriers (Ullman, 2013). Planning and preparing solutions to address the digital divide will assist in a smooth transition for learners participating in the classroom flip.
Replacing Instructional Time
Success of flipped classroom instruction lies in what replaces classroom time used previously for lectures. When executing a flip, a short review of video materials to ensure student understanding of the material is beneficial, but do not re-teach lecture content (Foertsch et al., 2002; Zappe et al., 2009). Rather, extend the review by including short exemplars that will assist with the in-class lesson (Zappe et al., 2009). Instruction should emphasize lessons that promote rich discussions to engage students, check for understanding, and encourage higher-order questioning (Bergman & Sams, 2008; Schullery, Reck & Schullery, 2011). This allows for immediate feedback and enables the teacher to invest time with learners requiring additional support.Teachers should incorporate activities that are hands-on and actively engage learners in problem solving, such as labs and response clicker systems (Moravec, Williams, Aguilar-Roca & O’Dowd, 2010). To achieve this, explore concepts in-depth through inquiry-based group work, class presentations, and the use of electronic media. Integrate interactive demonstrations and technologies. Collaborative learning results, which increases skill development (Lage et al., 2000; Schullery, Reck & Schullery, 2011; Toto & Nguyen, 2009), demonstrating the effectiveness of flipped classroom instruction.
Critique of Emerging Promising Practices in Literature
Implementation strategies identified in scholarly literature supporting flipped classroom instruction are promising, presenting both strengths and limitations for secondary educators. Research provides suggestions on successfully creating flipped instructional videos that are high quality and engaging for learners. The essential function of the flipped lecture is to transfer required curricula to learners. Strategies, such as including various multi-media elements, and ensuring adequate volume and short video length, to maximize student engagement are promising in replicating and yielding positive results (Gannod et al., 2008; Toto & Nguyen, 2009). However, while research provides numerous strategies related to the lecture itself, it is imperative that the student is learning, and not copying content from a peer. Future research focusing on what formative measures, such as entrance tickets or note-taking sheets, are successful in demonstrating information transference is beneficial.
Insufficient identification of effective formative resources proving transference of flipped lecture content are compounded by the deficiencies in the potential impact of the digital divide in secondary learning environments. While suggestions, such as the use of DVD’s, USB’s and free open source sites, are provided, these rely on computer access or a mobile device. Learners without access to these technologies have little consideration in current research. This challenge can be limited if access to technologies are provided by the school. However, the needs and restrictions of children must be considered. For example, students who require transportation or are involved in extra-curricular activities will have limited access to school resources. Further, locations, such as a learning commons or computer lab, require teacher supervision. This may be an unrealistic additional expectation with the myriad of professional obligations a teacher balances daily.
In addition to limitations on research to effectively address the digital divide in secondary education, suggestions of what to replace class time with presents challenges. For example, while additional time can result higher student engagement through group situations (An & Reigeluth, 2012), these activities are difficult to ensure equal participation of group members. Alternatively, class time can be used for active learning activities that increase student engagement (Heide & Henderson, 2001; Sesen & Tarhan, 2011). However, planning this instruction is challenging as flipped instruction and active learning lessons result in additional work and a greater commitment by teachers (Gannod et al., 2008). While the amount of time required to implement the flipped approach does decrease over time, active learning lessons require more time and resources when compared to traditional worksheets (Gannod et al., 2008). Consequently, educators should be prepared to initially invest additional time and plan for the above noted challenges prior to implementing flipped classroom instruction.
Recommendations for Secondary School Educators
Upon analysis of emerging promising practices in scholarly literature, it is clear that successful implementation of the flipped classroom approach in secondary education requires critical thought and reflection by the instructor. To replicate promising flipped classroom practices in K-12 education, suggestions for implementation will be presented.
Do not Flip Alone
Prior to planning flipped classroom instruction in the K-12 environment, consider working in a collaborative team. The secondary environment enables this as, with a prescribed program of studies, there are others teaching similar content. While this may be difficult in rural areas, technologies, such as Skype or email, can make this easier. Flipping a classroom requires a significant amount of front-end work on the instructor (Gannod et al., 2008). To minimize this impact, work together with subject-matter experts and technology specialists. This decreases workload, as subject-matter experts can help design content while technology specialists can assist in creating the infrastructure required. In addition, communicate intentions with school administration, explain the pedagogy, outlining the benefits and challenges associated with flipped classroom instruction. This will assist with obtaining administrative support while fostering a collaborative work environment.
Get Students and Parents on Board
Once implementation has been planned and the appropriate school supports have been accessed, inform both students and parents of this shift in educational practice. These stakeholders are integral in K-12 education. To successfully execute the classroom flip, the underlying pedagogy and instructional approaches must be understood by the audience. Explain what a flipped lesson is and why this approach is beneficial. Emphasize that flipping the classroom is not a replacement of the teacher, but a strategy that allows for more classroom-based, interactive, student-centered learning to occur. Parents and students can be informed through email, a letter typed on school letterhead, a parent meeting, or flip explanation video. Informing both parents and students can assist in creating a smooth transition to creating a flipped classroom.
Make Flip Resources Short, Engaging, and Interactive
Communication between all stakeholders in K-12 education prepares an environment for implementing the classroom flip. When creating flip resources, keep the length short, ensuring the video is engaging and interactive. As stated previously, flip videos should be no longer than thirty minutes (Toto & Nguyen, 2009). However, thirty minutes of homework is significant for secondary learners. If possible, break instruction up into smaller chunks, highlighting only key information. Make this short lecture engaging for a teenager. Use voice inflections, and add interesting visuals or sounds to keep the viewer’s attention. If possible, add an element that requires student input. Direct the learner to an interactive webpage or require the completion of a small worksheet, such as an entrance ticket, to hold them accountable for completing the task.
Vary the Delivery Format of Flip Resources
When creating flip lectures, be cognizant that not all students learn best through videos (Toto & Nguyen, 2009). To accommodate multiple learning styles, vary the media format. Alternatives include assigning a short reading or creating an audio podcast accessible through iTunes. Promote collaboration and interaction by posting notes online for review and requiring students to respond in an online discussion, such as a blog, Wikispace, or LMS system. Supplementary resources, such as web links, videos, and audio recordings, can be integrated. These are simple to create and easily accessible.
Make Flip Resources Available in More Than one Location
Once stakeholders have been communicated with and flip resources have been created, access to resources must be ensured. Access to technology with secondary learners can vary significantly. Storing flip resources in multiple locations will assist in limiting the impact of the digital divide, while also making materials readily available, which will be beneficial to the secondary learner. Resources can be stored on an LMS system, YouTube channel, or internal school server. Prepare DVD’s and USB sticks for students to borrow. Combined, these strategies support both mobile devices and computers, with or without Internet access. The easier resources can be accessed, the more successful students will be in completing tasks.
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