Flipping catches on

Flipping instruction — typically, students watch a video at home and work through problems at school — is going mainstream, writes Education Sector’s Bill Tucker in Education Next.

Colorado chemistry teacher Jonathan Bergmann says “he can more easily query individual students, probe for misconceptions around scientific concepts, and clear up incorrect notions.” He has time to work individually with students.

Bergmann notes that he now spends more time with struggling students, who no longer give up on homework, but work through challenging problems in class. Advanced students have more freedom to learn independently.

In Washington, D.C., Andrea Smith, a 6th-grade math teacher at E. L. Haynes, a high-performing public charter school, says flipping is educational for teachers.

. . . crafting a great four- to six-minute video lesson poses a tremendous instructional challenge: how to explain a concept in a clear, concise, bite-sized chunk. Creating her own videos forces her to pay attention to the details and nuances of instruction—the pace, the examples used, the visual representation, and the development of aligned assessment practices. In a video lesson on dividing fractions, for example, Smith is careful not to just teach the procedure—multiply by the inverse—but also to represent the important underlying conceptual ideas.

USA Today also looks at flipped teaching. Stacey Rosen, an AP calculus teacher at a Maryland private school,  “digitally records her lessons with a tablet computer as a virtual blackboard, then uploads them to iTunes and assigns them as homework.” She uses class time to help students work out exercises based on the recorded lessons.

Before flipping, she couldn’t cover all the material before the AP exam. Now, she finishes a month early and uses the extra time for review, boosting the number of students who score a perfect 5.

Students watch lessons at home, sometimes two or three times, and replay confusing sections. If they’re still confused, they query a friend. If that doesn’t work, they ask Roshan the following day.

On a recent morning, she told the class a student was confused about the intermediate value theorem.

 ”It’s a really complicated name for something really simple. You guys want to go over it right now?” No one protested, so she launched into the lesson: She talked, she drew, she took students’ questions. She drew some more. Start to finish, the lesson lasted three minutes and 25 seconds. Back to homework.

Critics say flipping won’t work for low-income students who don’t have computers or reliable Internet connections at home. Of course, it also requires students to watch the videos at home.

In addition, it encourages lecturing, which many think is an ineffective way to teach. “It’s just kind of Lecture 1.0,” says Frank Noschese, a physics teacher at John Jay High School in Cross River, N.Y.

Roshan disagrees.

“In an English class, you send the kids home to read a passage, and then in class you discuss that passage,” she says. “Why in math class am I more or less having them read the passage in class?”

So far, most flippers seem to be teaching math and science classes.  I think it’s too soon to predict that it will go mainstream, but momentum is building.

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