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Shifting to Student Centered Learning with a Flipped Classroom Approach

By Katie Reynolds

“There is no pedagogy, technology or technique that is a silver bullet or the independent variable for good teaching. . . No technology can make the honor of being a teacher an easier thing. Techniques, pedagogies, etc. can make what we do more efficient, but only if we first, through hours and hours of sweat, empathy and failure, work towards a system that transcends technology.” - Ramsey Musallam 

In my first couple of years teaching Chemistry, I continually struggled to fit enough time for homework review and concept application into my class time. I often felt that I was cutting the time short of practicing the actual application of content to fit in the presentation of new topics. In my lectures, I was careful to make instruction interactive. I would include practice problems, done individually at desks or by students on the board. Still, there was not enough time for students to work through assignments with enough guided practice to feel comfortable and successful on their homework individually. The Flipped Classroom, or as I prefer to call it a "shifted classroom" method, was the perfect solution for my situation. Refining the process took some training on both my part and the students' part to succeed. Why do I call this the shifted approach? Because it shifts the focus from teacher-centered learning to student-centered learning. Other commonly used terms for this method of instruction are inverted learning and peer-learning.

What is a flipped course?

A flipped course "flips" the traditional approach of lecture during class time and homework at home. Instead, students watch interactive videos or work through carefully designed instruction at night to receive the initial introduction to the topic. They then report to class prepared to engage in problem-solving activities or in-depth discussion of the subject. Many might say that you move the lower-order thinking skills of Bloom's Taxonomy, remembering and understanding, out of the classroom and into the homework since this is the level students are most comfortable with on their own. The higher-order thinking of application, analysis, evaluation, and creation is moved to the classroom, where it can occur with guided practice by the instructor or in collaboration with peers.

For math, science, and technical courses, the flipped approach is most beneficial where problem-solving is critical. Students receive guided practice and instructor feedback on the most critical aspects of the course. For humanities-based classes, this approach frees up time to have a productive discussion, group work, or writing workshops which can be challenging to fit into the schedule.

Essentially, students have access to you as the instructor at the time they need you most - when working through the content of the course through problem-solving, creation, and discussion.

 

What a flipped classroom is NOT

A flipped classroom is not a regular classroom with some online video components or lectures. Class time is reserved exclusively for interactive work that is hands-on, differentiated, and personalized. Video does not necessarily need to be the form of instruction that takes place outside of the classroom. While you may choose to do a video lecture, your instruction might be better suited to other approaches such as readings, case studies, pre-writing or other activities.

 

Does the flipped classroom method work?

The simple answer to this is: yes, if done correctly. There certainly are some mixed outcomes in research but there is a wide body of data suggesting that with carefully constructed courses there are positive learning gains over students in traditional courses, sometimes by two standard deviation units (Hake, 1998; DesLauriers, Schelew, and Wieman, 2011; Mazur, 2009). Bransford, Brown, and Cocking (2000, p. 16) state that  “To develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must: a) have a deep foundation of factual knowledge, b) understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework, and c) organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application.”  This is the model of the flipped classroom as students are given the background knowledge and foundation prior to attempting application of the content with immediate instructor and peer feedback which helps to correct incorrect application and reinforce correct interpretations and applications (Brame, 2013). 

 

What would I need to do to start a flipped-classroom approach?

Careful planning is necessary to implement a flipped classroom successfully. A minimum of one semester is needed, and even potentially, an entire year to plan for your launch of flipped learning. The four main steps to follow with each lesson are to: 

1. Choose your technology

You will need to determine what technology you will utilize. You will need a means of recording your videos, housing them in the cloud, presenting information to students, and track student progress. The Isidore learning management system and Warpwire are the key tools already in place here at UD to help facilitate a flipped approach. (Learn more about both of these tools at learn.udayton.edu). We also have video recording software and services available to help you create your content. This fall you can consider joining us in Media Engagement Fellows, a new program that will help you take your video creation skills to the next level!

2. Create your content

Presenting your lecture content in video format will go much faster than it would in the classroom. We recommend that you create your videos in the time frame you are teaching the class traditionally; after completing a lecture for the day, go back to your office and make a concise recording of the same lecture, making sure to hit the FAQs you just encountered earlier in the day. 

Using your lesson plans for your in-person class, revise and build a new lesson plan for the flipped version of the course that utilized higher-order cognitive activating. Outline what will take place as a preparation activity and what will take place in class. Be sure to include lesson objectives and how you will assess if students have mastered them before moving on. 

3. Plan for Assessment

It is critical to ensure student mastery! After all, this is the reason why you are shifting your instruction, correct?  Using the objectives you’ve established for each lesson, create both formative and summative assessments. Formative assessment is facilitated through dialogue and performance checks as you walk around the room during class time.  Summative assessment can be accomplished through short quizzes at the end of each lesson and higher-stakes tests, exams, or papers at the end of each module or chapter.

4. Prepare Students for this Approach

After navigating through the COVID pandemic and the dramatic shift in education that transpired during this time, students will be more ready and willing to attempt the flipped approach. While some students may have experienced an entirely flipped classroom before, many may not have, and they will need clear guidance and expectations for the approach.

Make sure you clearly outline expectations in your first class meeting. This can be done in the syllabus, on the first day of class, and on the Overview page of your Isidore site.

  • Emphasize with students the positives of the flipped classroom. Convey your goal to help them master the content through engaging classroom activities and discussion.
  • Discuss how they will benefit from and be held accountable for their prep work before class. Students may complain at first that they feel they are doing more upfront work than they used to, but they will be mastering content with less frustration and struggle with your assistance in class.
  • Train students on how to watch an instructional video by pausing, reviewing, taking notes as they move along, and writing down any questions they have for the in-class portion of the lesson.
  • Determine how you will ensure student completion of preparation work. This can be done through submitted answers to questions online before class or as a quick quiz at the beginning of the class. 

Following these steps will help you build a quality flipped course by the end of the term. Prepare to make revisions as you first implement the course, especially the first year. Let the helpers at the Center for Online Learning help you with this process.

As you consider whether or not the flipped classroom approach is right for you and your course, remember that this is just a different approach to what you are already doing with some modifications. It will take a commitment of time and creativity but the outcomes in terms of student accomplishment, student engagement, and development of positive teacher/student relationships are well worth the effort. 


Flipped Classroom Resources

 

References
  • Brame, C. (2013). Flipping the classroom. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved [July 26, 2021] from http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/flipping-the-classroom/.
  • Bransford,J.D., Brown A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
  • DesLauriers, L., Schelew, E., & Wieman, C. (2011). Improved learning in a large-enrollment physics class. Science 332: 862-864.
  • Hake, R. (1998). Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: A six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses. American Journal of Physics 66: 64-74.
  • Mazur, E. (2009). Farewell, Lecture? Science 323: 50-51.

 

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