Flipped Classrooms: Benefits, Strengths & Weaknesses

Instructor: Rachel Tustin

Dr. Rachel Tustin has a PhD in Education focusing on Educational Technology, a Masters in English, and a BS in Marine Science. She has taught in K-12 for more than 15 years, and higher education for ten years.

A new trend in education is the use of flipped classroom models of instruction. While it can be very beneficial to students, teachers, and school districts, it is not a perfect model and can carry significant weaknesses.

The Rise of the Flipped Classroom

With the rise of technology and one-to-one computing in schools, converting the traditional classroom into a flipped one has become a trendy model of instruction in education. A flipped classroom is one where students complete direct instruction independently online, using videos or other technological resources. As a result, time is freed up in the classroom for more engaging activities such as class discussions, projects, and lab experiments. While considered an innovative approach to learning, this model has benefits and weaknesses in its approach to student learning.

Benefits of the Flipped Classroom

There are many reasons why schools are making a shift from traditional teaching methods into a flipped classroom model. In a traditional classroom, a teacher lectures, students practice the material, and finally, they are assessed. However, the students in our classrooms today have been raised in the age of the Internet. Most are adept at using multimedia tools such as YouTube to find the resources they need to help them learn in the classroom. That makes the need for teachers to sit up in front of them and simply present information almost obsolete. There are many advantages of the flipped model for not only students, but teachers and even school districts as well.

Benefits of the Flipped Model to Students

For students, the most profound benefit of a flipped classroom is that they get to take control of their education. They get to control when they review material as well as the pace with which they work through it. For many students, these are key benefits. Think, for example, of special needs students in your classroom. Some children may have concentration issues, such as those diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Some students can blank out during a lecture for a minute and jump right back in. Students with ADD or ADHD might blank out for five minutes and miss out on important concepts. In a flipped classroom model, students can take control of the pace of their learning and give themselves breaks, go back, and review while learning.

A flipped classroom also provides another key benefit for students in that it helps them become a self-directed learner. In a traditional classroom, a student is in a lot of ways a sponge. They sit there all day learning by listening to their teacher talk and do as they are told. A self-directed learner, however, takes charge of their learning and has a choice of activities that suit their learning style. Some students are auditory learners and can listen and learn all day long. Others are kinesthetic and need to get out of their seats and move to learn. A flipped classroom model gives students more control over what activities they engage in so that they can learn the material. A flipped classroom, however, is not for every student. Students may struggle with motivation, or even learning independently without traditional lectures.

Flipped Classroom 2

Benefits to Teachers, Schools, and School Districts

Teachers can benefit from a flipped classroom model as well. First, giving up lectures in your classroom frees up time you can use to improve your instruction. That time can be used to differentiate to groups of students who all have different needs, and perhaps even different ability levels so that they can be successful in your classroom. Finding that time to truly personalize instruction for each student can be virtually impossible in a traditional classroom, but in a flipped classroom the extra time makes it possible.

In a flipped classroom, students can work from anywhere
flipped classroom 3

Schools and school districts can utilize the resources of a flipped classroom to assist all sorts of students. For example, if a student has a medical condition that requires extended absences from school, they are no longer dependent on the location of teacher in a flipped classroom. Those students can access all of their class materials online, and their teachers have more time to create individual instruction plans to suit their needs. Students who are missing class due to discipline issues, such as in-school detention, can continue instruction without missing a beat. The administrators don't have to run down work for the students to do, but can instead simply have them get back to work and the student still receives quality instruction.

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