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Planning & Implementing a Flipped Classroom

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Are you sick of giving lectures when no one pays attention? It might be time to try a flipped classroom. Learn how to plan and implement a flipped classroom, and then assess your knowledge with a quiz.

What is a Flipped Classroom?

Have you ever stood in front of a group of students and realized that you had lost them? No matter how creative you are, sooner or later you have to impart some factual knowledge to your students. It's been said that only a small percentage of what is said in a lecture will be absorbed. You might have several degrees, and be an expert in your subject. Isn't your time with students worth more than speaking to blank faces? Wouldn't students benefit from more face to face help?

Lectures are not always effective
Lectures are not always effective

One possible answer to this universal issue is the flipped classroom. A flipped classroom is a classroom where topics are introduced as part of students' homework through videos or other media, and classroom time is spent in guided practice. It's flipped because what was traditionally homework, is now done in class, and what was traditionally done in class, is now homework.

There are many benefits to the flipped classroom. Students can practice the skills they are expected to learn in the presence of a teacher who can help them. Students are more likely to complete homework because failure to complete it will cause them to be completely lost during class. And students can re-watch the videos or other content whenever they like, including while studying for tests. Unlike lectures in class, it's always available to them. Parents also like it, because they can see your teaching style for themselves and feel more involved. A lot of teachers have had excellent results with the system - it can make a huge difference in how much students learn during the year - but there are some issues. The biggest one is that it takes a lot of work to prepare and set up.

The flipped classroom
The Flipped Classroom

Planning for a Flipped Classroom

A lot of planning goes into setting up a flipped classroom. You need to figure out what kind of content is going to be presented to students at home. Will it be videos? Will there be discussion activities online? Or maybe a question and answer system where students can submit their questions and the whole class can benefit from the answers? There are lots of options. Even if you decide that it will be nothing more than a video for each piece of homework, what kind of video will you create? Flipped classrooms can have anything from a simple recording of a lecture, as if the students were in the classroom as normal, to a high-quality video presentation with stock images, footage, and animation to illustrate the points. Sometimes teachers enlist the help of a colleague and present the material as a conversation between them.

Any kind of flipped content will provide benefits for students, but the more engaging the videos, the more likely it is that you will get buy-in from the students. The other thing to bear in mind is that you need only create the videos once - and once you have them, you have them for as long as you teach that course. So it's really worthwhile to go the extra mile and produce content that will benefit your students for many years to come.

Because good content takes a long time to produce, from video, to graphics, to editing, and even animation, it is worthwhile getting ahead. Completing the video content during the summer will make your life a lot easier, especially since the schedule of a teacher is so busy to begin with.

You also need to make sure you have enough practice material for your time with the students during class. Flipping a classroom often leads to far more class time than you expect, and it is important not to underestimate that.

Implementing a Flipped Classroom

Implementing a flipped classroom can be a steep learning curve for all involved. Students often will not have experience with a flipped class and so much direct attention from a teacher. It's important to explain how the class will work at the start of the year. It's a good idea to share the benefits of a flipped classroom, and why you're doing it. If your videos are entertaining enough, you might find that students buy into the system with enthusiasm.

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