Flipping the classroom: the new acrobatics of teaching?

Post By Kylie Budge

“Flipping the classroom” is a new buzzword floating around the education sector at the moment. You may have come across it and wondered if this is some kind of strange new acrobatic maneuver or craze that’s hit teaching.

Well, yes and no!

What exactly is being flipped?

“Flipping the classroom” is an inquiry and problem based learning model of teaching.  As the name suggests, it is the flipside of the still popular lecture/content or teacher centred models still being used in universities today. The Economist explains that flipping the classroom is the ‘reversal of the traditional teaching methods—with lecturing done outside class time and tutoring (or “homework”) during it…’.

While in some ways flipping the classroom might appear as a new strategy to engage students in learning, the basic concept behind it has been around for some time. This recent article in Wired by Makice details the more recent history of flipping the classroom and how it is connected to teaching strategies such as enquiry and problem based learning.

Let’s think about some of the practicalities of how this might work.

Instead of students attending face-to-face classes to hear presentations from lecturers about a new topic, theory or series of ideas, students do this in their own time prior to class. That is, students are directed to read information about the topic or theory, view a lecture online, and/or listen to a podcast independently of their lecturer. When students attend their face-to-face classes, the focus is on applying the knowledge they gathered prior to the class. Application might involve problem solving or doing an activity alone or with other students to see how their ideas and new-found knowledge work in practice. Therefore classes are for being active, not passive.

Learning from a specific example is often the best way to understand a new concept. The following link shows how and why teacher, Michelle Pacansky-Brock, flipped her Art History classroom.

For many, to flip our classrooms will take a significant cultural shift in the way we see teaching. It will also require a shift in the expectations and mindset of many students. Some students have grown used to being passive consumers of education even if they don’t enjoy learning that way. Changing this attitude and approach to learning will take time, but possibly not as much time as you might think. Students are used to searching information on the Internet when they want to know more on a topic that interests them. They’re active knowledge seekers in their own time, for their own interests. It’s about continuing that active frame of mind and setting up contexts where they can apply it to their learning.

In terms of teaching, it might mean reconsidering the whole notion of weekly face-to-face classes. Do students need to attend classes weekly in order to learn? Could they come to a monthly workshop/seminar/tutorial instead and in between be focused on a series of reading/listening/viewing tasks in conjunction with their ongoing assessment pieces? They could still be actively linked with each other (and you as their teacher) doing tasks in online forums between workshops.

For many of us it’s about flipping traditional notions of teaching on their head and approaching things in a very new way. It’s also something worth thinking about in terms of being current with educational policy and technology.

There are a lot of resources available online if you’d like to know more about flipping the classroom. There’s even an annual conference you can attend.

And for those who use Twitter for professional development you can follow the hashtag: #flipclass and connect with others who are experimenting with this model in their teaching practice.

Have you already made the change and flipped your classroom? If so, we’d like to hear from you about what’s worked, what hasn’t and what changes you are making.

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