The term “flipped classroom” is a term that has been trending over the past few years. The flipped classroom is a reversal of the traditional teaching method. Students first gain exposure to new material outside of the classroom (either by video or reading) and then once in class, students work on the harder tasks of assimilating knowledge and problem solving. Essentially work that would have traditionally been given as homework now becomes the focus of class time and the ’lecture’ is undertaken at home.
To me, the flipped classroom is one of those simple things, that when done well, produces tremendous benefit. It’s easy to think that flipping is something of a fad, or purely driven by technology. However I would argue that the concept has many variations but at its core is maximising the value of the teacher’s face-to-face time with students.
When a student is exposed to content for the first time, either through the medium of a lesson or reading a text, the cognitive skills required are low. On Bloom’s Taxonomy of thinking skills, the task of absorbing content only occupies the lower two levels of cognitive function: gaining knowledge and comprehension.
Salman Khan, the individual attributed to naming the flipped classroom method, makes the observation that “Lectures actually are not a high-value activity for teachers to perform” (Johnston, 2011). When teachers are engaged in the traditional “chalk and talk” methods, and leave the other parts of the learning experience to homework, the opportunity for the greatest value they can provide is lost.
When we look at learning in our day-to-day lives, it would be hard to oppose the notion that much of what we truly learn is experiential in nature. That is we learn best by doing. Kolb (1984) argues that all learning is experiential and the traditional classroom only offers a small part of the learning experience. The model below illustrates the Kolb experiential learning cycle.
Kolb shows that learning is recurring in nature, and that a student needs to go through a series of stages in order for content to be truly learned, or in Blooms scale, move towards being able to evaluate the content. We have perhaps all experienced this ourselves; for example cramming for an exam and being able to regurgitate the information shortly afterwards but later as time passes that content fades. Whereas a math lesson in high school where we went out into the field and measured the height of a tree after having read about trigonometry still stays with us.
In the flipped classroom, students are engaged in content at home, out of the classroom and away from the teacher. This becomes the first experience in the Kolb cycle – the exposure to new knowledge. As noted earlier, this is an elementary cognitive function low on the Blooms scale and should be easily accommodated by most students. The student then needs to move through a reflective process. Often in the traditional classroom this is in the form of homework, however in the flipped classroom the teacher could lead a reflective process with the students by means of a peer assisted, collaborative approach (Bishop & Verleger, 2013). The teacher then moves students through the abstract and experimentation stages of the Kolb cycle with a mix of cooperative learning, problem-based learning or active learning.
Whatever the methodology used in the classroom the important thing to note is that the teacher, now as the mentor and not a knowledge provider, is able to steer students through the process of assimilating information into true knowledge through the experiential learning cycle and through the use of targeted feedback models. This allows the teacher to be present when the higher cognitive skills of application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation are being developed rather than the opposite where teachers were present during knowledge and comprehension and students worked through the higher order skills in other ways.
This is not to say that the above teaching methodologies are never used in the traditional classroom. My trigonometry example above shows teachers have been doing this for many years.
However, there is a common belief in K-12 education - teachers are time poor. When valuable teaching time is taken up by delivering content in a finite number of teaching hours, this limits the time spent on higher order skill development and restricts teachers from being able to move students through the experiential learning cycle; which is to monitor and mentor their journey. It also provides the opportunity for students to work together, making the memories and neural bonds conducive to long term retention and understanding (Tudge & Winterhoff, 1993).
Whatever the term, anything that brings students and teachers together in high value activities has got to be a winner.
Bishop, J. L., & Verleger, M. A. (2013). The Flipped Classroom: A Survey of the Research. Paper presented at the 120th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Atlanta.
Johnston, M. (2011, November 14, 2011). Flipping tradition on its head, The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/flipping-tradition-on-its-head-20111113-1ndwh.html
Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning : experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
Tudge, J. R., & Winterhoff, P. A. (1993). Vygotsky, Piaget, and Bandura: Perspectives on the relations between the social world and cognitive development. Human Development, 36(2), 61-81.