Professors: Here’s how to flip your classroom

The Components of a Flipped Classroom

There are two components to a flipped classroom: content delivery and in-class engagement. A major component to the flipped classroom is that content delivery happens outside of the classroom, where students are able to work at their own pace.

Video has become a particularly popular method for content delivery; Sal Khan argued during his 2011 TED Talk Let’s Use Video to Reinvent Education that videos are a particularly potent modality for content delivery because students can pause, rewind and fast forward as much as they please, helping to boost esteem and increase understanding by not having to interrupt or feel embarrassed in front of their peers by stopping to ask questions.

The in-class engagement component is equally important to the success of a flipped classroom. Moving the content delivery outside of the classroom makes room during class time for activities that allow the students to actively engage with the material—working directly with the instructor and particularly with each other—to address misconceptions about the content and solidify their understanding.

Many instructors use Learning Catalytics, a platform developed by one of us (Lukoff) along with Harvard professors Eric Mazur and Gary King, to engage students and secure rich data and analytics needed to pinpoint areas of struggle—making in-class interaction as productive as possible.

Many instructors also opt to use class time to work out problems together or engage students with group activities—the key being that the instructor takes advantage of the social nature of the classroom to help students learn not only from them, but also from each other.

The Flipped Classroom in Action

During the summer of 2011, one of us (Stoltzfus), a chemistry instructor at The Ohio State University (OSU), began implementing the flipped classroom model after a student approached him earlier in the year about integrating lecture videos into the classroom.

Dr. Stoltzfus was looking for ways to stay aligned with the institution’s Digital First Initiative, which focuses on redesigning the campus experience at OSU by optimizing wireless and classroom technology, inspiring instructors to offer engaging digital learning content to students, and enhancing the student experience from enrollment to graduation and beyond.

While each instructor should tailor the flipped classroom to what they find is most helpful for their students, Dr. Stoltzfus finds that pre-lecture assignments work best for his students. Before class, Dr. Stoltzfus has students read the textbook or watch lecture videos online and perform MasteringChemistry tutorials.

Regardless of the student’s level of understanding, they come into class with an idea of the concept, and bring with them thought-out and prepared questions created prior to class. Dr. Stoltzfus, like Sal Khan, posts traditional videos for his students, and developed a website and an iTunes U Course, which both houses the videos and correlates each one with a certain section in the textbook. Dr. Stoltzfus has students handle lower-level notions at home and the more challenging concepts are discussed in class with the instructor present for support and guidance.

During class, students work in groups on tricky exam problems or questions, while Dr. Stoltzfus is free to walk around and aid students when needed. Students submit answers through their laptop or mobile device using Learning Catalytics, which allows Dr. Stoltzfus to see student understandings (or misunderstandings) in real time and who is having issues with particular problems.

After class, Dr. Stoltzfus delivers a personalized homework assignment. Students are tasked with completing Mastering Chemistry questions on only those questions that they answered wrong. He puts together the proper homework assignments for each student based on what they demonstrated during class. He also encourages students to go back and watch the lecture again, addressing any areas of confusion.

(Next page: Understanding the benefits; resources)

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