4 best practices for Flipped Classroom implementation

Professor condenses what he’s learned about implementing Flipped Learning over the last three years

flipped-learning-practicesThe flipped classroom model has undeniably become a go-to learning model in the digital age of higher education, but what have educators learned since the model’s debut? What are the best practices that work?

As a form of blended learning, the flipped classroom model typically requires students to study new content by reading or watching video online before class, leaving class time for discussion and other activities that can be customized to focus on content that students are struggling to understand.

I’ve been utilizing the flipped classroom model for my chemistry course at Ohio State University (OSU) and have seen great results. Based on what I’ve been reading and hearing about in education, it looks like I’m not alone. According to a recent study, 50 percent of teachers are already flipping or planning to flip their classroom within the next year and 96 percent of teachers who have flipped a lesson recommend the model to other educators.

My journey began in the summer of 2011, as I was looking for a way to align my courses with Ohio State University’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.

As per the flipped learning model, students enrolled in my course will typically view online videos or read digital content correlated with textbook concepts—via the course website or iTunes U Course—prior to class. In-class time is utilized to master difficult concepts or questions, and after class students receive personalized homework assignments based on what students demonstrated in “lecture.”

As this learning model truly “flips” the traditional lecture model, I have highlighted four best practices below for educators who are working on flipping their classroom:

(Next page: 4 best practices for implementing Flipped Learning)

1. Start small with just one concept.

Educators must be patient when implementing the flipped classroom model, as the transition simply does not happen overnight. The key to a successful implementation is to start small.  Educators can review previous final exam scores to select a concept that a majority of students struggle with and dedicate time to flip that concept only. This gives the instructor the time to really invest in the digital flip, gauge student success, and most importantly, make sure the flipped classroom model complements—not detracts—from their teaching style.

2. Digital content should be created, not transferred.

While the most time-efficient way to transition to the flipped classroom is to simply digitize your current course content, this is not the most effective way to go about the transition. Just because content is effective in a lecture course does not mean the content is fit for digital digestion. The first year teaching in a flipped classroom should be treated the same as the first year of teaching in a traditional classroom. Educators must take time to develop both fresh pre- and post-lecture assignments as well as new activities to use during class.

3. Utilize free resources.

As stated, the flipped classroom cannot be successful without the development of new digital content, but this content does not need to come from you and you alone. Countless resources are available to assist first-time flipped classroom educators. For example, theFlipped Learning Network is a social network that provides educators with the knowledge, skills, and resources to successfully flip their classroom.

4. Utilize technology to improve class time.

Preparation for implementing the flipped classroom model does not end with digitizing content. With students coming to class with an idea of the concept—regardless of the level of understanding—educators must now take advantage of class time to be as productive as possible for furthering students’ conceptual development. Lecture hours become discussion time, and in order to maximize discussions, educators and universities should consider partnering with an education technology company. For example, through The Ohio State University’s partnership with Learning Catalytics, students submit answers through their laptop or mobile device, giving me the ability to understand student performance in real-time during class. Learning Catalytics gives educators the opportunity to obtain real-time responses to open-ended or critical thinking questions, determine which areas require further explanation, and then automatically group students for further discussion or problem solving.

According to a recent study from the Flipped Learning Network, the percentage of teachers who have flipped at least one lesson increased from 48 percent to 78 percent in just the last two years, and I believe that this learning model will only continue to flourish in more classrooms and with more students. The flipped classroom model has deepened my passion for teaching, and as technology continues to evolve I could not be more excited to see the learning model improve further.

Dr. Matthew Stoltzfus is a chemistry professor at Ohio State University. 

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