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Flipping the Learning Process

Flipping the Learning Process

By Jillian Cheney

To the students of the 1800s, a school with many rooms would come as a surprise. The idea of class rank, AP classes, and several extracurriculars would seem preposterous to those from the early 1900s. Little did today’s students realize, they might have to end up teaching themselves. 

The flipped classroom is working its way into its schools slowly, but surely. As technology becomes more widely used and information is available at the press of a button, teachers may decide that self-teaching is the best way to go. According to flippedlearning.org, the official website for the founders of the method and a resource for teachers and students, “Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.”

For those who are still concerned or don’t quite understand what that means, Texas High teacher Jaclyn Pessel provides a glimpse into what the flipped method means in her classroom. 

“The flipped classroom is a ‘new’ method of learning in which the roles are reversed,” Pessel said. “What that means is that now students complete the traditional lecture that would have been given in class at home, usually in the form of some type of digital media. Then they complete what was traditionally homework in class with the assistance of their teacher and peers.”

Pessel has been using the flipped classroom method for six years, and has introduced it in her first year at Texas High School. She uses it to teach AP Chemistry, but says it is not confined to only one subject.

“I have seen the flipped classroom successfully implemented in every subject area,” Pessel said. “PE, history, math; you name it. There isn’t one correct way to do the flipped classroom.  Every teacher can make it their own.”

Though it is different from the conventional classroom setting, Pessel believes it is beneficial to learning. Letting the students teach themselves and become engaged during class time is the best way for students to realize their true potential in any subject matter.

“About two years into teaching, I realized that something had to change in my classroom,” Pessel said. “It was difficult to get students to pay attention for a plethora of reasons. After all, I was standing up in the front of the class for an extended period of time while they sat still in a desk, bored out of their minds.”

Her success with the method has been great, as her students usually recognize the benefits on their own. They don’t have to sit through lectures, take notes that may or may not matter, or do busywork for the sake of a grade. Instead, class time is spent more on the material itself, and students can prepare for the AP test and others for college. 

“After comparing data from the previous year and the first year of flipped, we did notice an increase in student achievement,” Pessel said. “My evaluation of the success was the fact that students were actually having a good time, which made it much easier to learn.”

In the transition from a normal teaching style to flipped, however, students may at first express doubt about the work they have done in order to prepare for class. Seth Schirmer, AP Physics teacher at Texas High School, began teaching in the flipped classroom method this year. 

“It’s been mostly a success with a good deal of growing pains,” Schirmer said. “The greatest challenge has been convincing some students that the flipped classroom is beneficial for them and finding ways to motivate students to use it to their advantage.”

Teachers spend countless hours outside of the classroom preparing assignments and videos for their students to watch. This method certainly isn’t a “lazy way out” of teaching for educators, but rather what they believe is best for the students. 

“The biggest obstacle was to give up some control in the classroom,” Pessel said. “There is quite a bit of preparation that comes with a flipped classroom, so it was very important to network with other teachers and not go at it alone. I am exhausted at the end of the day, but it is a totally different kind of exhausted than the traditional classroom.”

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Though traditional teaching methods are far from disappearing overnight, don’t be shocked when more classrooms are flipped in style. It can be a challenge at first, but teachers of flipped classes are working just as hard as their students for the success of all. 

“As we have become so dependent on technology, I would much rather use it to my advantage than try to fight it,” Pessel said. “Plus, the possibilities of learning are endless with the knowledge that can be gained by using technology. I know any time I need to figure something out, the first thing I do is Google search!”

Tips For Conquering the Flipped Classroom: 

Take notes.
Even after we spent all this time watching those videos? Absolutely. Watching a video and forgetting it entirely won’t do you any good. Write down confusing concepts or problems that you will need help with on assignments or tests.

Ask questions.
Your teacher is there to help you. This doesn’t mean that they don’t know what they’re teaching; it usually means the opposite. Take advantage of the one on one time to ask specific questions about the videos or concepts you don’t understand.

Don’t limit yourself to provided materials.
Obviously, teachers have some of the best videos and instruction out there for students. This doesn’t mean that you’ll always understand the way it is taught. If the guides sent by the teacher don’t give you a full understanding, look elsewhere. Khan Academy, Chegg, and YouTube Crash Course are all reputable places to help with understanding. 

Most importantly, watch the videos.
You can sometimes get away with not doing your homework for a normal class, but not here. If you don’t watch the videos, you won’t have any idea what to do on the homework– which means wasted time at home and in class. 

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