For the past five years, the “flipped classroom” model has dominated conversations in all areas of education. From K-12 classrooms to college lecture halls to corporate training programs, educators continue to experiment with the design and analyze the results to determine if the approach actually improves student learning and engagement. Now as more educators are becoming well versed in the approach and have started implementing flipped strategies in their courses, they are beginning to ask more questions and share their experiences. Here are the top three most frequently asked questions I hear from faculty about the flipped classroom model in higher education:
1. What is the flipped classroom?
This is probably the most controversial question. Depending on where you look and who you talk to, you will find different definitions, models, and interpretations of what a flipped classroom is. My mission for the past five years has been to encourage us to expand what we mean by “flipped” classrooms. Most of the discussions focus on the use of videos which students watch before class. However, many of us in higher education have pushed against this limited definition. There’s more to student engagement than watching videos of lectures. And a video of a lecture is still a lecture. Even with more innovative and engaging videos, most educators are expanding on their interpretations of what it means to flip a classroom. The model was first introduced as “inverted” instruction by Lage, Platt, and Treglia in the Journal of Economic Education in 2000. Many educators who are using the flipped classroom model may not be familiar with this history, and I encourage you to take a look at that article for some of the original thinking as this idea was beginning to take shape.
In my work, the FLIP means to “Focus on your Learners by Involving them in the Process.” It’s actually based on my teaching philosophy and my research. I have developed a 4-part framework which includes the integration of student development, instructional design, learning environment research, and faculty development. All of these components are essential to creating a successful learning experience.
In this framework, the pre-class work focuses on the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and the in-class work focuses on the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I show educators how to design active learning strategies to involve students in the process of applying, analyzing, and creating knowledge during class time.
2. How do you encourage students to actually DO the pre-class homework and come to class prepared and ready to participate?
This is the number one most frequently asked question! It’s not a unique problem to flipped classrooms since we have always assigned homework and expected our students to come to class prepared. But since the flipped classroom relies heavily on the pre-class work for student engagement, more faculty members want to know how to encourage students to actually DO it. I recently wrote two articles to help address this question, and I approached them from different perspectives in an effort to start analyzing how we can address this challenge. In the recent Faculty Focus article, I address the challenge from the perspective of holding students accountable and making the learning visible. In a separate blog post titled 3 Strategies to Encourage Students to Complete the Pre-Class Work in the Flipped Classroom, I addressed the question from the perspective of student motivation. Using Dan Pink’s AMP model as a framework, I encourage you to take a closer look at how your pre-class work is designed.
The main point is students have to know their pre-class work is valued, relevant, and not “busy” work. Once you meet that expectation and they see how their work contributes to their success in the classroom, they are more likely to do the work and not get left behind when their peers are prepared. And peer pressure can be a strong motivator too!
3. What can I do about student resistance? What if they still don’t do the work or participate?
This is the second most frequently asked question! I don’t know if I’ve ever talked with a faculty member who had 100% of the students 100% prepared and 100% engaged all of the time in every class. Students have “off” days just like we do, and sometimes life gets in the way of the best laid plans. However, the first place to start is to understand where the resistance might be coming from. The college classroom can be a scary and intimidating place for some students. And when we add a new way of learning on top of that stress, some students may shut down or choose to disengage. My favorite resource for addressing this challenge was written by one of my teaching mentors, Dr. Richard Felder. His work on the intersection between the active learning classroom and the stages of grief is fascinating, and I wrote an article titled 5 Ways to Address Student Resistance in the Flipped Classroom based on his findings. It might be a helpful place to start as you think about who your students are, where they are coming from, and what prior experiences might be influencing their behavior. I always say, “Support your students in flipped and active learning classrooms. Just as you are learning how to teach in this way, they are learning how to learn in this way.”
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