To flip – or not to flip – your classroom

15 July 2020

To flip – or not to flip – your classroom

The flipped classroom approach has been used for years in many academic institutions all over the world, especially at tertiary education level. It has also been used, with varying degrees of success, in high schools in different parts of the world.

The flipped classroom approach is an educational strategy that involves blended learning. It focuses on learner involvement and active or independent learning.

In a traditional classroom the teacher is the central focus of the lesson, the teacher relays information to the learners and the teacher controls the flow of the ‘conversation’. The teacher also answers questions posed by the learners. Learners are required to do homework after they’ve had lessons at school.

In a flipped classroom situation learners are required to do work on new topics to be covered in future lessons before the lesson(s). This could mean watching an on-line ‘lecture’ or video or a PowerPoint presentation, taking part in an on-line discussion or doing independent research. Once learners have done this, the topics are covered in greater depth in the classroom.

On the plus side a flipped classroom enables – or could potentially enable – teachers to deal with mixed academic levels, individual learner problems and differentiated learning preferences in class.

On the minus side learners are likely to have questions that arise while they are watching / listening to an information session on-line or doing research. The answers to these questions as well as further explanations that might be needed can only be provided once they get to class. Though they could write down what they need from the teacher, it is quite likely that the thought process(es) behind it will have been forgotten by the time they pose the question or ask for the explanation in class.

Furthermore, many learners will not have the emotional maturity – or the motivation – to engage in independent learning or research.

Even more important, especially in South Africa, with a “broken and unequal education” system (as reported by Amnesty International in February 2020 *), many learners cannot afford data and/or the technology required and many schools do not have access to constant internet connection. For a flipped classroom approach to work successfully all learners should have access to the same resources.

In addition, many South African learners have non-academic responsibilities at home or they need to help to earn an income by working at a part-time job.

If you as a teacher have determined that all your learners in a specific class have access to the technology that will be needed for a flipped classroom approach to be implemented successfully, your next step should be to determine where the flipped classroom model will make the most sense.

In lessons dealing with specific content where you currently do not have enough time to complete what needs to be done or where learners would benefit from applying concepts under your guidance, using a flipped classroom could be beneficial. Sometimes a flipped classroom works well when learners struggle with particular concepts or topics, more than with others – this will depend on the learners and the concepts.

*Read the full Amnesty International Report by clicking here.

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