Flipped Classroom – A Possibility

The Flipped Classroom


The idea of a flipped classroom has some appeal, especially considering the courses I teach. As a quick overview, in a flipped classroom, student take time, before class, to study course material to get a cursory understanding of the material before the next class session. During class, the instructor aids the students in applying the lesson’s concepts to problems and situations, providing the students feedback along the way.

In introductory and general chemistry courses, there is a lot of “problems” that the students need to learn to master. Currently, I lecture in short segments and then break to work problems dealing with that topic. The lecture segments last from 5 to 10 minutes and then we spend maybe 15-20 minutes working example problems as a class. Removing the lecture portion from the in-class time would free up a lot of time throughout the semester to work more problems. Students always seem to want more in the way of practice problems and I have found that the more problems we do, the better my students understand the material. The problem is that there is currently no way that I can provide enough problems to cover every possibility in the short time I have between topics.

A teacher helping two students with a problem.

SOURCE: https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/05/21/flipped-classroom-2-0-mastery-levelcomptenecy-learning-with-videos/

The flipped classroom provides an excellent approach to correcting these problems. By having the students view material the night before class and coming to class prepared, I don’t have to worry about having to cover every topic by lecturing on it live. Instead, I can focus my attention on providing my students with high quality example problems to work through that demonstrate the application of each of the topics in that lesson. Additionally, I can provide a wider variety of examples that expand the possible applications for the students. For instance, rather than spending 30 minutes (in 5 minutes sections) lecturing on all the aspects of how to name the variety of chemicals, the students can watch these lectures before class. Then, during class I can provide a large set of example molecules. This will allows student to see the methods I describe in the videos applied to real problems. These examples can illustrate complex issues that a difficult to describe in a simple lecture.

In my head, however, there are complications. For instance, video and resources needs to be created/found for each of the lessons which takes time. This is not as large a liability as the next issue… student responsibility. Students must be responsible for viewing all the course materials before attending class. If a student doesn’t do so, then that student will get little from the example problems. Additionally, I can lecture to the one unprepared students since everyone else is ready and working on the problems. In order for me to implement this system, I would have to find a way to ensure, to the best of my ability, that all of my students are prepared… which may be impossible.

8 thoughts on “Flipped Classroom – A Possibility

  1. Student preparedness in the flipped classroom model is something I have struggled with as well. Each semester, I try new strategies for holding students accountable for doing the reading / watching in order to be prepared for class. I have never felt like I’ve done this incredibly well. You made a great point — you could spend some class time teaching the few students who didn’t prepare for class while the rest of the class gets started on the work. Over time, this might encourage students to watch prior to class so they don’t miss out on time solving practice problems with their peers.

  2. I used the idea of the flipped classroom in my Biomechanics class a few years back. I had students watch the power points/lectures and read before class. I would also have them take a short quiz and email me a day or two prior to class with questions they need clarification on from the lectures and readings. From the questions and the quiz results I spent the first part of class reviewing and clarifying and then the rest of class was freed up to spend working hands on, solving real problems, and diving deeper through experience. The class seemed to like this approach, but like you stated and Dr. Linton in her response there are always those few students who do not take responsibility for their learning and then fall behind. The quizzes helped with that but weren’t perfect.

  3. Shaun, your idea to have your students do the work the night before is a great idea. While the students might not be ecstatic about having to do work outside of class, you could always just say, “Welcome to school…” My only concern with teaching the few unprepared students would be that the other students might not feel like they are getting the same amount of attention as those selected students. While I agree that a flipped classroom is far more innovative, creative, and effective than a traditional classroom- you really cannot please everyone! I really enjoyed reading your blog post and congratulations on finishing the course work so early! (:

  4. Shaun, I agree with your assessment of students that are not prepared for class the next day. Unfortunately, I encounter students in my classes that cant prepare the night before. A number of my students do not have access to technology once they leave school. I think sometimes its not the lack of motivation but for some lack of technological tools. I really like the idea of a flipped classroom. It allows for more one on one follow up. Thank you for posting.

    • I agree about the possible lack of technology outside of the classroom. I worry that if some students are using their classroom time to catch up on the lesson while the other students have moved on to using those lessons on problems then we have created an equality problem. We have a group of students who have outside access to the technology getting a different educational experience than those that do not.

  5. The flipped classroom in science provides an exciting prospect for many teachers as it can reduce direct instruction time which could allow for more investigations, more projects and an increased application of course material. In short more fun stuff to do, build and experience! It may also serve to better highlight the really cool lectures and demos by removing the tedious or boring (from the student perspective) lectures. I think you hit the nail on the head with your concern for student responsibility. I wonder how best you could hold students accountable say in a flipped general high school physical science course. Delivering on the promise of super cool real world projects and problem based assignments contingent upon the students sufficiently engaging in the material might work. Or maybe leveraging field trips or something.

  6. After reading about a flipped classroom, I can’t help but think how affective and useful it can be for students. As a teacher, I would worry about the students who do not come prepared to class with the knowledge that they need to know for the following material. These students would then get behind on the material and miss content that they need to know. Amanda makes a great point about having students complete a small quiz after reading or watching the PowerPoints or lectures before class. It gives students a purpose or reason to go over the material. I also think about the students who do not have access to a computer or internet at home to complete the material assigned. Maybe a handout of the material needed could be offered as well.

  7. As a student who went through a flipped classroom I get where you are coming from on student liability. People have to be engaged in order for it to work. There were days in that classroom where no one did any work. The question is Flipped Classroom worth the risk of no one doing any work? I think the answer is yes and your post shows that you think so as well and I love the idea of having students do it throughout the week with added instruction for those who do not prepare.

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