Very Short Description of the "Flipped Classroom" Approach

posted Sep 16, 2012, 10:39 AM by Jon Sticklen   [ updated Sep 16, 2012, 10:48 AM ]
The "flipped" classroom is simple in concept, but there are many variants with new ones developed frequently. The core idea is old: to put the responsibility back on students for doing their own learning while being supportive as a tutor and guide. Students are asked to do work BEFORE coming to class, then much of in-class time is spent working problems typically in collaborative work teams (elements of Problem-based Learning here...) and with facilitation by instructors. That viewpoint is actually old, and as simple as expecting students to prepare before class. 

But the flipped classroom puts teeth in the idea by not going over material the students have studied out of class, expect to deal with common problems of misconceptions. That has teeth because if a student comes unprepared (without doing the outside work) then they will over time take flake from other students in their work team. The peer pressure to come prepared is a key ingredient that makes flipped classrooms work. 

The "new" version of this old idea is two fold: the medium the students use to get the material to study before class and the technology in the classroom to support collaborative group work during class. The medium used to be simply textbooks and readings. That has expended not to include options like web delivered movies or electronic textbooks. The more important technology in the classroom is quite simply tables around which teams can work and chairs that are not nailed down to the floor. The ability to reconfigure is critical so movable chairs and tables that can be reconfigured to support work groups of differing sizes is key. Although its very hard to do serious collaborative work in a fixed seating arrangement. Imagine yourself in a work group where you were were sitting in an auditorium... it would be difficult... not impossible... but difficult.

The range of options for technology supporting the collaborative work teams essential to the flipped classroom approach is larger. A starting, and one of the oldest explorations, is the SCALE UP classrooms pioneered at NC State. 

More locally, MSU has not started to develop high tech classrooms that are very supportive of the flipped classroom path.