A change of perspective sparks a lot of creativity. Humans love patterns, sometimes so much that we invent patterns where none exist. If something disrupts a pattern we’ve become familiar with, we notice it.
In terms of evolution, that makes a lot of sense. Say you’re a proto-human, just doing your thing, walking through the plains, and you see tons of tall grass everywhere. But then something stands out and breaks the pattern of the grass. You’re going to notice it and focus on it. Maybe it’s a tree full of fruit you can eat. Maybe it’s a big cat that wants to eat you. Either way, noticing the break in the pattern and paying attention to it is very helpful to surviving another day.
Maybe the primordial struggle to survive isn’t so forefront anymore, but we haven’t outgrown our tendency to pay attention to pattern disruptions. Which is awesome, because that means we can harness this tendency and use it to our advantage.
If you’re paying more attention to something because it’s breaking a typical pattern, you’re focusing on it and devoting more brain energy towards it. You have a chance to be more creative and think harder, to find new solutions to your problem.
Flipped classrooms are one excellent way to exploit our pattern detection tendency by changing learners’ expectation of what learning is.
What is a flipped classroom?
A flipped classroom is any classroom where the lecture or traditional “teaching” portion is performed at home, and the activity or homework portion is done in the classroom.
Rather than serving as a lecturer, the teacher or instructor is more of a guide, someone there to help their students work through problems.
What are the benefits?
Sounds pretty non-traditional, right? Like I said, humans notice disruptions in patterns, and we have a pretty good idea of what a classroom “should be.” You attend a lesson, then you go home and work on practicing what you learned.
But, as it turns out, homework as a whole isn’t very effective at all. The correlation between student achievement and time spent on homework is not statistically significant enough to rely on it for learning.
Flipped classrooms, on the other hand, can see huge, measurable results. Like Clintondale High School in Detroit, where flipping the classroom had a massive impact on student success. Their freshman failure rate began at 44% in math and more than 50% in English. After the flip, those numbers plummeted to 13% in math and 19% in English.
Flipping works, homework doesn’t. So why not give it a try?
Here’s how to flip the classroom to get similar, fantastic results.
Tips to make you flip
1. Figure out your medium
Are your students more likely to appreciate a video they can watch at home, or a podcast (here’s an awesome free podcast creation tool, by the way, if that’s your niche) they can listen to at work? Are your students going to be watching video from a mobile device (in which case, you’ll need to host from an LMS that’s mobile-friendly) or from a computer?
You need to know how your message will be received before you can deliver it. Take a survey of your class participants to determine what your classroom’s unique needs will be before you begin.
Ask your learners what devices they’ll be using to view your content, if they multitask while watching videos, or if they enjoy talk radio or books on tape (good hints that a podcast would be better), and how fast their internet connection is (web-hosted training for high schoolers with a great connection is one thing, but an older group who still use dial-up may need to download your content).
2. Keep it short
Tempting as it may be to go through the same lecture you would in a class, only on film, don’t. You need to plan out podcasts and videos a little differently. If the home lesson is just a person lecturing at a camera, the only result will be glazed eyes.
People will tune out a video far more quickly than they’ll tune out a live speaker. In fact, if a video is longer than two minutes, 60% of people will click away from it.
Make multiple smaller videos rather than expecting your learners to churn through a single, hour long video. It will keep your learners more engaged if they need to change over videos every couple of minutes.
3. Do your own homework
A flipped classroom isn’t going to work for every situation. Read case studies about flipped classrooms. Find out when they’ve worked and how it was done. Make sure you read up on how flipping can go wrong to avoid the pitfalls.
Learning how to make killer video content is also going to be helpful. If you wouldn’t want to watch a boring video, then don’t make a boring video.
4. Track participation
A flipped classroom is all very well and good. But it’s only going to work if your students actually do what they’re supposed to do. I can tell you from personal experience that if someone doesn’t have to turn in their homework, they probably won’t do it at all (I could list all the professors I should apologize to for this, but it would be longer than the actual article).
If you want to make sure your flipped classroom produces real results, you’ll need to keep track of how much your students are participating.
Luckily, plenty of learning management systems do this automatically, so if you’re already using one to host your flipped classroom, you’re way ahead of the curve. Depending on what software you’re using there might even be add-ons that can make tracking participation even better. Like this free plugin for Moodle which measures learner involvement and lesson completion.
5. Beat your students to their questions
Are there questions that are inherent in your topic? While preparing, write down all the questions that could possibly come up. Determine those that are most likely to be posed by your specific audience. When you have it narrowed down to the number you want, produce an FAQ to be viewed and answered along with the video.
This FAQ can be part of your video, its own video, or presented in text following the video lessons. If a question is likely to be asked, don’t make your students wait until class time to answer it. This frees up class time for more complex work.
Are you ready to flip?
If it sounds good, don’t worry. The research is in your favor. Take a chance. Go forth and flip your classroom!
Have you flipped your classroom? Tell me your story in the comments below.