Flipping: To Fail or Not to Fail

Last summer I read with great interest about an instructional method called Flipping. My supervising administrator even sent to my department articles about it. Flipping is a good fit for my classroom, after all, I teach in a 1:1 school district where each of my students has 24/7 access to a MacBook Air and 99% have Internet access at home.

If you are reading this, you could very well understand more about Flipping than I do, but for those who do not–Flipping is a relatively simple concept, which can be achieved in several ways. It essentially requires students to prepare for class by accessing information via teacher-directed video, PowerPoint, or processing selected reading materials, among other sources, before class time is spent on a topic. For the math teacher, it can mean students learn or review the basics of a concept outside of class and then work in class working on what would be completed traditionally as homework or a project.

A lot has been written about Flipping and there is a #flipclass on Twitter. After joining several PLNs on Twitter and hearing so many teachers share their positive experiences, I decided to give Flipping a try.

My flipping journey has been painful.

Here is what I have learned.

  • Some of today’s students are struggling in the midst of the current education paradigm shift. They are accustomed to having proverbial hands held and being spoon-fed so much so that any suggestion they self-learn or self-teach scares them senseless and they freeze in their tracks.
  • Some of today’s students lack a working level of confidence. As their teacher, I believe with absolute certainty my students know more than they know they know.  This is demonstrated each time I work with a small group. As I ask questions about the material, the correct answers come forth. They know, but lack the required confidence to reveal that knowledge.
  • Students who lack a positive out-of-class work ethic will struggle with Flipping. In other words, students, who won’t take the time to view the video or read the material before class, will struggle with the classwork. It is as simple as that.

My flipping journey has been promising.

  • Students who come to class prepared seem to better enjoy their time in class while completing the assignments. Though limited at this point, I have witnessed excellent collaboration between my students.
  • More students now have a sense of urgency about the material we are learning. I have had more students asking questions and learning how to ask meaningful questions as well as share via written reflection their concerns about the learning process. That, in and of itself, is encouraging.
  • This teacher has a better grasp on the knowledge gaps of her students. I have been able to effectively work with students on some very telling issues in regard to their math/arithmetic skills as well as explain to parents how we can work together to further develop those skills. (The parents I have spoken to about it, by the way, like Flipping.)

So, there you have it, my transparent take on a few of the cons and pros of the past four weeks in my classroom. Do I recommend the Flipping model? Yes, I do, but with a caveat. If I had to do it again, I would begin the school year Flipping rather than suddenly implementing it in the middle of the school year. In my opinion, for the most effective use of Flipping, it should be a part of your classroom culture from the get-go.

Finally, let me say thank you to my brilliant and inspirational colleague Mr. Kisker, who made many of the videos I used with my students. Between Kisker87 on Youtube and Sal Khan at khanacademy, all of my instructional bases were covered. (Yes, I could make my own videos, but hesitate to do so because I sound like Paula Deen and when you teach as far north of the Mason-Dixon as I do, my voice on video seems to be more hindrance than help.)

Thank you for reading and please share your thoughts. I refuse to give up on Flipping!


About barbarawmadden

I began teaching in 1981, but after a few years decided staying home with my children was what was best for my family. After almost 20 years raising four children, I returned to the classroom in 2005.

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