– Jake Habegger –
“Flipped Learning… that’s the thing where you teach with videos, right?”
In response to COVID-19, we have all been thrust into the world of digital instruction. Terms like online learning, remote learning, digital learning, and virtual learning are being tossed around as synonymous when describing how we are teaching and learning. At a minimum, teachers are being told that they need to record either their lectures on video or record their video calls with students where they lecture. For teachers who are not familiar with the best practices of Flipped Learning, many believe they are now “flipped teachers,” or at least doing blended learning. But what do these terms all really mean? Are those teaching with video doing “Flipped Learning?” The short answer is, not really.
The roots of the flipped classroom go back to a book written in 1993 by Alison King, From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side where one of the key elements of a successful flipped classroom originates. One of the most important aspects of the flipped classroom model is that teachers use face-to-face time to focus on active learning strategies. King states, “When students are engaged in actively processing information by reconstructing that information in such new and personally meaningful ways, they are far more likely to remember it and apply it in new situations.”
When the flipped classroom became well known, the transfer of information/content began to happen outside of the classroom space through videos, allowing more time to focus on active learning strategies inside the classroom with teacher support. In Flipped Learning, there is an intentional decrease of lecture, pushing it out of class time, to allow students time for active learning in the class. The teacher shifts from giver of knowledge to coach, guiding student discovery. If you compare this to what schools around the globe are pushing out with terms like “virtual learning,” you can quickly see that simply moving passive instruction to video is not Flipped Learning. This can be a stark contrast to the heart of Flipped Learning, which is active learning.
When most teachers began flipping (myself included), the focus was on how to get the direct instruction recorded so students could receive direct instruction without the teacher being present. Since this is a significant paradigm shift, it can be such a large mindset change that it can take time to reconfigure content in this way. My first year was focused on this step. Virtual and Flipped Learning both have the initial component of figuring out how to get the direct instruction recorded and online so students can take notes without the teacher being present. While this logistical step is in common with both virtual and Flipped Learning, the intention behind the migration of passive instruction decision differs dramatically. In taking the teacher-driven lecture OUT of the class time, I was able to utilize how much more time I had available during class to move into more active learning. Again, this is the heart of Flipped Learning, and this is the next step general education needs to take. When teachers conclude that their sole purpose is not only to transfer information but also to foster student inquiry, they are then able to help their students grow much deeper by focusing on active learning strategies, such as Socratic Seminars, inquiry-based learning, or project-based learning.
From what I have seen in the United States, schools are encouraging teachers to focus on social-emotional learning (SEL) with their students, and rightfully so! This is meant to be an active process to help students build relationships with their teachers and peers from a distance. The first requirement for effective learning is comfort and security in one’s needs. For this reason, It is crucial for students to be a part of a social community so that they are then ready for and capable of being part of an educational one. When teachers begin to see that they can use class time to do this due to the information transfer being moved to the individual space (time where students work without direct teacher instruction/support), I hope that they will also begin to wonder what else could happen in the group space (time where students work collaboratively with teacher support). Once this happens, we have moved toward the international Flipped Learning definition:
Flipped Learning is a framework that enables educators to reach every student. The Flipped approach inverts the traditional classroom model by introducing course concepts before class, allowing educators to use class time to guide each student through active, practical, innovative applications of the course principles.
As you can see from the international definition, videos are only a supporting character in the true goal of Flipped Learning: active learning! In the premiere episode of the new podcast “Normalish,” four educators – all members of the Flipped Learning Global Initiative’s International Faculty – unanimously agreed that their number one hope for teachers this upcoming term is that they will use active learning strategies with their students.
As stated earlier, it takes time to create quality digital content for students, whether you use videos, readings, web resources, etc. As we all move this direction, the hope is that the mindset will shift from, “How do I get content to my students?” to, “What can we actively do as a class now that we have time?” Check out Tom Mennella’s article, Shifting to Teaching Online? Make This Decision First to learn about a few active learning strategies that can be used in the digital space. I recommend finding one or two strategies that resonate with you and trying to bring them into your group-space time 1-2 times per week. The more you use these strategies, the more you will want to bring them into your classroom, and the more you’ll be using true, genuine Flipped Learning!