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The Flipped Class as a Transition to Deep 21st Century Learning

I have been thinking a lot lately about where flipped learning fits into the whole educational reform movement.  What place does flipped learning have in this movement?  We have learned a great deal about learning in the recent past, but sadly much of that research doesn’t get into actual classrooms.  Why is that?

First, a little background on educational research:  Research suggests that mastery learning, problem based learning (PBL), inquiry learning, hands-on learning, and many other learning practices increase student engagement and performance.  But in many classes, teachers are not using these learning strategies.

How does flipped learning fit encourage research based best practices?  I see flipped learning as a transitional pedagogy/technique.  We are transitioning from the old industrial model of education to the learner centered, active class of the future.  But, if you asked a teacher who has been lecturing for twenty years to teach completely using PBL or inquiry, he/she will not be able to make the jump.  It is too big of a change.  But if you tell the same teacher they only need to record their present lessons, and make those available to their students, this is not such a big leap. 

This crystalized for me when I visited Justyna Kalinoska’s class here at my school.  I introduced the flipped class this past fall to my staff and Justyna, a seventh grade math teacher, jumped on board.  She spent the first part of the year focusing in on making the videos.  But now when you visit her class you see the students doing more than solving for x.  They are creating content, making their own videos, and presenting their learning to classmates.  It is now an active, engaged, hub of learning. 

Then I noted, that her progression was similar to mine.  Aaron Sams and I started flipping our classes in 2006-2007 we too started by focusing on the videos.  After one year we began to re-think what activities we did in class with kids. 

This has led me to think that there is a natural progression for many flipped class teachers.  Some teachers take three years to get to step three and we have observed some crazy people who can get to step three in a few months.  These folks typically have no kids, no life, and are incredibly motivated.  Note that Aaron and I took three years to get to step three (we are slower learners I guess).

The Progression:

1.     Teacher Flips a lesson or a unit and find it to be successful

2.     Teacher decides to flip the whole class

a.     (At least at the upper grades.  At the lower grades I don’t see teachers flipping a class, but rather, flipping selected lessons). 

b.     Often this step takes an entire year as the teacher needs to focus in on making the videos—assuming they make all of their own videos.

3.     Teacher realizes they have more time and begin to explore engaging activities.  This is where the magic of the flipped class happens.  When the teacher moves away from the stand and deliver approach and realize there is more to learning than disseminating content. 

And it is in step three where the teachers customize flipped learning.  This is where they make it their own, where they become experienced flipped class teachers.  And it is in this stage which where the deep benefits of the flipped class begin and where we see classes transition from the old industrial model to the active and engaged centers of learning.