Inverted or Flipped Classrooms: What are they and how do they work?
Posted: Sunday, July 1st, 2012
by Laura Henriques and Meredith Ashbran
What is a flipped or inverted classroom?
Classrooms at the K-12 and college level normally include the direct instruction portion of the instructional sequence. Students listen to a lecture, take notes, and may participate in discussions. There might be some demonstrations or lab activities, but the bulk of classroom time is often spent with the teacher doing lots of work and the students passively receiving the information. Students then go home to solve problems, answer homework questions, and try to apply the information they “learned” during class. It is often at this point where the lessons, which seemed to make so much sense during school hours, seem confusing and the students need help from us. Sadly for them, we aren’t there to help!In a flipped or inverted classroom the two activities described above are swapped. Students listen to mini-lectures, do readings, and see examples online at home. They can do that independently fairly well, without our direct input. Then, during class time they work to solve problems, answer questions, and apply knowledge to new situations. This is when they are most likely to need our help, and now we can be there!
Doing this in your own classroom means some pretty dramatic changes for you and your students. Meredith Ashbran, a physics teacher in Long Beach Unified School District, participated in a few institutes hosted by Google to help educators learn to “flip” their curriculum. Last year she embraced the philosophy and taught her physics classes using a flipped, or inverted approach. Since we are seeing more and more about the merits of this approach in the popular press I thought it would be helpful to hear from a teacher who has done this to get pointers on the process and suggestions on how to get started.
Meredith, tell us about the process and how it worked for you.
What I found from implementing an inverted curriculum is that a lot more of my work was done beforehand or outside of the classroom. I was actually better planned because I had to have lectures and online activities for the students planned well in advanced of when I would be addressing the material in class. There was also a lot more preparation that I could do beforehand (like in the summer) instead of the night before. Choosing videos was fairly easy for me as I used the course lectures from Hippo Campus (see resources at the end of this article). They are well put together and were well suited for the course I was teaching. Much of the work I had to do with the lectures was making them accessible to students. I ended up making my own lecture sheets for the students to use as they went through the lectures. This gave students a more structured interaction with the video-animated lectures instead of just having them take whatever notes they wanted. The focused lecture sheets included fill in the blank sentences, drawings and diagrams that they either had to create, label, or explain, practice problems, and mini online experiments (that were really just applications of concepts in a guided environment). Outside of class the students were sometimes assigned other resources, like Khan Academy lectures, practice problems, or PHET simulations with guiding questions.
In class I was able to do so much more with the students. I was able to move away from being a “sage on a stage” and was allowed to be a guide in the kids’ learning. We would often work on problem sets in class. This took many forms such as small groups working together as I circulated the classroom, pairs working through a single problem and then going through it as a class, or even example problems that individual students and I helped the class get through. There was also much more time for activities in class. I had often, in the past, found that I had to pick and choose only certain activities because I simply did not have time to get through everything. With an inverted curriculum I found myself looking for new activities for topics I had never been able to show my kids before. I felt my time in class was so much more productive and useful for the students as I was able to help them through the more difficult application of concepts. I know that many people are concerned about access to the internet, but this was not an issue. Kids find a way to make it work.
What sort of response did your students have to this new approach?
Many of the students bought in immediately, but there were also those who resisted. I did need to make clear the justification of the different approach to the students, but soon they became self-regulating. I discussed with the students the benefits to them of the inverted curriculum, such as being able to have peer and teacher help during difficult problem sets, more chance for application and activities to help illustrate the material, and learning to be responsible for their own learning. I would encourage the students to discuss certain concepts from the previous night’s notes. Often discussion would arise when they were working on problem sets and I would hear the kids say “did you do your hippo notes?” (hippo notes are what we called the notes they took on the Hippo Campus lectures). This question was usually followed by the statement “Well, if you had done your hippo notes you would know the answer to that question.” From day one I made the class’ activities so that it was essential to have done the notes to be able to participate. I think that helped get students to do the notes.
Every now and then I would have a student who would complain and say to me “why don’t you just lecture in class? I learn better that way.” I would use this as an opportunity to question why the student thought they would learn better that way. Usually the discussion led to the student’s realization that they really just wanted to sit back and take notes all class period instead of really thinking and engaging with the material. I did have some trouble finding a way to bring up meaningful questions for discussion in class and found that students were very reluctant to ask questions in class about a lecture they had viewed outside of class. One way I hope to combat this problem next year is to include an online discussion requirement with the lectures. This will probably be in the form of Google Moderator where students and I can post questions, post answers to questions, and vote on which questions most students have. My students who really bought in seemed to like the approach. There were some that didn’t and most of the complaints came back to wanting to be told what to do, and tune out instead of really thinking, pushing themselves, and being responsible for their own learning.
There is a learning curve for implementing an inverted curriculum. I thoroughly enjoyed flipping my classroom and truly believe it is a methodology that just makes sense for our students and our society. There are things I would do differently the next time I teach the class but I know my curriculum would still be inverted.
Anything else we should know if we are thinking about flipping?
It’s not perfect, but it is a methodology that, when used well, really changes how we interact with kids and how kids interact with the curriculum. While it is still a work in progress (as traditional teaching also is), I would never go back. This approach mirrors how kids already interact with the world, so bringing this method to education makes sense. It lets me help them where they need help — doing problems and labs, and lets them work on their own for note taking, a skill they have already mastered. You can make your own videos but you don’t need to. I knew I was going to flip my entire school year so I didn’t want to have to create my own videos, and I used pre-existing ones.
While not all of us are going to change our entire curriculum, like Meredith did, we can consider moving towards a flipped curriculum in baby steps. Instead of making the entire year inverted we can create a single unit that is inverted or a few days of each unit where the “lecture” portion is done at home and class time can be spent applying those concepts and clarifying confusion. This summer might be a perfect time to plan a unit or lessons which flip things around. It can be invigorating for you and your students. The resources below provide you with a good starting point. The Google site provides reflections from other teachers who have tried this process. Good luck and have fun!
Resources to help you get started:
Hippo Campus – an online collection of lessons associated with HS science and math courses
PHET Simulations – a collection of interactive science simulations (most are physics based)
Khan Academy – online lectures on a myriad of topics
MIT Open Courses – online lectures from MIT professors (more appropriate for AP courses)
ThePhysicsClassroom – site with tutorials, problem solving help and simulations
Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and president-elect of CSTA.
Meredith Ashbran is a physics teacher in Long Beach USD and a member of CSTA.
Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014
October 31, 2014 is the last day to register for one of two amazing pre-conference field courses being offered by CSTA. The field courses will take place on Wednesday, December 3, the day before the NSTA Long Beach Area Conference.
2014 Long Beach Area Conference — CSTA Pre-Conference Field Courses
Marine Science Adventures on Catalina Island
Located on Catalina Island just 20 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, Big Fisherman’s Cove is the site of the famed USC Wrigley Marine Science Center, an international research and teaching facility. After a general tour of the facilities and touch tanks, teachers will participate in an ecology and island history walk and hear the latest research on sharks from world-renowned expert, Dr. Chris Lowe. Teachers will also tour and learn about the hyperbaric chamber that saves divers’ lives and explore tiny critters in the plankton lab. Participants may jump into a wetsuit and enjoy a guided snorkeling tour in pristine kelp beds, under the guidance of USC dive instructors or venture on a guided kayak tour off the beautiful coast of Catalina. What a day! Please wear slacks, close-toed shoes, a jacket, sunscreen and bring a bathing suit and towel if you plan to snorkel or kayak – cameras, binoculars and hats are a big plus! If you are prone to seasickness, please bring medication.
Wednesday, December 3, 6:30am – 5:30 pm
CSTA Member/Nonmember Fees: $60/$75 Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014
Here are some of the many exciting events you can expect at the NSTA Area Conference on Science Education in Long Beach this December 4–6:
- Short Courses
- Field Trips
- Over 400 scheduled sessions on the NGSS, STEM, Life/Physical Science, Chemistry, and many more for all grade bands and disciplines!
- Special programming including Physics Day, Chemistry Day, Biology Day, Engineering Day
- Preconference workshops like the Picture-Perfect Workshop where you’ll model lessons that integrate science and reading
- The famous Exhibit Hall (check out innovative new products and materials!)
- and much more…
Register today for the most savings! Our Earlybird Deadline ends October 24. – Remember CSTA members: Select the “NSTA Affiliate Member Rate” when registering to save $90 on registration.
Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014
CSTA Members: You are invited to submit a proposal to showcase your classroom-tested NGSS, STEM, or Engineering unit, lesson, or project at the CSTA Night at the Aquarium. Submit a proposal for the Showcase today and share your experience with your colleagues. Showcase presenters receive a free ticket to the event! Submit a proposal today!
Proposals will be accepted September 24 – October 20. Notifications regarding the status of proposals will be distributed via email on October 27, 2014.
Proposal Guidelines and Information:
- You must be a member of CSTA to submit a proposal.
- We are looking for educators who can showcase an engineering/STEM/NGSS unit, lesson(s), or project that directly apply to classroom instruction. Preference will be given to those proposals that integrate the three dimensions of NGSS.
- You will be provided with a 6’ table top.
- You are expected to post your handouts on the event’s Edmodo site. This must be done a week prior to the event.
- The evening will be divided into two, 90 minute “shifts.” Each shift will allow for 20 minutes of set-up, 60 minutes for “presentation,” and 10 minutes for clean-up. If accepted, your showcase will be assigned to one shift, allowing you the other 90 minutes to enjoy the evening’s events as a participant.
- If possible, bring hands-on supplies/manipulatives (not handouts) or examples (videos, photos, student work, other) for attendees to see/use during your discussions.
Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014
Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementation planning for the Next Generations Science Standards and implementing its new strategic plan. If you are interesting in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration.
Nominations for the following positions on the CSTA Board of Directors are now being accepted:
- President Elect (this is a six year term, two years as President-Elect, two years as President, and two years as Immediate Past President)
- Primary Director
- Middle School/Jr. High Director
- 2-Year College Director
- Informal Science Education Director
- Region 1 Director*
- Region 3 Director*
Directors (with the exception of the president-elect) will serve a two-year term beginning July 1, 2015, and ending June 30, 2017. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014
CSTA and CASCD have teamed up to bring you and your curriculum developers a one-day professional learning opportunity. Both CSTA and CASCD members may register at member rates. Event dates and location are:
- January 7, 2015, Fairfield (Register by December 31, 2014)
- February 20, 2015, Walnut (Register by December 31, 2014)
Introduction to the Next Generation Science Standards: A Paradigm Shift in Teaching and Learning
This full-day workshop will highlight the many shifts required of both teachers and learners under the Next Generation Science Standards. In the morning session, participants will engage in an overview of the NGSS and its Three Dimensions. During the afternoon sessions, participants will be invited to experience either a K-5 or 6-12 session. Each of these sessions will further explore the NGSS with an emphasis on the impact it will have within K-5 and 6-12 classrooms. Learn More…