Keeping control in flipped classrooms

Classroom control helps keep collaborative projects on track.

Classroom control helps keep collaborative projects on track.

The flipped classroom model has been the source of much excitement and debate within the education community recently. As technology evolves, teachers are now able to disseminate course content far beyond the lecture hall and ensure that class meetings serve as the backdrop for more proactive and collaborative learning experiences. To keep these occasionally frenzied sessions on track, educators must develop thoughtful lesson plans and employ the right mix of classroom control strategies.

Find the right reasons 
Despite the increasing popularity of the practice, teachers cannot afford to flip their classrooms on a whim. Budget realities and results-driven performance expectations necessitate something more enlightened than a trial-and-error approach.

“When a professor comes to my office and says he wants to try the flipped classroom model, we’ll start by thinking about the pedagogy,” Chris Millet, Penn State University assistant director of education technology services, explained in a recent interview with Campus Technology. “We’ll look at the class to determine what problems [they are] trying to solve.”

To ensure close alignment with technical upgrades and learning objectives, most educators initially opt for a limited pilot approach. For instance, engineering students may benefit from more advanced audiovisual tools to help work out complex structural modeling processes. Conversely, a literary course may need little more than a few well-chosen content supplements to stimulate classroom discussions. Whatever the case, the ends must justify the means.

Set the stage
With a clearer perspective on the educational outcomes they would like to see, teachers can begin selecting new tools of trade. Instructors do not necessarily have to reinvent the wheel and outfit their operations with entirely new technologies, however. According to Millet, there are often several ways to promote a faster flow of content with existing resources. Even something as simple as lecture capture systems that allow for searching, bookmarking and annotation could drastically improve retention rates and stimulate student discussion.

Regardless of how far technology upgrades go, instructors must take care to inform students of procedural changes and clearly delineate their new roles and responsibilities within a flipped classroom.

“When you invert [the] situation and make them active participants, it really takes a long time, a lot of repetition and a lot of marketing to get students to buy into this,” Grand Valley State University mathematics professor Robert Talbert told the news source.

It is essential that teachers play the role of technical ambassador within the first few weeks, but eventually they must learn to step aside and let the flipped classroom structure really shine. According to Campus Technology, placing all classroom collaborators on equal footing tends to take the conversation in directions that might not otherwise be explored in the presence of a traditional, authoritarian lecturer.

Assess and correct
Flipped classroom practitioners should not expect results to come overnight, but they should have certain mechanisms in place to assess progress and correct course as needed.

Comprehension checking should be a continuous process, visible before, during and after course materials are consumed. According to THE Journal, teachers can help prime lessons for success by providing students with key terms and questions to guide their homework and feedback mechanisms to help monitor progress.

For example, teachers can survey the comments posted in online discussion groups to get a better sense of the sticking points that may need to be addressed when everyone convenes for the next meeting. Classroom software can also be employed to ensure students remain on-task during live demonstrations and capture performance data to inform teachers on individual and collective progress.

Which educational objectives are best suited to a flipped classroom model? How can administrators help prime professors for a successful transition? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

Kate Beckham

Kate has been lighting up the blogosphere for over 5 years, with a keen interest in social media and new malware threats. When not sitting at a café behind her Mac, you’ll usually find her scouring the racks for vintage finds or playing guitar.