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Flipped Schools: Homework At School, Lectures At Home

Some teachers, even whole schools, are now “flipping” their days — doing homework in class, watching lectures at home. Is this the future of school?

Everybody’s looking for a way to fire up American education, American schools.  The latest buzz is “flip it.”  Flipped classes and schools turn the old pattern of instruction upside down.  No more lectures in class and homework at home.  It’s flipped.  The other way round.  Do your homework at school, with the teacher there to guide and encourage.  Get your lecture at home, online.  On a laptop or smartphone.  Evangelists for flipped schools rave about the advantages of turning the old way on its head.  Is it more than a headstand?  Up next On Point:  “Flipped schools.”  Is this the future of school?

– Tom Ashbrook


Greg Green, principal of Clintondale High School, the first school in the country to completely “flip.” (@flippedschool)

Richard Halverson, professor in the department of leadership and policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Diana Laufenberg, lead teacher at Inquiry Schools, a new non-profit launching a school focused on one-on-one teaching. (@DLaufenberg)

From Tom’s Reading List

CNN: Flipped classrooms give every student a chance to succeed – “It’s no surprise that these issues are happening in our schools. Everyone from politicians to parents admit that our educational system isn’t working, and we’re all screaming for change.  But no one gives advice on what changes are needed to improve education. The time has come to realize that the problem isn’t simply lack of effort or money, but the misalignment of our school structure.”

New York Times: Turning Education Upside Down — “Like everything disruptive, online education is highly controversial. But the flipped classroom is a strategy that nearly everyone agrees on. ‘It’s the only thing I write about as having broad positive agreement,’ said Justin Reich, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard who studies technology and education.”

Washington Post: ‘Flipping’ classrooms: Does it make sense? – “Skeptics ask: How many subjects are really appropriate for this technique? Doesn’t this only work for motivated kids? How does it work for students who don’t have computers at home to watch videos or who live in chaotic conditions that make it impossible to absorb new material? What about teachers who deliver inspiring classroom presentations that don’t translate to video? Isn’t this all just a way to expand the school day that will leave many children behind?”

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  • X-Christian

    I wish I could hear the comments on the video – the background music is completely distracting.

  • X-Christian

    Did one of the teachers say, “There is no more failures” ?!

    • Agni Ashwin

      “We had no more failures” (02:04).

  • Al

    While I agree that the students need assistance with work, that could be the better use of the teacher as a resource. However, it sounds like the flipped class means the teacher needs to record a separate lecture (outside of classtime, which is already quite busy). For a new teacher this is a daunting task, doesn’t it double the workload? (I’d like to hear what the teacher workload is like) I’m not doubting the ability of the technology to help, but the whole picture must be taken into account (as with any “magic solution”).

    • Agni Ashwin

      It seems that once a teacher records a lecture, she will not have to record it the following year (or lecture on it the following year), saving time in the long run.

      • Jasoturner

        You also don’t really need to prepare much with the in-class help with problems and homework, either. Not the same as preparing a formal lecture.

        • Al

          This is assuming you have a problem bank you’re comfortable with, I don’t have that yet. In the Mass Intro Physics course, there is a growing emphasis on conceptual understanding (which I agree with), but the problem banks haven’t caught up, yet. I think they are trying to get away from the “solve this equation” type of science.

      • Al

        Yes, perhaps (assuming the standards don’t change, which they’re about to). In my case, a summer to prep would have helped, also.

    • Samanthabrown3

      There are instructional videos on Khan Academy and elsewhere on the Internet–YouTube is a treasure trove–so teachers don’t necessarily have to make their own.

      • Al

        I agree, but I’ve been looking for lessons related to my class at the level of my students, and I haven’t found anything yet.

  • Bill Cole

    Hi, I am a HS teacher who flipped 40% of my classes this fall – so far so good. However while I initially thought I would be making video’s of me at my whiteboard and posting them in the style of Katie Gimbar on YouTube, that has not proven to be necessary. I found so many helpful videos already online that I just post url’s along with my readings and powerpoint slides and my students access them from home. That way we use class time for discussion, Q and A, problem solving, and complex application. I am in an affluent district so the online access issues are not a roadblock and I am doing this with AP classes so the students are very strong. Not sure yet that I could pull it off with all my classes or if I was teaching in a more economically diverse district, so I wouldn’t say it is a magic bullet for all schools. I do think it is better for my students because it makes them take ownership of their education more and I spoonfeed content much less than previously. The proof will be in my test results, however.

    • Al

      I think this would really help the students take ownership of their education – this is a model they can (“will have to”) use after graduation to continue learning. However, I am working in a more economically diverse district, and I have heard that the students weren’t receptive to even watching videos as their homework. (This may only be solved by solving other socio-economic issues, though, unfortunately)

    • Nicholas Geron

      It is true, but even homework is not possible in economic diverse/barren areas. Instead if computers are provided in the classroom, students can work on the lectures and work in the classroom. Nothing needed at home.

  • Jasoturner

    I used to teach the lab section of an instrumentation lab that was used to weed out weak engineering undergraduates. I found that the kids learned a hell of a lot by working through the material and having me available to answer questions and demonstrate how and why certain tasks and calculations were done. So this concept makes intuitive sense to me. I also lectured a little bit, but I thought the hands-on stuff was more effective.

    My daughter is at the Math and Science Academy up in Marlborough and her chemistry class just flipped. It sounds like it puts a lot of responsibility on the kids, but she seems pretty intrigued by the approach. And I don’t know many other fifteen year olds puzzling over Schrodinger’s cat. Though I don’t know that many fifteen year olds in general…

    • Al

      I am intrigued by a flipped lab based class. I think if there were larger (multi-week) projects that integrated all of the topics, students could research the components on their own, and the (guided) project could help bring all of this learning together in an application based assessment?

  • AC

    this seems smart:
    “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I will learn.”
    Guess who?
    Ben Franklin of course….

  • nlpnt

    This is basically how literature has always been taught. Read the work being studied at home, discuss it in class.

    • Samanthabrown3

      Exactly. So how do you flip an English class? The principal on the program just said that flipping resulted in a dramatically higher homework completion rate, includin in English class. Puzzles me how to do it.

  • geraldfnord

    My guess: this will be good for some, bad for others (to paraphrase Kang—or was it Kodos?). One advantage: when the teacher isn’t nearly always facing the board, it will be easier to somewhat quash the usually minor but often significant torture of some students by other students…and maybe some of the possible torturers will feel better _doing_ something—very loosely speaking, low-status kids are tortured because the torturer feels status anxiety of the sort that supervised work that’s praised when it merits it can often assuage, smart kids are tortured (over and above our disdain for learning and intelligence) because they’re seen as ‘trusties’ of a hated system, so make the system less hateful….

  • andrewgarrett

    I stopped doing homework in 5th grade because it enraged me, and from then on through college I got by, sometimes barely and often with mediocre grades, with what I learned during class time. I’m not blaming anybody else for my poor study habits but I think this approach to education would have suited me.

    • Samanthabrown3

      I wonder why it enraged you.

  • geraldfnord

    I haven’t been able to tune in; has anyone mentioned the problem of classes whose necessary homework time easily outstrips a class hour?

    Language learning, whose homework is absolutely necessary but can involve taking a _lot_ of time, comes to mind: people generally don’t learn irregular subjunctive mood conjugations or hinky fourth declensions without a lot of writing them down, though conversational learning is also vital…. (Note: mathematics above simple arithmetic is language learning, among other things.)

  • Barry Kort

    The flipped classroom model allows for more group discussion and more individual mentoring.

  • creaker

    It’s really not that different from “go read chapters 2 and 3 for homework and we’ll discuss tomorrow” – as long as sitting at home watching a lecture does not replace reading chapters 2 and 3.

  • J__o__h__n

    One of the worst teachers I ever had was my Algebra teacher. We would correct the prior night’s homework, then have a brief lesson, and then start working on the assignment due the next day. I’d rather have a fascinating in person lecture and minimal homework. Other than research papers and reading, almost all homework was a waste of time.

  • Labropotes

    Three heartfelt recommendations:

    Robert Sapolsky’s course on Human Behavioral Biology out of Stanford. If you accept Pound’s definition of poetry as language packed to the limit with meaning, the entire course it poetry.

    Check out the BBC Documentary series directed at their English, not American, audience. One can see the difference in the length. 58 or 59 minutes, English. 48 or 49 minutes, American. Look at The Greatest Show on Earth (about Ancient Greek drama) and Bible’s Buried Secrets (which addresses three mysterious elements in the Old Testament), for two really excellent examples.

    These courses show that “TV” can be as effective a teaching medium as books. I love the idea of “flipping” school. I would have performed better, and it seems that lots of parents and siblings might learn a lot too, especially with really compelling content.

  • creaker

    Recorded lectures have advantages – rather than getting taught by someone coming off the flu who stayed up all night with their infant, you can get the best lecture ever done.

    And you can hit pause or go back and listen again as many times as you need to.

  • Sara Deputy Anderson

    Isn’t flipping a classroom just replacing reading? What happened to kids reading at home and coming to class ready to discuss? Are we giving up on our kids reading comprehension skills?

    • BHA_in_Vermont

      When I was in college, I always wrestled with:

      Do I read the book first and hope the lecture fills in what I didn’t understand
      Do I go to the lecture first so the book makes sense?

      I don’t think this would apply in an English class but it sure did in science classes like organic chemistry.

      I’m not sure I ever came up with an answer ; -)

      • Sara Deputy Anderson

        Probably both!

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    Sounds like a good idea.

    1) If kids have a problem with some of their homework, they are encouraged to “phone a friend”. Which they may not want to do since they might been seen as either lazy or not so bright that they need help.
    2) If kids have a problem they may not ask in class because no one else is asking and therefore they must be “stupid” and do not want to appear to be so.
    3) There is only so much of the class hour that can be spent on homework review/questions, the teacher needs to get to “today’s topic”.
    4) I have long thought that the reason kids in low income families tend not to do as well as those from higher income families is not because they are less capable of learning but because the parents don’t have the educational background to help with homework. And even in higher income families, how many parents can help with subjects like calculus? IF they took it in high school or college, it was a LONG time back and unless they use it regularly, will have to relearn it with their kid.

    I think INTERACTIVE lectures would be best, I’m not so sure a video of a Powerpoint presentation is as useful.

  • nlpnt

    There’s no reason teachers can’t combine approaches – record their own lecture but include links to Kahn or Crash Course in the underbar for those who’d like to hear something presented in a different way.

  • ThirdWayForward

    It all depends on the teacher and the subject.
    Many subjects, ranging from history to physics, require a basic understanding of the background. The most efficient and fast way of bringing everyone up to speed is via a lecture — if you ask students to read a chapter in a textbook, many will not do it, and the ones who do may not concentrate their attention on it.

    Typically when we watch a movie or video at home, the situation is much more distracting than in a movie theater or classroom. We need to use attentional resources wisely, and some interactive time in the classroom is important, but a good deal of education does involve exposure to facts and concepts.

    Doing homework in the classroom has the potential for dumbing down the subjects covered — if you only do homework in the classroom, then there is no common focus on the content of the subject. The students who get the concepts immediately are short-changed, and they get bored.

    Push notifications for school work sound like a nightmare — they are bringing into a student’s life the evils of the modern, information-age workplace, where no free time is beyond the reach of workplace demands.

  • Yar

    Didn’t Jesus use a flipped model to reform the church? Education has to be relevant in some aspect to the learner. I would like to use the empowerment model, and use students to solve community problems. Instill hope for a new and better future, without hope change is impossible.
    The school board member Mike said we are interested in anything that doesn’t cost money. It always cost time and some money to invest in children. Maybe he needs to find a different job.
    How do we get the most for our investment in children? Maybe we should share with them just what that investment is and why it is so important. Then ask them what they think they need to learn.
    By high school, students should know the district budget and look at how the money is being spent in their school.
    All kids should help maintain their facility and prepare their food. This is not to save money, it is to teach skills and to work together.
    The greatest power of all is to empower others.
    The reason we fail at education is we fear the result should we succeed.

  • http://flipped-learning.com/ Jon Bergmann

    The flipped class actually makes the teacher MORE valuable. They are facilitators of learning and need to be more knowledgeable and nimble. This does NOT replace teachers and if I have my way (I am one of the flipped class’ pioneers) it will always emphasize the value and importance of the classroom teacher.

  • Nicholas Geron

    “Let us in education dream of an aristocracy of achievement arising out of a democracy of opportunity” – Jefferson

    Flipped schools do not provide equal opportunity.

    Anyone interested in flipped schools should also look into blended learning. The main problem with flipped schools is that homework is essentially unequal. if you do not have a stable home life, you are immediately disadvantaged (the French want to outlaw homework to ensure equality http://www.npr.org/2012/12/02/166193594/pencils-down-french-plan-would-end-homework). Throw in a requirement to have internet, and flipped schools are inherently unequal, since not all students have internet either.

    The nice part is that flipped schools show how unequal all education in America is. Kids from single parents who do not have a stable home life are constantly fighting an uphill battle with widening inequality throughout the country. Schools are not funded equally, just as materials at home are not equal.

    Instead, flipped schools should be implemented inside the classroom. Students can work independently on work on their computers, at their own pace, while struggling students can receive more one on one instruction from the teacher. The teacher can also schedule mini lessons with students that are at the same assignment.

  • judit

    Thank you for taking on this topic, it’s great to hear that it is catching on.

    I am currently getting a PhD, very much looking forward to finishing and going back to teach at the high school that inspired me to embrace this path in life. I have had extensive conversations with my most inspiring teachers of yore, on how they are “flipping” our school.

    The best points that were made by my past (and present) most inspiring teachers: they said “Why would we spend our time crafting the perfect lecture on the pythagorean theorem, once again this year, versus taking my time to teach students *how* to learn. Teaching people *how* to learn, and how to evaluate and utilize information they find on the internet, is really preparing them for the future, while having the time to guide students through the lessons, and the concepts, and more globally, to evaluate and question their validity, is a more pertinent talent to foster in students of today.”

  • Sara Deputy Anderson

    I think the increased student/teacher interaction is great. That’s more important than dry lecture time anyhow. Video lectures at home are a wonderful addition to education, but shouldn’t replace reading. Reading has such a huge impact on brain development from birth (more so than even cave painting.) Learning to track left to right, recognize letters, connect meaning to symbols (though cave painting would aid in this as well) . . . the impact on brain development is endless.

    I’m not saying that flipping classrooms is cutting out reading. I’m saying that cutting out reading could be an unintentional side effect, and should be considered.

    As a side note, a friend of mine used to flip his math classes, before he moved into administration. One thing he liked about it was that he didn’t actually have to teach anymore. THAT is suspect in and of itself!

    • Bradley Lignoski

      I am not saying that we should do away with reading. I am saying that if reading is eventually replaced by more efficient means of transferring information from person to person, then what is the problem with that?

      I worry that so much time and effort would go into one technology over another because one comes with the bonus of improving the eye-tracking necessary for using that technology (and the “brain” development), the symbol-recognition for using that technology… in short, the various skills you need for using that technology.

      …But seriously, reading isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon and for that, I am totally thrilled.

      A a math teacher, I can not imagine doing math without knowing how to express relationships on paper (or entered onto a screen using LaTeX).

      Please know that all teachers dislike the tedious parts of their work. People who should be teaching tend to enjoy the interaction that they have with students… the part that humans are good at (as opposed to repeating the same lecture in front of a room every year).

      I feel strongly that we should let robots (such as youtube) do what robots are good at so that we humans can do what we find fulfilling, and are good at, like mentoring young people.

      If this involves less robot-like behavior, that is great. I worry that you might have straw-manned your friend. Did he like the flipped design because it let him teach less or because it let him teach differently? Count me in the latter camp.

      …also, more tedious work for the teacher does not equate to more awesome, effective work from the teacher. Quite the contrary!

  • sieva

    We’re looking for feedback from teachers using the Flipped Model, or looking to try it out. StudySoup.com is being used in the higher education space for this model – we’d like to hear how we can make it better for you and your students. Please reach me at Sieva at studysoup.com

  • Jonathan Thomas-Palmer

    I was a traditional high school physics teacher for 12.5 years and then I flipped my classes for 1 semester. That was all it took to see how incredible flipping is. Three months ago I stopped being a classroom teacher to start my own one person business, Flipping Physics, making physics videos other teachers can use to help flip their classes. That’s how much of a game changer I thinking flipping is. I made a video that does a side by side comparison of a traditional class to a flipped class, which you can view at http://www.flippingphysics.com/flipping.html

  • Bradley Lignoski

    I teach my students how to learn from videos. They pause often, try to anticipate where I am going with a derivation and work through the sample problems as I do if they find the ideas challenging.

    Bonus: When prepping for a test, they can rewatch any video!

    Well-designed videos never take steps that are too large for the student. Also, remember that the whole point of this is to give the kids ample time to get their questions answered in class.

    My students have a due date for multiple problems sets once per week. They get all week to complete it. If they are staying on schedule (and they do), when they do not understand something, they ask me and I always have plenty of time to clear it up, face-to-face, in class.

    Indeed, teaching a flipped class requires different course-design decisions than a traditional classroom. If teachers take advantage of the flexibility that it allows and design their courses and videos carefully, every student benefits.

  • Regular_Listener

    This sounds to me like less of a new model and more of making the best of a bad situation, something that Mr. Green was, to his credit, forthright about. If the students are hardly doing any homework, perhaps are living in situations that make it very hard to do so, then bringing more homework-type things into the school day is a good idea. I wonder though – do these kids actually spend their evenings watching lectures online? My bet would be that not many do. There is also a good argument for a longer school day, something that would help many students and their families, but that would place additional burdens on school staff.

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