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The Four Pillars of Flipping the Classroom

Flipping the classroom has been a hot topic amongst circles in the education world recently – so much so that we even wrote an article about it ourselves! It is clear that teachers are excited about this different way of interacting and engaging with their students to generate new ideas and deepen their understanding.
Education Week picked up on this trend as well and hosted a brilliant webinar featuring two expert presenters – Todd Nesloney , a 5th grade math teacher, and Kristin Daniels, a board member of the Flipped Learning Network – on what flipping the classroom means for both students and teachers.
Flipping the classroom is a transformational process, and according to these two experts, the best way to approach a teacher who is interested in flipping his or her classroom is through the four-pillared F.L.I.P. method: creating a Flexible learning environment, changing the Learning culture, offering Intentional content, and supporting teachers as Professional educators.
1.Creating a Flexible Learning Environment. There are three components to this particular pillar, the chief of which is space; that is, making sure that a classroom is optimized for collaborative learning. Desks should be rearranged to encourage conversation, and there should be clear pathways to classroom resources that are needed throughout the learning process. And if the classroom isn’t working, Nesloney says to move into the hallway, or even outside! (As NMSI’s own Freddie Kendrick would say, “Life is messy! You have to do it in all dimensions.”) The second component is pedagogy. With the extra time teachers gain from not having to lecture during class, they have to figure out new ways to engage their students. They can do this by reworking existing lessons to take advantage of the flipped classroom and be more hands-on, or they can go online to find new resources – such as NMSI’s new free lessons! And the final component to a flexible learning environment is changing the way teachers assess their students. Instead of constantly quizzing and testing their students, teachers should gauge student learning by asking questions during class activities. In a setting like this, where the student is actively working with the materials and content, teachers can dig deeper and determine where strengths and gaps exist in student learning.
2.Changing the Learning Culture. This is actually the hardest thing to change in a school, says Daniels, because flipping the classroom requires a complete shift in the roles of student and teacher. Teachers transform from lecturers to engagers, and students are required to be accountable for their education by watching the videos at home and coming to class prepared to work with their classmates. While this shift can take some getting used to, it completely revitalizes both the teaching and learning experience and results in increased understanding and content knowledge. This shift translates into improved student outcomes. Nesloney experienced this positive change first hand when the pass rate of his campus’ state math exams was 96%, compared to the 75% state average, after just one year of flipping his classroom.
3.Offering Intentional Content. Making sure students have all of the resources they need to succeed in a flipped classroom is a must. Whether that means uploading the videos online for them to watch at home, or providing them with flash drives and DVDs if they don’t have internet access at home, teachers have to make sure the content is being delivered to the student in a readily accessible form. Furthermore, in order for a flipped classroom to work, teachers must give specific instructions for their students to follow. Nesloney has found that the WSQ method (pronounced “whisk”) is the best approach to this pillar, because it requires his students to watch, summarize, and question the content of his videos. This method helps engage the students more in the learning process and ensures that they come to the next class period with a working knowledge and understanding of what the teacher is planning to cover that day.
4.Supporting Teachers as Professional Educators. According to Daniels, professional educators are those teachers who share their resources with one another, connect with online communities, allow their work to be transparent, and reflect on their teaching practice to see what does and/or does not work. To do this, teachers must be given the proper support system they need to run their flipped classrooms. Daniels says that such a transformation – from teaching a regular classroom to a flipped classroom – is a personal journey, and teachers who begin that voyage need as much help as they can possibly get. Teachers need time for planning and preparing lessons, collaborative partners for extra help, support for professional reflection, administrative support, resources to flip their classroom effectively, and – perhaps most importantly - ongoing professional support/coaching (such as NMSI’s Teacher Training).

At its core, flipping the classroom aims to shift instruction out of the group learning space and focus on more face-to-face time between teachers and students. However, the big question is how teachers should start. Nesloney says it’s as simple as starting with one lesson, reevaluating how to teach it from a flipped perspective, and then integrating it back into classroom practice. After doing this so many times, a teacher will end up with an entire arsenal of flipped lessons ready to use from year-to-year, which is a benefit he has experienced first-hand. You can also check out his website to learn more about his wonderful ideas for flipping the classroom.
Flipping the classroom is more than changing the way you deliver information; it’s more than just making your students watching videos at home and coming to class to do homework. It is creating more time in class, more time on task, to engage with students in new and profound ways.
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