Transforming Education Through Flipped Classrooms
What we view as the standard, traditional, lecture based classroom was actually conceived in Prussia- imported to the United States in the early 1800’s by Horace Mann. As Julianna noted in an earlier blog post, the development of this format came about mirroring developments brought about during the industrial revolution; educating the national workforce much akin to factories manufacturing commodities. Horace Mann, Secretary of Education at the time, took lease of the Prussian model, importing the template for use in Massachusetts in 1852.
Mann sought to provide the coming generation of American children a common experience, one that would help bridge the sectarian divide between Catholic and Protestant communities in Massachusetts, a conflict he believed was perpetuated by parochial schools. By providing a free education to all citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he was able to consolidate a common sense of identity between the two communities, and in this sense, it more than fulfilled its purpose.
One can argue that the need for the common experience provided by school still holds true today. This model, however, is over 150 years old and in desperate need of modernization. We know students not only have differing capabilities, skills and strengths, but it’s the responsibility of schools to harness technological innovations that help provide the differentiated education students deserve to succeed.
Joel Rose, co-founder and chief executive officer of “New Classrooms Innovation Partners” writes in an article published by The Atlantic, speaking directly to this issue. For Rose, it’s obvious that “factories weren’t designed to support personalization (and) neither were schools”. This is how the traditional classroom fails to serve as a model that supports student creativity, ingenuity and individual development . Furthermore, the US government’s approach to classroom modernization has amounted to purchasing computers for a classroom, which may seem like a good way of incorporating technology, however, “smoothly integrating three computers into a daily lesson is not always easy when a teacher has to consider the needs of 28 students all learning at the same time”.
Paraphrasing the thrust of Rose’s argument, what the education system needs is a reformulation of our educational model, re-conceptualizing the ways in which technology can be successfully integrated. Only in doing so can we ensure that the wide range of student capabilities, talent, strengths and weaknesses, are successfully identified, supported and/or ameliorated. This is a marked move away from the traditional “lecture based” standard, one which is gaining increased traction is what’s termed the “flipped classroom”.
-Reversing the role of time spent in the classroom
If the standard way a classroom operates is by spending time listening to lectures by a teacher, that knowledge then supported with homework done out of class, then the flipped classroom does precisely that- flips the equation. One example of the “flipped classroom” is that of Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, who began teaching at Woodland Park High School in Woodland Park, Colorado. Experiencing the stress of educating in rural communities where students were forced to take days off traveling to compete in athletic competitions at nearby schools “which weren’t nearby”, Bergmann and Sams were hard pressed to ensure students who were away did not become disadvantaged simply by engaging in sports.
Their solution was to record Powerpoint presentations in class, complete with audio, which was then provided students who could review new material while away competing, allowing him to consolidate the information they’ve learned, together in class. Bergmann notes how the role of the teacher “changed, to more of a tutor than a deliverer of content, we have the privilege of observing students interact with each other. As we roam around the class, we notice the students developing their own collaborative groups. Students are helping each other learn instead of relying on the teacher as the sole disseminator of knowledge. It truly is magical to observe. We are often in awe of how well our students work together and learn from each other.” Students help to develop “a culture of learning by… identifying learning as their goal, instead of striving for the completion of assignments… making… classes places where students carry out meaningful activities instead of completing busy work”.
Another shining example can be found in higher education, where Stanford’s medical school flipped their classroom. Utilizing online lecture series based on TedX and Khan Academy, among other online videos, using class time to solve problems alongside professors (as opposed to simply being instructed the basics) raised their students’ attendance rate in a Biochemistry course from 30% to 80% in a semester.
Want quantitative evidence that this strategy is working? Take a study conducted by Prober and Heath, in which one set of students in a control group recieved a lecture from a Nobel-prize winning physicist, with the experimental group (non-lecture) section, where students worked with graduate students to solve physics problems. Experimental group tests scores were almost double that of the control group, where they earned a 74% versus 41%.
Just as Stanford Medical School is demonstrating the futility of maintaining the “sage on the stage” model, the development of newer models of education, exemplifying direct experience and individualized learning are proving that technology doesn’t just provide tools to learn- it radically expands the realm of how we learn.