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Pros and cons of the flipped classroom

By Robert Barakat on 6 March 2016Flipped learningInnovationNSWstaffroom

An important part of making any informed decision is assessing both sides of the argument. The same is true for decisions made in the classroom. Recently, we have been constructing a mini-series on the Flipped Classroom and why the research suggests that it’s a good idea to flip. But today we’re going to be taking a step back and having a balanced look at the pros and cons of the Flipped Classroom model. With any luck, we can make the decision a more ‘informed’ one.

Con 1: It relies heavily on technology

How many times have you gotten to the day an assessment is due and are confronted with students complaining their “printers broke” or they tried to email but the “internet was down”.

It’s the technological version of “the dog ate my homework.”

The thought of having to rely on technology to deliver content and the process of making sure that content is actually viewed is a tough problem. It takes a degree of faith to step away from the reliance on traditional in-class learning and remove an element of control over the learning experience. Additionally, the necessity for students to have access to a computer and Internet in order to view videos may leave out students from less-advantaged backgrounds.

Pro 1: It speaks to the technology generation

The current generation more than ever are ruled by technology and there is an inevitable shift toward a more technology focused learning experience. Nearly every teen has at least one device and many schools provide electronic devices to their students or enforce a BYOD (bring your own device) policy.

Students no longer distinguish between life with and without technology, it’s a seamlessly integrated experience. The expectation is that their educational experience is the same. Especially with the perils of incorrect content on the internet, controlling the resources students access reverts attention back toward content that is teacher approved. Flipping the classroom embraces the shift toward an educational experience more in line with every other aspect of a student’s life – it speaks their language.

Flipping the classroom embraces the shift to an educational experience more in line with every other aspect of a student’s life – it speaks their language.

Con 2: It’s dependent upon student participation

Because not all content is covered in class, students bear more of the responsibility of motivating themselves to complete assigned work. Without specific technology, such as our teacher platform that allows you to see what your students are watching, how can you be sure anyone is even watching content at home?

For students to be motivated to learn the content, the material has to be engaging and interesting. Video content must elevate the words from the page and encourage students to not only watch, but listen. That is easier said than done.

Pro 2: It enables a personalised learning experience

Flipped learning removes the ‘one size fits all’ nature of classroom learning, which often forces students to learn at a pace that isn’t optimal.

The power of video is such that it never gets tired, sick or frustrated and is always available. The ability for students to control the speed at which they learn through pause, rewind and replay buttons places more control in their hands and offers them a personalised learning experience. This might involve watching a concept 3-4 times to truly gain an in-depth understanding or it might mean skipping certain topics that are already understood.

Students who are struggling with content cannot pause and replay a teacher in class and are often left in a cycle of poor understanding which compounds as the class moves onto new concepts. A more personal experience ultimately keeps students more engaged with the material and fosters more in-depth understanding.

Con 3: It requires having videos – creating extra work for teachers

The flipped learning model relies on having video lectures to assign students. For teachers this means they have to create the content themselves. Merely replicating the classroom experience online is not good enough to create a great learning experience as different mediums and modes of delivery require a different approach. For example, video lessons (as opposed to classroom lessons) shouldn’t be more than 6 minutes in length. This can be cumbersome for teachers, extremely time consuming and does not guarantee that content created is going to be engaging, professional and exciting for students.

Merely replicating the classroom experience online is not good enough to create a great learning experience as different mediums and modes of delivery require a different approach.

Therefore, teachers must look towards other platforms that provide curriculum specific videos for students to watch. A majority of our time and effort at HSC Hub is consumed with researching, testing and developing videos that do create the ideal learning experience for students. We understand the difficulty in creating a great product and can speak to the difficulty for teachers to find good content to make flipping the classroom effective.

Pro 3: It makes for better lessons and better learning

This is probably the biggest pro of the flipped classroom model. Because students are learning the content at home, this gives teachers more power, scope and time to refocus their lessons away from passive content delivery to more dynamic and in-depth teaching.

Teachers are free to create active lessons, experimenting with different practical and application activities.

Teachers are also given the time to interact with all of their students, and answer all the questions without time constraints. Particularly for those struggling, having the time available to individually assist the student, help with road blocks in learning and give specific feedback can change their entire learning experience for the better.

If you’re after more information about the flipped classroom model, it is worth checking out our other posts for some research as to the benefits of flipping. Ultimately, the decision to implement elements of a flipped classroom is a meaningful one, hopefully now you have the resources to make an informed decision.

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