Are Flipped Science Classrooms Worth the Hype?

After conducting research, one assistant principal has discovered the benefits of the popular learning trend.

Like many teachers and students, I love a good snow day. But four years ago, winter was particularly harsh in our rural area as snow days rolled into snow weeks. Our district missed almost three consecutive weeks due to weather. Teaching high school biology with labs is tough enough, but it is nearly impossible when weather forces school closings.

Frustrated that I would need to review content previously covered and concerned about new material, I sent a quick email to a colleague that teaches chemistry in a neighboring district. When he told me he was ahead of schedule even though they had also missed an excessive amount of school, I was curious. He simply replied, “I have implemented a flipped classroom.”

Bewildered, I wanted to learn more and see what the buzz was all about. This initial conversation led to countless phone calls to educators across the county, face-to-face interviews, school visits in other states, and informal conversations with students and teachers, which ultimately led to the beginning of my dissertation.

How Flipped Learning Can Reshape Education

The early model of the flipped classroom came from Jon Bergman and Aaron Sams, who created a video source for students that missed labs due to school events for sports, clubs or illness.

Other districts quickly learned of the videos, asked for permission to use them, and the flipped classroom was born. Today the Flipped Learning Global Network has grown exponentially as teachers have adopted this teaching and learning method around the world.

Informal early conversations with a variety of teachers and students led me to research student and teacher perceptions of the flipped method as a teaching and learning tool in the science classroom.

I learned quickly that few schools in the Southern region, where I taught, had science teachers that used a flipped teaching model.

I studied three high schools, one in Tennessee, one in North Carolina and one in Georgia, with similar demographics. Each had at least one teacher that had taught a flipped science class for at least two years.

After conducting teacher interviews and an online survey of students, I hoped to learn more about the challenges and benefits of teaching and learning in a flipped classroom.

The teacher interviews and informal conversations indicated three main findings:

  1. Teachers indicated that a flipped classroom lends to stronger relationships with students.

  2. They agreed that implementing a flipped classroom is a significant time investment, but well worth the effort.

  3. Some teachers indicated that a flipped classroom may not be an effective strategy for struggling students, yet motivated students appear to be more successful.

The student online surveys, informal conversations and focus groups led to these three main findings:

  1. Students in this research preferred a flipped classroom model over a traditional model.

  2. Students indicated that certain content areas are not suitable for a flipped classroom while others are appropriate.

  3. Students also reported increased engagement in the flipped classroom.

After talking with both students and teachers, the largest and most profound theme I found was the inherent dependency on technology. Education continues to ebb and flow by debating what tactic will pave an appropriate path for our students’ success.

I believe that technology is an integral tool that can be used within the classroom if is approached and implemented with care. Flipped learning combines the simplicity of learning, failing and making multiple attempts at a concept with technology.

When the partnership of struggle and success can walk the same line, then I believe we are a step closer to preparing our next generation to be responsible, productive citizens.

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May 05 2017

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