Since the early ‘90s, academics such as Prof Eric Mazur from Harvard University has introduced some of the concepts that the Flipped Classroom is built upon. The teaching strategy gained further popularity after the publication of Flip Your Classroom: Reaching Every Student in Every Class Every Day (2012) by Bergmann, J., and Sams, A. Based on the educational research done in the years since then, we know much more about how learning works and what effective teaching strategies look like. Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate Flipped Classrooms as a teaching strategy based on the knowledge we have now.
Could the Flipped Classroom be another educational trend that will eventually fade into obscurity with little to show for the effort of implementing it, or does it have actual learning value for the classroom? Luckily, Mind, Brain, and Education (MBE) specialist Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa has reflected on this issue and found that there are three distinct benefits of using this teaching strategy that align with MBE principles.
The Flipped Classroom strategy creates space (or time) for educators to differentiate their instruction. In other words, students are allowed more flexibility to learn at their own pace, and as a result, educators can spend more time helping students master concepts that they struggle with. What is most important in the context of this finding, is that class time is focused on mastery learning and moves away from a race to cover all of the material at the cost of learning. It should come as no surprise that students who master their material perform well above those who have simply covered the material. Thus, students have a greater opportunity to consolidate the material to their long-term memory, therefore remembering the work they have been taught and forming strong neural pathways.
Flexible use of technology
In many cases, the true potential of technology, such as videos, cannot be realised within the time constraints of the classroom. Anyone who has followed a video tutorial on YouTube can attest to the fact that it is best viewed multiple times to truly absorb what is being taught. When the material is assigned to be done at home with a flipped strategy, students can engage with the work via the different technologies where and when they want to – or as many times as they like. Therefore, they have the opportunity to maximise this particular learning opportunity. When the work is discussed in the classroom during the next lesson, students would have had the opportunity to build a strong foundational knowledge for the new information to be built upon.
Efficient use of classroom time
Teaching strategies cannot be discussed without considering the time constraints of a single lesson. It is evident from the findings above that time constraints necessitate innovative strategies such as the Flipped Classroom. When classes are effectively ‘flipped’, time is saved on less important tasks such as watching a 15-minute video in class. When this video is watched at home, you will have 15 minutes of extra time for teaching in class. There are many examples of tasks that take up time in class that can be just as effective when done at home, thereby freeing up precious classroom time. With more teaching and learning time in the classroom, students’ working memories are less strained and they have the opportunity to have deep learning experiences.
Based on this short discussion, the Flipped Classroom strategy holds up well when examined in light of the Sciences of Learning. Tokuhama-Espinosa states that “we have begun moving in the right direction: More and more teacher training programs are promoting MBE ideas, and many teacher certification programs are incorporating crucial knowledge of the brain in the designs they teach”. It is important to evaluate any learning intervention and strategy to determine whether or not it is brain-friendly or simply the latest educational fad.
If you would like to find out more about the Flipped Classroom teaching strategy and how it aligns with brain-friendly learning, visit ITSI’s Professional Development page or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicolas Matthee is an educational researcher at ITSI. His work focuses on Cognitive Psychology, Educational Neuroscience, and Pedagogy. He further specialises as a Ritual Studies specialist with a focus on Ritual, Liturgical and Thanatological Studies and how they relate to different technologies and cyber contexts.
He is a research associate at the Department of Practical Theology at the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Pretoria. Non-academic related expertise includes game and 3D graphics development for computer and mobile environments.