Flip the Classrom
By Tess Davey
Flip the classroom and get students who understand their math and science classes rather than just barely pass them. The United States is lagging behind in the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math, otherwise known as S.T.E.M., The U.S. high schools and higher education need to get serious about reworking the structure of how S.T.E.M. preparatory classes are taught in order to adjust to new technology and the most current research on how students learn best. Public high schools are a one size fits all approach; the advanced students are bored, while the struggling students don't have their issues addressed. A flipped classroom would give the struggling students enough time to get their homework questions answered in class while the advanced students could work ahead by watching the upcoming videos. Currently, restless students are packed into small rooms with their peers listening to an hour lecture on how to do some abstract problem. This system is inefficient and a waste of both student and teacher time. Some students may take notes but most are likely just attempting to stay awake through a dull speech on stoichiometry. After a seven to eight hour day of some 6 similar lectures, these same students head home, if not first to an extracurricular, to do problem sets connected to the hour lecture they can barely remember. They have questions on a step or two and find themselves at a loss to continue. The next day, they must ask their question before lecture begins if they have any hope to understand that day’s lecture, and as a result they quickly fall behind. The already tired student becomes hopeless and decides they are no good at chemistry, math, etcetera. This is not the fault of the teacher. Nor is it the fault of the student. This is just not the best way to engage students in S.T.E.M. We need to flip the classroom.
The World Economic Forum ranks the quality of math and science education in the United States as 48th. Even those students who make it out of high school wanting to pursue a major in a S.T.E.M. subject will most likely switch into majors outside of S.T.E.M. before graduation. Employers cannot find students graduating with the skills currently in demand. Of the 2.6 million new, livable wage jobs expected to be added by 2017, around 1.8 million of them are S.T.E.M. or highpaying blue collar positions.The United States economy is in dire need of S.T.E.M. scholars. However, student engagement falls from 80% of students in fifth grade to 40% by high school. Our schools cannot just emphasize and encourage these subjects; they need to rework how S.T.E.M. is being taught to engage and create S.T.E.M. scholars.
So, what is a flipped classroom? Flipped classrooms quite literally flip the normal structure of a class. Lectures are watched on videos at home where students can pause the video and replay it, taking their time to fully understand what the teacher is saying. The students do not instantaneously have to absorb and learn what the teacher is saying but can learn it the best way for them. In class, the students work on their homework, individually or with the aid of group collaborations, and they are able to ask the teacher to explain a concept they may find confusing in its application. Students can come in with questions from the lectures and work through them before they have to struggle through homework, or they can even email the questions so the teacher can come prepared to lecture knowing what individual students need. Although the flipped classroom model will take extra preparation by teachers and more technological training, this initial cost is far outweighed by the long term benefits to both the participating students and the teachers. Acknowledging the strain of changing these STEM classrooms away from the traditional lay out, the flipped classroom model should be integrated slowly. Nonetheless, steps must be made immediately to implement this model into schools in order to keep up with a technologically progressing world and a fed up restless generation of students.
Here are two success stories of a flip classroom implemented. The first account takes place in an underfinanced, clearly failing high school near Detroit. Clintondale High recognized the problem and took drastic actionflipping all of their classrooms. Teachers posted lecture videos, previously recorded using Camtasia technology, to different outlets such as YouTube and the school’s website. The students then watched these videos outside of class, at home or school, so that they came to class the next day having already learned the material. Class time was then dedicated to working on math problems, science projects, history essays, etcetera. Before the flip, the school sent students home each day into environments that could not support their learning needs. Now, they work in a supportive atmosphere where the teacher can give them oneonone help. For the first time, financially struggling students have a level playing field. Additionally, Clintondale High utilized Google Groups so students could communicate outside of class, discussing their schoolwork and learning from each other. The extent of the flipped classroom did not end there; the school wanted its students to learn information from the best teacher or expert in each field. Students learning about the Holocaust could watch videos made by a teacher in Israel who had just brought her student to Auschwitz. Some calculus students watch video lectures from a math teacher from a private school in Virginia. The results of this flip? Just in the first year of implementation in the ninth grade, student failure rate, the number of students failing each class, dropped by 33%. Clintondale High is 18 months into the change: attendance rate has increased, discipline rate has decreased, failure rate has gone down significantly, and statewide test scores have improved notably. In 2011, the entire school began used the flipped model and just within the first semester, overall failure rate at the school dropped to 10%. Failure rates of classes decreased: english from 52% to 19%, math from 44% to 13%, science from 41% to 19%, social studies from 28% to 19%. The following example looks at the flipped classroom model on the college level.
A Vice Dean at the University of North Carolina’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy, Russell Mumper, conducted a three year study that has articles on its findings in the journals Academic Medicine and The American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. The study observed a pharmaceutics course required for all doctor of pharmacy students attending UNC. Mumper had been teaching this class for nearly a decade with his students consistently averaging near 80% on the final, but he wanted more for them. “If your interaction is solely based on PowerPoint slides,” Mumper explained, “[students] are no longer paying attention. They’re distracted.” In 2011, he continued the course in a standard, PowerPointaided lecture format, but the next two years, Mumper flipped the course using Echo360 technology. Between 2011 and 2012, student performance on an identical final exam improved by 2.5%. In 2012, students watched brief lecture modules and read from the textbook before class. In class, Mumper asked the students questions via clickers and addressed any inconsistencies or misconceptions that the answers revealed. Then, the class would split off into pairs and discuss a given topic. A team of students would then give a presentation to the class, lead a discussion on it, and then everyone would be quizzed. In 2013, the quiz was relegated to afterclass online work and students read a clinical study and discussed it in class rather the student lead presentations. By 2013, student performance on an identical final exam improved from 2011 by 5.1%. “What I immediately realized,” Mumper shared, “was, not only were [students] getting the content, but they were applying it, and then either bringing new content to the classroom content I wasn’t aware of or they were asking me questions about the application of the content, questions that provided a richness that we could never explore when I was too busy lecturing.”
The flipped classroom model is a step in the right direction towards a better functioning education system with more engaged students and faculty. Its implementation is necessary to the future success of U.S. education.