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Clearing the Air: Top Driving Forces Propelling the Flipped Classroom Model

Published: 28 Oct 2020 | Last updated 4 November 2020

The concept of a flipped classroom is not a very old one; however, its admirers and practitioners believe it has the potential to change the older pedagogical methods which have dominated the teacher-student relationship. 

Traditionally, pedagogy has seldom been driven by technological advancements. In the last few years, however, the older ideas have been sidelined while newer ones have gained wider attention globally. 

2020 may prove to be a watershed year for such classrooms. As educational institutions in most countries remain shuttered due to the pandemic, more teachers are adopting this method of delivering knowledge in an interactive and interesting way. It also benefits their students greatly.

Defining inverted classrooms

There are several existing definitions, but the meaning remains the same. It is an approach where education-in the form of instructions from teachers-leapfrogs a ‘group learning space’ to one where ‘individual learning space’ is given priority. 

Students can pursue their syllabi and instructions at their own pace and in their chosen manner. The ‘one-size-fits-all’ pedagogical approach that is a hallmark of physical classrooms is dumped in favour of personalised teaching sessions.

Some of the pillars on which flipped classroom techniques rest are:

1Flexible environment for teachers and pupils

Teachers create separate spaces for those students who may be lagging behind. Timelines for a certain subject or course are somewhat relaxed. The instructors observe & monitor their students; it allows them to tweak their own training methods by presenting several avenues to learn.

2. Learning, not lecture, culture

Teachers and instructors who prefer inverted classrooms stay out of the ‘center of attention’; instead, they encourage learner-centric approaches. Students are encouraged to ask questions, raise doubts, usher in the novel and fresh ideas, and use non-traditional pedagogical methods to one end: knowledge acquisition.

3. Intentional & interesting content

Another advantage is that the teacher can create, curate, and differentiate specific forms of concepts that they then pass on to their wards. There is plenty of room for new ideas here. The best teachers use the Internet to select and present content that is appealing, accessible & relevant to all students.

A brief history of flipped classrooms 
Before we move on to some of the most amazing facts about these classrooms, we must pay heed to some of the triggers which brought about these changes.

In the late 1990s, Eric Mazur, a Harvard professor, and education entrepreneur authored a book that defined ‘peer learning’, a precursor of non-traditional flipped classrooms. Prof. Mazur believed that modern classrooms needed ‘information assimilation’ and not mere ‘information transfer.’

Later, the University of Wisconsin-Madison paved the way for using software and interactive-cum-remote teaching methodologies. A research paper published in the prestigious ‘International Journal of Engineering Education’ stated that most STEM students found a ‘blended’ approach to learning was more satisfying and resulted in superior performances in real-world skill utilization.

A few interesting facts on inverted learning

Now that online learning techniques have entered mainstream pedagogy, there is a flood of Learning Management Software (or LMS) in academic circles. The best learning management systems are those that combine equal amounts of technology and pedagogy, and then present the results in an easy-to-digest format.

There are a number of components in a flipped classroom setting. Proper use of age-appropriate videos, peer discussion and debates, online teacher-student communication, and personalized sessions are some.

A virtual classroom has amazing features, which has led to many teachers around the world adopting the latest associated technologies.

Now let's have a look:

Introduction of student-speak: That students refer to various subjects in their own manner and jargon is well-known, and has been around for millennia. With modern flipped classroom techniques, students can use their ‘new-age’ lingo, foregoing the stilted language in textbooks.

Keeps students hooked: All instructors wish that their pupils are glued to ongoing lectures. That is not easily done, since attention spans are getting shorter. However, using interesting substitutes like videos, slides and music clips-besides real-world examples, may engage most students.

Helps the weakest students catch up: A flipped situation uses the concept of knowledge dissemination. It gives the weakest students a chance- and a helping hand- to straighten up. In physical classrooms with limited time, this was not previously possible.

Students can ‘Pause-Rewind-Continue’ lectures: Since most of the homework and assignments are completed at home, the teacher acts as a sounding board. Instructors also use video aids, including recorded sessions, to help students achieve ‘flipped mastery’ of their subjects.

Facilitates better & more open interaction: Interaction between students and their teachers, and between students themselves, are both provided a fillip by a flipped classroom.

Parents may become more involved: As most educational institutions shut down when the pandemic showed its true face, most students- age and curriculum notwithstanding- realised that they would have to overcome the digital divide and start studying at home. While a lot of parents and guardians are actively involved in their children’s studies, many are not. It is this later group who can also benefit from inverted learning techniques. They can motivate their wards to do better but without putting too much burden on them, especially the biggest burden of all- that of expectations.

Classes are more transparent: Another reason why the demand for the best Learning Management Systems has skyrocketed.

These statements can also be corroborated by independent research. A 2017 study published in the Revista de la Facultad de Ingeniería, a journal published by the School of Engineering at Colombia’s University of Antioquia suggested:

a. More than 90% of students preferred the teaching methods used in a virtual classroom and flipped classrooms.

b. An astounding 95% of students liked video lectures better than conventional classroom lectures. It is an indication of how appealing educational videos can be.

The future of inverted classrooms

As technological aids in imparting education become ubiquitous, experts are predicting an entry into an ‘Education 3.0 Era.’ As we enter the 3rd decade of this millennium, teachers, parents, and students will all benefit from imaginatively-designed flipped classrooms that are sure to follow. 

It must be mentioned here that these modern methods of teaching are reminiscent of the pedagogy used in Ancient Greece. Aristotle, Plato, and Isocrates democratized education in Athens circa 500BC. They used dialogue, debates, original research, and independent thinking. 

History does repeat itself, after all. 

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