Our schools are a mess. Most recent data from the Illinois State Board of Education shows that, statewide, less than half of students meet standards in reading, math and science.
The number of students who exceed those standards is even more telling — at Streator Township High School, the percentage of students who exceed standards are 5 percent, 2 percent and 5 percent respectively. Something has to change. It may be time to flip our classrooms.
A flipped classroom takes the current educational model and flips it on its head. Rather than being lectured in classrooms and assigned homework, teachers record lectures their students access from tablets or computers and watch at home. Students then spend their class time working on assignments that traditionally would be done after school.
There are several obvious benefits to this. First and foremost, students are able to learn at their own pace. In the classroom, the teacher does not have time to stop and make sure every student is caught up. Students might be embarrassed to admit they are confused, preventing them from raising their hand to ask the teacher to slow down or repeat what was just said. In the flipped classroom model, they can pause or rewind the lecture without worry.
If they still don't get it, another opportunity presents itself. They can talk to their peers. Face it, kids are constantly immersed in social media. They're texting, tweeting, Facebooking. Crowded classrooms don't allow for kids to ask their classmates to help explain something they don't understand. But if they're watching the lectures from a computer, tablet or mobile device, then help from friends is at their fingertips.
With students teaching students, and homework being moved to the classroom, we can kill two birds with one stone. First, students who learn quickly don't have to be bored when they have finished their work and the rest of the class is still trying to catch on. They can be recruited as tutors to help others understand core concepts; at the same time, teachers get more one-on-one time with students as well.
Secondly, this eliminates copying. Plenty of kids don't finish their homework on time for a number of reasons. Whether they're just lazy, they completely forgot or they simply didn't understand the assignment, it goes without saying that not every kid gets all their homework done every night. So when the forgetful or underprivileged child starts to panic, they go to their friends: “Hey, can I copy your homework?!” In the flipped classroom, you ensure the students are doing their own work. Not to mention, you can make sure the lazy kid is staying on task.
When you can be sure students are doing their own work, there are yet more benefits. This ensures mastery of the essential principles and concepts. Students don't have to move on before it's clear they fully understand the material. Which simultaneously makes the flipped classroom the perfect way to diagnose weaknesses and recognize strengths — it becomes easier for kids to voice where they struggle and teachers to see where each student excels.
In the wake of failed programs that tried to put lipstick on a pig, like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, and with all the hell being raised over Common Core standards, people are desperately reaching for a solution that can transform the way we educate our kids. With benefits like these, flipping the classroom is something policy makers should consider.