Several weeks ago, I had the honor of visiting our extraordinary lab-stuffed upper school science department, and in the process, I learned a lot, including: rollie pollies prefer rough surfaces; lab report writing takes explicit instruction and precision; and, take heart all of us who were traumatized by labs when we were in school: there is no such thing as “wrong data”- your data is your data, plain and simple.
By a stroke of divine fate, I happened to visit Rebecca Bernhardt’s fifth grade science class right around the same time, and noted that, while the gulf between fifth and twelfth grade science may seem gargantuan, there was actually one distinct similarity: both featured faculty that integrated flipped classroom into their teaching practice. I decided to interview Krissy Rehm (12th science) and Rebecca Bernhardt (fifth grade science) to learn more. What I found was that there are many flavors of flipped, but all of them have implications for more than just science instruction. (Note: For a storehouse of flipped instruction resources and examples that originate outside of our campus, check out this storehouse
of articles, videos, and blogs from Edutopia.)
Julie: What is flipped classroom?
Krissy: Students do the note-taking and lecturey type stuff at home and then when they come into the class they do activities and labs where they have to work on applying the material that they learned at home.
Rebecca: So instead of the traditional model of the teacher bringing the students to class and then saying “now we’re going to talk about this new topic” and then assigning practice as homework, the topic is introduced via a homework assignment (it could be a video, it could be a reading, etc.) so that they come to class with that prerequisite knowledge. I was originally introduced to it ten years ago by my little cousin who is a bit of a prodigy. She’s now 14 years old taking college courses, but at the time was 4 or 5 and doing Khan Academy . . . It was such a novel idea: kids are getting introduced to the lesson via video and then they’re practicing it with their teacher.
Julie: Why did you choose to implement it in your classroom?
Krissy: As a scientist I learned that the best way to learn science is to actually do science. There is so much content that we have to cover in AP Biology. We would never get through it all if I had to both deliver basic content AND do problems/activities/labs in class. I wanted my kids to spend the most amount of time doing things in class where I can directly help them (and there peers can help them). If they’re doing problems at home I can’t help them, their friends can’t help them, and they certainly can’t do labs at home. Students can answer any question they have with a simple click on their computers, so it’s not necessary for me to tell them basic definitions. Instead, it’s up to me to show them how to apply that knowledge. I deliver my at-home content through my YouTube channel. So this is a way for them to get on Youtube and use it in a good way, to actually learn things to see there are videos out there that can help you learn information.
Rebecca: If they can get new content at home, that gives us time for more hands-on activities in class. They’ve been front-loaded and we can immediately start applying it and do the hands-on stuff which is fun, and it gives me a chance to see if they actually understand. It’s also a great way to give that introduction from someone who isn’t me. There’s a certain amount of trust that’s built between me and the student. They’ve learned they may not get it the first time. They are getting more comfortable saying “I don’t understand X, Y, or Z in the video.” Some of them just need one-on-one for these concepts. So it’s a great evaluative tool for me. . . if they aren’t getting it from two different flipped videos, even when they can rewind and rewatch, they need another way. That’s been really, really valuable. The facts don’t lie. I gave the exact test last year [when my class wasn’t fully flipped] that I gave this year on observation/inference and there was an on-average ten point increase.
Julie: So you both clearly see the value, but what do your students think about the experience of flipped?
Krissy: Mostly positive. The first year kids were more skeptical, but I think they bought into it after they saw I wasn’t going to budge about it. My first year here the videos were awful. I redid all my videos the second year. And this year I’m redoing a lot of them again to make them shorter and including fewer figures I find in a book and making my own figures and building things like that. So the first year they had a little bit of a struggle with it, second year much better, third year kids were like “these are the best things ever!” Kids seem to really like it. “Oh- I gotta go back and watch that video again!” . . . and “Oh- I missed that- let me rewind it” . . so they have it with them all the time and can look at it again if they need to. I commonly hear from students that I write letters of recommendation for that the format of my classes helped them see the value in taking control of their own learning.
Rebecca: Students are eager to do these assignments. They enjoy breaking the monotony of having to practice problems at home Students consider the break-down of homework- the difficulty versus due date versus desire-and even though the novelty of flipped classroom has worn off, they still ask me, “Can I do your video assignment now?” The kids are craving it . . . they were nervous at first because it wasn’t what they were used to. I’ve explained to them the philosophy behind flipped classroom and why I choose video assignments, and there’s a lot of self-correction that happens. To quote some of my students, “at first I didn’t know how I’d like flipped classroom. It was a little nerve-wracking doing a homework assignment in which I didn’t understand afterward, and I thought you were going to grade me poorly because I didn’t understand something in a video even after I rewound it. But then we came to class and you broke it down, and we practiced it, and when we started speaking about it, you reminded me of those things from the video, and if I went back watched the video later when studying it, all of a sudden it makes sense.” They like that. I always leave videos accessible at any point so they become an invaluable study tool. Instead of me teaching a concept one time, they get to hear other experts in the field many times.
Julie: So what does this actually look like in your classroom?
Krissy: I teach seniors, so I’m not very hand-holdy. I expect them to [watch the video before class]. Sometimes I give them pop quizzes and they can use their notes if they’ve done it. We will do worksheets in class, so they will have to use things from the video. If they haven’t watched the video, it’s usually not a huge deal (unless we had a pop quiz). Most of the work we do in class is in groups, so a friend can usually help to explain things. This benefits everyone – the student that watched the video is now having to teach the material to someone else and the student that didn’t watch the video is learning by listening and asking questions. Everyone is responsible for the material on the test. There are some [platforms] you can use to put your video and put your questions in it. It shows you who watched the video or not. I’m with seniors. They aren’t going to [have these checks] in college. My job is to get them ready to use their time wisely – even when the teacher isn’t going to check to see if you did the assignment.
Rebecca: Generally I will introduce a topic via flipped classroom a day to two days before I formally address it in class, and so it slowly starts integrating into class. Full comprehension usually happens several days after they’ve gotten their lesson. For example, I assigned a flipped homework assignment on calculating the volume of rectangular prisms. The follow-up class was yesterday where I passed them out 1 cubic cm unit cubes and had them measure the length, width, and height and then calculate the volume of one of them. Then I asked them, “How many different rectangular prisms can we create using 27 cubic cm.” We had some time to manipulate numbers and visualize volume, and that moved into today where they’re actually taking different rectangular figures like boxes and books and calculating the volume of them. Ultimately, they are taking that video knowledge and applying it in class and lab settings.
Julie: What platforms do you use to make flipped happen?
Krissy: I use Camtasia
. I can make a video, edit it, if I make a mistake I can put a little call out with “oops- I meant to say . . .“ If I make a huge mistake I can make the video over again. I bought it with my budget from the first year. There are other free ones that others use (e.g. Screen-castify).