Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Allen High School joins growing trend to “flip” classrooms
More than three dozen Allen High classes allow students to watch video lectures at home and complete homework assignments in class.
Traditionally, classroom education has followed a fairly standard formula: Students listen to a lecture during class and reinforce the lesson at home through homework assignments.
A few Allen High School teachers, however, have joined a growing number of educators experimenting with a new method of teaching that turns the old way on its head.
The concept is known as a "classroom flipping," and it's been gaining momentum in schools across the country. Instead of lecturing to students and then assigning them homework to complete outside of class, teachers record their lectures on video to be viewed by students at home. Homework assignments are then assigned and worked on during class time, with teachers at the ready to offer one-on-one help if needed.
Dena Leggett teaches Advanced Placement (AP) and Pre-AP Chemistry at AHS. She was the first to implement the flip model -- which has already caught on at schools in Michigan, Virginia and Maryland -- at AHS. She records her lectures to video files, which are then uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo for her students to review at home. The next day, her students work on online, in-class homework assignments.
"I don't see people with glazed-over looks," Leggett said. "Now, when they listen to the lecture, they can stop it and take a break whenever they want. They can rewind it."
Leggett said she discovered the concept on an online discussion forum and immediately recognized its potential, trying out the concept in a few class units last year before introducing the program to other teachers during the week of staff development before the start of school this year. All five of her class sections now follow the model.
"It just seemed like a no-brainer to me," she said.
The concept that was first developed by Colorado educators Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams. It has gained increased recognition lately after being implemented in all classes at Clintondale High School in Detroit, Mich., one of the lowest-performing schools in the state. The school has seen indicators of higher student achievement since its implementation.
Carman Wilson, a 17-year-old senior in Matt Bush's physics class, said she prefers the flipped model because it gives her the opportunity to go over concepts she has difficulty understanding in class.
"I didn't think I was going to do well in physics, but I'm doing pretty good," she said. "I'm keeping an A in this class."
Eric Torrence teaches Pre-AP Algebra II at AHS. He said the flipped model enables students who easily grasp the material to work independently and at their own pace while giving students who may need assistance with the concepts the opportunity to receive one-on-one help in class.
"Everybody learns differently," he said. "Some kids, they need the lecture, so that's why as I'm walking around I can sit down and work one-on-one with them, and then some kids can do it independently and they don't need my help."
An added benefit, Torrence said, is that he now sees students helping each other with the assignments during class time.
"When you're able to help your fellow student with the material, you're also teaching, and that shows you understand the material," he said.
Leggett said she is still gathering student surveys and other data to evaluate the effectiveness of the new model in her class sections. A total of 37 teachers are currently using the model in at least one curriculum unit and more could be on the way if the new system proves successful.
"To me, the beauty of flipping is for those courses that needed some direct teaching and modeling of the mathematics," Leggett said. "Inquiry's wonderful, but there are times the teacher simply needs to provide the analogies and the metaphors and the modeling of the mathematics, the explanation of each step. For such classes, flipping's amazing."
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