One of the hottest trends in education today is the flipped classroom: Computer-savvy students turn to online videos for the content normally taught in class and use class time to collaborate in discussion with peers and instructors.
Originally developed in 2000 by Wes Baker at Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio, the flipped classroom model has gained widespread traction across the country as a means to integrate computer and online resources with day-to-day coursework.
Yet while teachers voice their enthusiastic support for this new educational paradigm, a recent doctoral study by Concordia University-Portland instructor Dr. Jeremy Renner provides a more temperate and realistic assessment of the effectiveness of the flipped model.
Dissecting the findings
In a recent interview, Dr. Renner elaborated on the results of his dissertation study, which was conducted in partnership with Dr. Lisa W. Johnson.
“The interesting thing about the flipped classroom is a lot of people are talking about it, a lot of people are implementing it, but very few people are actually researching the effectiveness of it,” he noted.
“We implemented a flipped classroom in a high school computer class and then we studied it,” Dr. Renner explained. “We had two groups of students and exposed one group to the treatment, which was the flipped method of learning, while one group was using the traditional method of learning. At the halfway point in the study, we switched them so that each group was exposed to the treatment. Our study had some interesting findings. In fact, we found several conditions that must be present for a successful flip.”
The study’s executive summary highlighted the most salient result: “No significant difference was found between pre- and post-test scores of students who did and did not participate in the flipped classroom approach,” wrote Drs. Renner and Johnson. “It is the opinion of the co-investigators that this is not a result of the flipped method of instruction, but rather a failed attempt at the flipped method of instruction.”
How can we work toward more positive results?
Dr. Renner emphasized that he supports the flipped instructional model and that, as a result of his research, he was able to formulate these guidelines for a more successful “flipped” experience:
- The expectation of spending time doing homework should be clear
- A flipped class implementation does not have to be “all or nothing”
- Students do not automatically prefer cooperative group work, nor do they intuitively know how to work in a group successfully
- Teachers do not have to create all of their own content for a flipped class
- Lecturing is not bad pedagogy, but it should not be the primary or sole means of instruction
- Pre-testing in K-12 classes warrants further study
- Students respond to multiple means of representation
The study concluded with these important caveats for impending studies: “Future research on determining the efficacy of the flipped method of instruction should only be conducted when teachers realize the need for drastic change in instructional practice and are willing to tackle the drawbacks associated with time, student work ethic, personal work ethic, technology access and history. The flipped method would complement a future study on mobile device usage, one-to-one computer implementations or individual learning programs.”
Dr. Renner currently teaches the course “Teaching and Learning Online” for Concordia University-Portland and recently accepted a position as assistant principal responsible for teacher development at a Louisville, Kentucky, elementary school.
“Ideally, I would like to implement some of the philosophies of the flipped classroom into my new role,” Dr. Renner added. “I would like to help the teachers to set up a situation where the students can receive some of their instruction via technology outside of the classroom, which would extend the learning day and free up some of that time to do different things.”Learn More: Click to view related resources.