For Teachers

Five Active Learning Techniques for a Flipped Classroom

By The Room 241 Team February 9, 2014

Active-learning techniques are growing more common as educators develop flipped-classroom environments and create teaching strategies that engage students and add real-time technology experience in the classroom.

A flipped classroom turns education on its head: Typically, students have an instructor who lectures in the classroom, with some  discussion and quizzes or exams on the lessons. The lecture is the central classroom activity.

In a flipped classroom, the lecture is, in effect, the student’s homework. After hearing the lecture at home, students devote classroom time to reinforcing the topic of the lecture. This allows students to demonstrate top-of-mind awareness skills, evaluate their retention of the information and leave the classroom for hands-on applications. This model has been widely used in varied scenarios and university classrooms with a high level of success.

In providing an adequate flipped-classroom environment to engage students in participatory learning, instructors may want to use some of these techniques:

  • Inside/outside circle: This is an interactive-discussion exercise. Have the students arrange themselves into two concentric circles, equally distributed. The students within the inside circle will face outward, and the students on the outside circle will face inward, providing a partner for each student. After being given the directive, one student speaks, while the other listens, and then the scenario flips.
  • Group quizzes: Divide the students into groups with a maximum of four people. Each group will complete a quiz with fact-based and discussion-based questions that refer back to the lecture topic.
  • Jeopardy:  True to the television counterpart, the instructor prepares a board filled will questions based on varied topics corresponding to assigned reading and lectures. The classroom is broken into teams to tackle the questions. This can also lead to further discussion while responding to questions.
  • Oxford-style debate: Students are instructed to respond to a particular proposition or statement theme. With student teams, one side will respond for the proposition and one team will respond against the proposition and debate why. Each team will have an opportunity for rebuttals and conclusions. Audience members are encouraged to create a “T-chart” to keep track of interesting points from the “for” and “against’ discussions. This will create an engaging discussion and formulate questions that last far beyond the debate.
  • Human bingo: A bingo card that contains a question or statement is distributed to each student. The students are then given an opportunity to find a classmate who knows (or thinks he/she knows) the answer  to their particular question or statement. The students have a set amount of time to collaborate and get “bingo” as often as the time allows. They can use the same student to answer a maximum of two squares. When the time is up, questions and statements are selected for classroom discussion.

All of these techniques can help foster an interactive learning environment that will engage students and enhance the lectures previously viewed. Javier Horta, a physiological and organic chemistry professor at the University of Massachusetts, uses the flipped classroom technique in his classes.

“Students have to be active participants. This teaching model supports experiential learning. Students come into the classroom to have an experience, rather than just absorb data. We could devote more class time to discussing examples and students could spend more time in the lab,” says Horta.

Although this method has been around for quite some time, it is being used more often amid the shift toward incorporating technology into the classroom and making student engagement a priority. Universities are also exploring portable desks and chairs with wheels to allow more interactivity and mobility in the classroom to further enhance learning opportunities.

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