I recently got an email about flipped classrooms:
After looking over your site and your lesson plans, you seem to do the normal lecture/lab during class time, with homework assignments to take home. This is how I set up my classes right now as well and it seems to work well.
However, a math teacher in our school is going to be implementing a flipped classroom approach next year. Just was curious what your thoughts are on the approach and the effectiveness of this in a science classroom? I love how the approach creates more time for the students to have hands-on project time/lab time/discussions in class, and that it creates more student-based learning. But I figured I would reach out to someone who has more experience, and probably a lot more interaction with other science teachers, before I implement anything too drastic in my classroom!
I’ll be totally honest: I know very little about flipped classrooms. I know a little bit about what they are, but I’ve never seen them used in practice and I’ve never used them with my own students.
When people are interested in trying something drastically new in their teaching, I like to have them ask themselves the following questions to figure out if it’s really a good idea:
- Have you seen it work? If you’ve never actually seen anybody teach using a particular method, I would suggest doing so before you try it out. Though research may support one method over another, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to teaching. When you see another teacher having success with the students in your area, then you know that it’s at least possible to use it well.
- Are you unhappy with what you’re doing now? If things are going swimmingly in your classes, then it makes no sense to switch to something else. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
- Is it possible to significantly improve? If what you’re doing now works, then there may not be much room for your students to improve their understanding of the material. In a case like this, you may just want to tweak what you’re doing now. On the other hand, if you’re just not reaching your students, it’s almost certainly the case that something needs to change.
- Can you make the change? When I read this question I asked myself a hard question: Would I be able to change to this method if I was asked to? Honestly, I think I wouldn’t be very successful. While I like to think of myself as an innovative powerhouse, I’m not sure I could wrap my brain around such a drastic change.
The answer to your question, then, is “it depends.” It depends on how you answer these questions and it depends on your own circumstances.
Ultimately, the whole thing boils down to the question “How do I want to teach?” This is something that we’ve all experienced in our first few years teaching, where we tried something and it bombed, then we tried something else and it bombed… for a couple of years or so. Eventually we found something that works and, with variations over time, that’s how we keep doing things.
However, people change and grow. Personally, I am quite happy and comfortable with how I teach. If you’ve grown into the type of teacher who wants a new challenge, or thinks that something new would energize you, then a change is certainly warranted. Just like your first years of teaching, it won’t be easy and sometimes it won’t be fun, but if it’s the right decision for you, it will ultimately be far more rewarding than continuing your current methods.
Personally, I wouldn’t pursue a flipped classroom. However, the fact that you’re asking the question at all makes me think that it might be a good idea for you to give it a shot. That’s something you have to decide for yourself.