The digital classroom, transforming the way we learn

114 studies on flipped classrooms show small payoff for big effort

Research also hints at the importance of live video instruction during remote learning

I just read this article in The Hechinger Report, and I thought it was interesting. Especially since I have a chapter on the “flipped classroom” in my new book, “The Digital Classroom transforming the way we learn“.

This might be the first research to answer the question of the effect this has on students’ learning.

“My takeaway message is that it could be better,” said researcher David C.D. van Alten, referring to a flipped classroom, in an email interview. “But only when it is appropriately designed.” Van Alten, a doctoral student, led the research team at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, which conducted the largest meta-analysis to date of flipped classrooms in the world.

Van Alten’s analysis was published in November 2019 in the journal Educational Research Review and confirms the relatively small boost to learning that earlier analyses found for flipped classrooms in 2017,  2018 and 2019.  The latest analysis is worth paying attention to now not only to understand when flipped classrooms are more successful but also for its insights into independent work (or asynchronous instruction) and live sessions (or synchronous instruction) during coronavirus remote learning.

One of the important findings in this research, and one that aligns with the conclusion in my book, is that the clue is to give the students a lot of class time to apply what they are learning and practice it. Cutting classtime in other words cuts into the time spent actively learning. Another observation is that the flipped classroom is worth considering during pandemic remote instruction. The advice here is to have the student watch the videos online at home, and then when they meet the teacher in Zoom or Teams, they can work with the problems they have studied. Van Alten is concerned that this might be a huge challenge for teachers, but I think using the break-out rooms in Zoom or Teams will work well here. If the class is divided into groups of 4, the teacher can visit each class to check on progress and understanding.

Extra quizzes were another feature of successful flipped classrooms. The quizzes lure students to watch and pay attention to the video lectures before class. Many students don’t have the discipline or motivation to do this “homework” otherwise and end up skipping the professor’s explanations altogether. The quizzes also force students to recall information from the lecture videos and that repetition helps students retain what they need to learn.

Using lengthy, previously recorded lectures is considered a “bad flip,” van Alten said, explaining that it’s hard to cut corners or rely on off-the-shelf free videos and get good results. Flipping a classroom properly is such a big effort that van Alten doesn’t recommend that teachers try this on their own but work together in a team.

This story about flipped classroom research was written by Jill Barshay and produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the 

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