10 Reasons Why You Should Get Into a Flipped Class

· Peer Instruction


This week, Turn to Your Neighbor introduces a new series authored by students, called The Sandbox.  In The Sandbox,  we will look at educational innovation from the student point of view.  In this first post, Bailey Urban, a master’s student in the Program in Higher Education Leadership at The University of Texas at Austin shares 10 reasons why students should get into a flipped class. Bailey was a student in my flipped Technology and Innovation Course at UT in Fall of 2015.  Share this post with your students, it lays out what they cane expect in a flipped classroom.~~JAS 

The Sandbox
It is about time to start thinking about course schedules for next year.

I will address some common questions you might have…Are flipped classrooms generally easier, harder, different than what you’re used to, or just a trend? I am sure the short of what you are wondering is: “I’m used to lecture, should I run for the hills?”

Here are 10 reasons why students should actually be excited if they get a professor who is using flipped methods and how learners might even benefit by seeking those classes, and teachers, out. 

#1 A flipped class is the classroom experience you never knew you wanted.

When we think of a college classroom, we think of a person standing in front of the room going through a PowerPoint deck for 50 minutes, attempting to teach us something we previously didn’t know.  Maybe, if we are lucky, the lecture is broken up by two brave souls raising their hand for a question.

What if the classroom instead was like a super cool science experiment you did that one time in high school? Imagine opening the doors to a classroom and seeing people huddled together talking and maybe even laughing. You have some background knowledge of the material that’s going to be covered that day and you head over to sit with your crew. You all work through problems or theories together and help each other learn and discuss the topic. Your professor is kind of like a coach and moves around the room interacting with different groups; you get to know her and she gets to know you. She notices when several students are struggling with the same concept. She goes to the front of the room to give a mini-lecture that focuses exactly on the points you are missing instead of spending 50 minutes droning on about something you could have easily read in a book the night before.

#2 The classroom experience is more hands-on.

Ever go to class and just stare at the clock hoping the next 30 minutes will go by faster than the past 20 have? In a flipped retaininfoclassroom, the lecture hall is transformed and time flies. The professor puts together interactive lessons to help you learn the material, organizes discussions and/or problems to work through in teams, and provide tons of opportunity for you to ask questions about things you didn’t understand from the readings or your prior studying.

Interacting and discussing helps the time go by quicker. And, oh by the way, studies show you retain 90% of what you learn by interacting and talking, and only 20% of what you hear (what a traditional lecture typically consists of).

#3 You have better opportunities to build relationships with your peers in class, which leads to bigger networks on campus. 

Ever met someone and then realized two months into the semester that you are in the same class? Flipped classrooms help you learn and retain material better but they also give you the opportunity to build networks with diverse peers.  Many college students show up to their first semester expecting to foster lasting relationships in their classes, only to be disappointed because there is no opportunity to have conversations with your peers during class time. Not so in a flipped classroom; professors specifically design flipped classrooms as learning communities that thrive on peer discussion and collaborative learning during class meetings. Moreover, research on flipped learning methods that foster peer-to-peer collaboration, such as Peer Instruction, demonstrates students in these classes perform better on a variety of key outcomes. 

#4 Professors of flipped classrooms are generally more invested in their teaching effectiveness.

Who doesn’t want Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society as their teacher versus the teacher in Ferris Buehler’s Day Off? In a flipped class, professors have to build the experience to hook your attention before class meets, as well as prepare engaging activities, quizzes, discussions, and other hands-on activities during class time. This requires more work than the traditional stand-and-deliver lecture you might be accustomed to. You may not know this, but professors are not generally rewarded for spending tons of  time and energy on their teaching.  So, any professor who puts this amount of effort into their pedagogy is taking a risk for your benefit. They care about breathing life into subject matter in ways that will help you gain higher-order knowledge and retain that knowledge for the rest of your life. As my own professor John Daly says, to succeed in college “take teachers, not classes.” 

#5 You will learn how to be flexible and autonomous and become comfortable with ambiguity.

Guaranteed you will at some point get asked about how you developed one of those three skills in a job interview. In your future roles, you will often be the guinea pig. Your boss will give you a project and tell you, “go figure it out, good luck, let me know if you need anything,” which usually translates to: “you better be able to figure this out on your own.” Flipped classrooms require you to own your learning and to figure out what that actually means without following the standard recipe of sit in class, take notes, go home and read, take a test, do it again.  Figuring out how to succeed without being told exactly what to do will help you face future challenges and will be a good experience to illustrate in that job interview!

#6 Flipped classrooms teach you accountability because you are responsible for your own learning before coming to class.

After you graduate, there are no syllabi or tests (with the exception of professional certifications). If you want to learn the skills to develop as a professional, you have to take it upon yourself to do so. In a flipped class, professors require you to read,  watch video lectures, or do some work prior to class. In other words, to take matters of your education into your own hands. This is good for a few reasons. First, videos are more convenient because of the flexibility to decide when and for how long you will watch them, and you can pause and re-watch segments as you need. The professor usually has quizzes at the beginning of class to help you retain what you read or watched, so it also holds you accountable in that regard. Moreover, the science of attention  suggests that the more time you spend thinking about your material, the better you will learn it and remember it in the long run.

#7 You learn how to ask good questions – an undervalued and useful skill.

“It’s not that I’m so smart, I stay with the questions much longer.” Albert Einstein

As students in a flipped class, you can and should ask questions of your peers and your professor. You will get tons of opportunities to voice what you wonder about and this skill will translate no matter your future occupation. In the 21st century, most of the work we will do has no clear path or answer.  When you ask questions and listen for the answers, you are better equipped to solve problems and critically think. Colleges should be providing students more opportunities to learn how to ask good questions and hone curiosity as a skill. Flipped classrooms provide a breeding ground for being a good question asker and curious thinker. On top of all of that, people are impressed by those who ask well thought out questions, even more so than giving good answers.

#8 Your feedback and insights will be likely sought — a clear sign your professor cares.

Who doesn’t want their professor to ask how you think the class is going, what you think is going well and what could be better? Because the direction of a flipped class depends entirely on the student experience, most faculty want to know what you like most about the class and what is working so that they can do more of those things, and less of the aspects of the class that perhaps you don’t feel are as beneficial. In a flipped class, professors see themselves as learners and value your insights–in fact they depend on it! Don’t be surprised if you see some of your brilliant ideas in next year’s syllabus. 

#9 Lateral learning provides an opportunity for leadership.

You know the sexiest word used by college students and universities alike is…leadership. The flipped class is brimming with opportunities to teach and lead your peers and also to get to know your professor in ways traditional classes just don’t offer.  Teaching not only helps you learn the material better, it also helps you learn how to explain things in a way other people can understand. Communication is a skill every leader needs to develop, on every job posting you will see for the rest of your life, and is a great quality for professors to describe in your letters of recommendation. 

#10 You learn more by all of the above, and isn’t that what you’re here for anyway?

You are paying for an education, to be challenged, and to get the skills that will solve the world’s problems. That means doing more than sitting back and chilling while your professor stands at the front and does all the hard work. In a flipped class, you will  try something that might initially feel uncomfortable but will be totally worth it. 

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