As technology continues to evolve, the classroom and teaching methods are quickly following suit. In the past few years, the “flipped classrooms” method has been introduced around the nation. A few courses at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln offer this option.
Flipped classrooms are often described as completing school work and lectures at home, and homework at school. Students are expected to read texts or watch videos that expose them to the material before attending the class. Physical class time is used so students can work alone or in groups to apply the material to problem solving, but with teacher guidance. Students have the opportunity to learn the material via technology in and outside of the classroom. This style of teaching also recognizes different needs and that learning is not one-dimensional.
When this method was introduced, there was skepticism on whether it would actually improve traditional classrooms. Even years later, the debate continues. As of 2013, there was no research to support or oppose flipped classrooms. However, recent preliminary data suggests it may be an improvement to the modern classroom. While it needs fine-tuning, this style of teaching demonstrates benefits to students and should continue to become a more available option.
Each student has a unique learning style, and traditional lectures are not meant for everyone. In the standard classroom, lectures often help a wide group learn fundamentals. However, this group still misses pieces of information and might struggle with the teacher’s lecture pace. In a flipped classroom, students have the ability to pause, rewind and fast forward video lectures. Those who have issues with the pace of a lecturer have the ability to adjust it according to their learning.
Another benefit to flipped classrooms is teachers are able to make material more engaging and interactive. This is an issue I have with traditional-style lectures. I lose interest when lecturers are as bored of reading the slides as I am, or if certain parts of lectures go on too long. With technology, it is now possible for lectures to be broken up into more manageable segments. It also allows the teacher to create interactive material. However, one major complaint is this style often takes longer than traditional, in-class lectures.
As for homework, the classic style often does not offer immediate feedback on assignments or problem solving. It also makes some learners, like myself, feel uncomfortable asking questions. The amount and effectiveness of traditional homework are constantly debated, but the flipped system provides a solution to that debate. Students in a flipped classroom are able to receive instant feedback, ask questions and have access to guidance in the application of the material.
An issue I often have is actually preparing before lectures. In flipped classes, students may be motivated to prepare ahead of time, as the in-class time is designed to use the material and address concerns. I would benefit from a structure like this, and I would not be surprised to see research suggesting that other students would as well.
In a 2011 study, a large physics class had been taught in the traditional style for most of the semester. One section was flipped, while another remained traditional. Both groups took a multiple choice exam at the end of the week, and the results were heavily in favor of flipped classrooms. The experiment showed that in the experiment group, there was a 40 percent increase in student engagement and a 33 percent higher average score on the exam in comparison to the control group.
UNL is slowly becoming more familiar with flipped sections in a handful of courses, including biology, agronomy and writing courses. While it may take some trial and error, the benefits current data shows indicates it may be worth expanding this style into other disciplines at UNL. Encouraging the use of technology and engaging and captivating students should be a priority in the modern classroom.
Students with different learning styles would benefit from being able to choose between a flipped classroom and a traditional one. Of course, having both options would be more difficult for smaller, specific courses, such as a 400 level German course. There are only so many professors, and there may not be more than one section for some courses.
However, with rising enrollment rates and the popularity of certain classes (like ACE classes everyone must take), UNL should consider having flipped sections. I would benefit from this, and I hope to see this method become available. Learning styles are different for everyone, and this is another modern way to reach more students.