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Flipping the Science Class

Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams
Founders of the Flipped Learning Network™

The flipped learning technique is a very simple concept. Instead of delivering direct instruction (lecture) to the whole group at the same time, you create short videos to deliver the instruction and use class time to engage students in higher-order thinking rather than information transfer. Students view and interact with video content before class; class time is then used to solidify the content, with more time for both hands-on activities and individual help time with the teacher.

Science classes are a perfect fit for the flipped class method. In fact, we began pioneering this model in 2006–2007 at a rural Colorado school for our chemistry, AP® Chemistry, and earth and space classes. A lot can be said about how to flip a class, how to get students to watch videos, and what to do if students don’t have Internet access at home. These issues are addressed in myriad articles and books. This article serves as an introduction to a series of posts that will appear in Carolina Tips® e-newsletter this year. Each post will be written by practicing science teachers who have flipped their classes.

Keep in mind that the flipped learning approach can be implemented in a variety of ways—from simply flipping 1 lesson to flipping a unit, a class, or even a school. Regardless of the scale of implementation, the flipped approach is a flexible teaching tool to help you maximize time with students in your class. The upcoming writers will provide sample lessons that you can use to get the most out of your class time; their articles will look at 6 areas of the science class that can be flipped: direct instruction, labs, flipping with inquiry, and other approaches.

Putting flipped learning into action

Regardless of the specific type of lesson, some basic principles will apply to all lessons. First, teacher-created video will be used as a teaching tool. Second, the regained class time will be transformed into a more student-centered environment. Third, issues of access to adequate technology will be addressed before implementing a flipped classroom. Fourth, classroom norms and procedures will be set up to ensure all students access and interact with the material prior to class. Once these basics have been established, the flipped technique will prove to be a very flexible and scalable teaching and learning model.

We leave you with 1 recommendation as you begin to flip your class. When some people first hear of the flipped class, they think that students simply watch a video at home and then come to class and do homework. Instead, students should interact with video content. Watching is a passive activity, whereas interacting is active. It seems weird to say we must teach students how to properly view a video, but a student watching Batman is much different from the student interacting with a science video on photosynthesis.

There is no single way to teach students how to interact with a video. You could have students simply take notes on the video, have them respond to an online forum, or use some other creative strategy. There is even software that pauses an online video at teacher-specified times, causing a question to pop up. This tells you who watched the video and how each student responded to the teacher-generated questions.

We suggest you watch the first few videos in class with your students while modeling how you want your students to interact with them. Pause the video frequently and discuss how they should be listening, viewing, and thinking about the subject matter. Then have students watch the video independently in class while you supervise and ensure they are appropriately learning from the video. Keep in mind that not all students will master the content from any video. The point of the video is to introduce content so students can master it in class with the real expert present—you, the teacher.

Much has been written about the flipped class. If you want to read more, we encourage you to check out the 2 books we’ve written, which provide in-depth information and can answer many of your pressing questions. Find out more at http://flippedclass.com and http://flippedlearning.org.

Jon Bergmann  
Aaron Sams