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Tip: The 'Tipped' Classroom
In a 'flipped' class, success at in-class activities is highly reliant on students being diligent about the at-home work. The "tipped' class is more forgiving.
The idea of ‘flipping’ a class has been around for quite a while now. The basic idea is that you give the students all the lecture pieces (often via recorded microlectures) to consume on their own, prior to class, so that they are prepared to dig in and do while in class. A major benefit to this model is that students have time on their own to engage in the preparation work of reading texts and watching videos, and they can spend as much time as they need during this process. Working on their own time students can take better notes, pause and review sections, and watch videos multiple times - whatever strategies help them to learn best. The much more limited in-class time is then spent actively using their new knowledge, applying it to problems or exercises where immediate peer collaboration and instructor feedback is especially important. One downside, of course, is that the success of in-class activities is highly reliant on students being diligent about completing their at-home work. A second downside is that transforming a traditional course into a ‘flipped’ course can be very time-consuming for faculty, especially at first.
If you’d like to play with the ‘flipped class’ idea without transforming every class session, or you need to maintain a safety net for students who aren’t quite as diligent at doing all the preparation work, then you may want to consider the tipped classroom approach. I like the idea of tipping a classroom because it relies on making small adjustments to the pacing of in-class activities.
The basic idea is that you spend a short amount of time at the beginning of class on instructor-led and content-focused exploration: lecture, or review of homework, or even a combination of peer work and independent reading time to catch students up who may be less well-prepared. After this initial exploration time comes application, having the students work individually or in small groups on a problem, project, or other alternative assessment. This is most successful when you’ve planned to spend not more than one-third of class time on exploration, with the final two-thirds spent on application. In a 90-minute class session, you would plan on spending not more than 30 minutes on lecture or review, reserving 60 minutes for practical application activities. I think the tipped class approach is most effective when there is structure for how the students will spend their application time. An example might be telling students: “You have 15 minutes to work independently on three problems, and then 15 minutes to discuss and come to a consensus with your group on the best ways to solve the problems.” This structure helps students to stay on-task and makes clear what the end result should be.
I find the tipped classroom approach works well because it is a smaller change than flipping a classroom and is more easily implemented. It is also more forgiving of students who don’t come to class as prepared as we might like, which is important not just to keep that individual student engaged and on track, but is also important from a planning standpoint. If the success of your main activity depends on students having covered a certain amount of preparatory materials, it only takes a few unprepared students to ruin the activity for the whole class. With the tipped classroom approach, you can build in a certain amount of review of key concepts and procedures to feel more confident that the application activities will run smoothly.