Helping Flip Classrooms

UNC's Mathematics and Science Teaching Institute is at the forefront of a growing trend in secondary education that's changing how many middle and high school students are learning.

Three years ago, Jerry Overmyer, MAST's outreach coordinator, did a simple Google search for the latest ideas in education and technology. You could say the rest of the story is history, but actually it's a new teaching model that literally flips the standard classroom setting and may be the way of the future.

Using the "flipped classroom" model, teachers create and post vodcasts - online video lectures - that students watch outside of class, and then questions are answered and homework is completed in class.

Since much of MAST's work involves providing teaching resources for K-12 educators, the concept of flipped classrooms advocated since 2007 by two science teachers at Woodland Park (Colo.) High School caught Overmyer's eye.

"It's a very dynamic definition and can mean so many things," Overmyer said. "It's basically using internet technology to leverage the learning in your classroom, so you can spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing."

Seeing a need for a way for teachers to share information about flipped classrooms, Overmyer, who has a doctorate in mathematics education, created an online professional learning network for teachers using vodcasting and the flipped teaching model that now reaches more than 2,700 members. He also frequently presents on the topic of flipped teaching at professional conferences.

According to Overmyer, the flipped classroom model is popular with math and science teachers and also has worked well in providing remedial education to students who aren't getting enough out of a traditional classroom setting.

While critics of the model say the utilization of vodcasting technology has led to teachers becoming extinct within their own classrooms, Overmyer and other advocates of the model say that not only are teacher-student relationships being strengthened with increased one-on-one time in the classroom, but student performance also is growing as well.

Clintondale (Michigan) High School near Detroit first used the flipped classroom model with 140 freshmen. Failure rates after the change dropped from 52 percent to 19 percent in freshman English and from 44 percent to 13 percent in freshman math. The number of discipline cases dropped from 736 to 249. Administrators converted the rest of the high school to the flipped model.

Many members of the Flipped Class Network have shared similar results showing major test score improvements within flipped classrooms.

Anecdotal success stories posted also support the flipped classroom concept.

"Since a significant increase was seen in the scores on the final exam for the fall semester, but smaller gains shown in the overall score, my conclusion is that students were able to go through the motions in my class before flipping without really retaining and mastering the concepts," wrote a chemistry teacher. "After flipping, there seems to be a vast increase in the depth of knowledge and understanding as well as retention."

For Overmyer, flipped teaching is just the beginning; he's confident that video technology is the future of how we learn.

"When we want to learn we go to YouTube and find a video to watch them talk and see them do what's supposed to be done," Overmyer said. "It's a more efficient and pleasant way to learn."

- Elizabeth Same, Junior Journalism Major