Flipping the Structure of my Flipped Classroom

4 images of open laptop as they appear to flip

Why I Started Flipping

As a flipped classroom teacher for almost a decade, I have gone through many major shifts in my teaching philosophies and it has changes the way I have delivered my videos.

The original reason I chose to flip my classroom was because I loved the concept that the notes and introductory practice sets could be completed at home when students need less support and the more rigorous problems sets could be completed in class when I am available to field questions. My initial observations about flipping the classroom where generally positive. This method allowed students to take control of the lecture by watching and re-watching the videos as many times as needed, pausing and taking notes, annotating slides, and watching early or at any time of day. It also allowed more class time for application of chemistry such as more opportunities to detect misunderstandings, more labs, more hands on activities, and modeling. I did hit some challenges like technology issues and ways to ensure my students actually completed the work, but now most students have at least a phone to complete the videos and I am using EDpuzzle to host the videos and formatively assess work on the videos (more on that later). Some of my colleagues early on were worried these videos would replace teachers or isolate students when they are learning. I found it was quite the opposite! Now I am able to provide more support one on one when students were being challenged the most. I am able to use the videos to provide prompt feedback on their work, drive future lessons based on misconceptions found by responses in videos, and I have more time than ever to complete hands on lab work and team work.

General Advice

After nine years of flipping I do have some advice. Try to package your videos into small bundles under ten minutes each. Student’s attention spans decrease exponentially as the video proceeds, especially after ten minutes (and let’s be honest, so does mine!). For example, in a standard atomic unit in general chemistry I have seven distinct lessons:

  1. Rutherford Theory
  2. Subatomic Particles
  3. Ions
  4. Isotopes
  5. Atomic Mass Calculations
  6. Bohr Diagrams
  7. Lewis diagrams

This allows students to pause, rewind, and really pay attention to small bursts of information in easy to digest chunks. And if they want to re-watch a topic, they can narrow down their viewing to one objective at a time.

I would also recommend that teachers model appropriate video watching skills. Within the first week of classes, I have all students log into EDpuzzle on our class computers and watch the video to ensure they all have access before they leave to go home. Then I have them take notes on the video and hand them in. I provide feedback on their notes taken in class to show them my expectations for notes in the future. Periodically throughout the year, I ask to see their video notes and assess their notes or allow students to use their notes on quizzes (especially if I see a student has been struggling in class). 

As mentioned before, I use EDpuzzle to formatively assess my students on their work. I can use the program to see what time they watched the video and how many times they watched it. I choose to not allow them to skip forward in the video unless they have already watched it once. I can also add multiple choice and short answer questions to check their understanding in order to tease out misconceptions or drive future lessons. I choose to create my own videos by using PowerPoint slides and talking over them using a screen casting software, however, you can choose to use other videos from online. You can edit and crop videos, keeping in mind you may prefer to have videos less than ten minutes in length. I elect to create my own videos because I can easily tailor the content I need for my course. Also, after taking multiple reflection surveys from students, students tend to value teacher-created resources over videos created by others. Consistency is key. I try to require the same number of videos each week in order to keep a routine in class. EDpuzzle is free and has an app version for students.


Changes to My Flipped Classroom          

Initially I used my flipped videos to introduce a topic. That video would be followed by an in class lesson which undermined the video. Some students didn’t find value in watching my videos if they knew it would be covered the next day in class. My response tended to be, “Isn’t it easier the second time around? If you watched the video to obtain a foundation in the information with notes, you could use those notes in class to guide you.” But there were always a number of students who could pick it up just in class and felt they had no reason to watch the videos at home. Sometimes I would find a really great POGIL activity or hands on activity to use as an inquiry lesson and following that came the first flipped video. Those videos were watched by more students and those students generally felt they obtained more information from videos following an inquiry activity. As I reflected more on this observation, a key idea kept presenting itself in various professional development sessions, NGSS trainings, and personal research, “Activity before concept. Concept before vocabulary.” Following this strategy means the whole structure of my class was going to be flipped again!

Now I consistently open a lesson with a phenomenon or driving question, in class inquiry activity such as POGIL, modeling activity, question formulation technique and driving question boards, or an inquiry lab. The inquiry is then followed by more active learning including but not limited to additional labs, more modeling, argumentation sessions, and simulations. Once the students are engaged using phenomena and exploring the concepts on their own, they start to generate their own ideas of how the chemistry phenomena works or to solve the answer to the driving question. This concept invention stage is critical because it allows students to generate ownership of their learning and understanding. They are not force fed facts to memorize and retain. They are instead exposed to phenomenon, generate data and tease out evidence for their concepts before they are provided the facts. It leads to more learning retention and more engaged students all around. Then I assign the flipped videos. These videos are full of important facts and vocabulary students need to know in order to master chemistry. The videos are short, sweet, and to the point. But the videos are only assigned after the students have had exposure to the activity and the concept we are studying. This gives the students more context for the vocabulary and provides more reasons for them to watch the videos - they include the answers to some of their own questions! And then all of the other flipping benefits come back into play. They have more time for this active problem solving and critical thinking while I am present with them in class and the students have the ability to learn vocabulary and facts at home to fill in gaps in understanding with the option to re-watch lessons. The videos have questions that I can formatively assess to tease out misconceptions before we move on.


Final Thoughts

You don’t need to create content all at once. Work with other teachers to create a bank of videos and/or find teacher’s videos that you trust. Create videos about lab equipment protocols or to review additional examples of the concepts you taught in class to start getting your feet wet. Find a healthy balance between having high expectations and creating just the right number of videos to not overwhelm your students. Try to trust students when they tell you they are having technology issues and couldn’t complete the videos but require them to make up the videos in order to keep up with in class instruction. The process of flipping any classroom can be challenging but I whole heartedly endorse the decision as it has been a very positive for me.