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Empowering students through flipped learning

Thanks to the success of the flipped-learning approach, educators nationwide are becoming more aware of the alternative methods and new technologies for instruction. As each new concept becomes refined and evolves over time, so, too, does its effectiveness in the classroom.

During my first year as a social studies teacher at Putnam High School in Putnam, Conn., I began to notice that many of my students were failing to grasp concepts and ideas on the topics I was teaching. The “traditional” approach to teaching, which has been engrained in our education system for decades, was not providing the learning experience my students needed. I was determined to find an alternative and more effective approach.

Fortunately, my master’s degree program through Teachers College of Columbia University was the ideal environment to learn about alternative teaching methods, especially those that leveraged instructional technologies. This is where I discovered the flipped-learning method, which I soon implemented in my classroom.

Despite my good intentions, the traditional flipped-learning approach that focused on assigning teacher-created videos for homework fell short of my expectations. It was not always effective for students who did not have the required technology at home or those who simply chose not to watch the lessons. Because of this, many students continued to fall behind, with others still learning the material on a superficial level.

In short, it was not a one-size-fits-all solution and inspired me to search for a more effective approach.

Flipped mastery to the rescue

Upon researching other new and cutting-edge teaching methods, I implemented the flipped-mastery model for the spring 2012 semester. A hybrid that fuses the flipped-learning process with mastery learning, this approach enables students to move through the curriculum at their own pace.

I provide the learning materials, tools and support, while students set their goals and manage their own time. Additionally, students must demonstrate an adequate understanding of the course content and skills before moving on to the next topic, thereby ensuring comprehension and mastery of each learning objective.

To enhance collaboration and communication with my students, I turned to an online learning platform called EDUonGo to help customize my lessons and incorporate videos from my Flipped History Videos YouTube Channel, apps and embedded Google docs to amplify classroom activities. This platform created a whole new dynamic in how students comprehend concepts and subject matter, and improved my ability to better facilitate lessons and communicate with them.

Powerful results

I immediately noticed that by implementing this style of teaching, my students were more empowered and developed deeper ownership of their learning. In fact, as part of my graduate research, 83% of my students reported that their learning was more active and experiential, while 76% stated that they had more autonomy in how they demonstrated their learning of key skills and concepts. This, in turn, resulted in a dramatic improvement in the quality of their work. Read the complete study.

Many of my students have become proponents of flipped mastery as well, voicing that they would like to see this style of learning implemented in their other classes. Parents have also noticed how their children are more engaged in this type of learning environment.

The success I have had with this style of teaching has sparked an interest among colleagues at Putnam High School and districts across the nation that are eager to learn more about flipped learning and how they can implement it in their own classrooms. Based upon the positive feedback from a variety of educators, particularly readers of my Flipped-History blog, I expect the flipped mastery method to be increasingly utilized in classrooms throughout the United States.

While the concept of flipped learning is beneficial for many students, I learned firsthand that it can present challenges to certain groups of students. The flipped mastery approach helps alleviate these challenges and creates a dynamic, highly interactive environment conducive to their academic success.

Tom Driscoll (@Mr_Driscoll) is a technology integration specialist and high school social studies teacher in Connecticut. He has implemented flipped learning in his courses since 2011 and regularly conducts professional development workshops regarding effective and innovative uses of instructional technology. In 2012, Tom authored a study while completing his master’s program at Columbia University called “Flipped Learning and Democratic Education.”  He has also authored chapters for three books on instructional technology, including Flipping 2.0 and a contributing chapter to Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams follow-up to Flip Your Classroom (expected spring 2014).