Learning, Innovation & Tech

Bombs & Breakthroughs

Reflecting on the flipped class through student feedback

CJ Westerberg, May 23, 2012 12:19 PM


Editor's Note: We are delighted to have a NEW guest post by teacher Stacey Roshan of the Bullis School, a private high school in Maryland, talking about her experience with the flipped class and AP Calculus.  You can find previous posts by Roshan in The Daily Riff in the links below this post, along with others related to the flipped classroom.  - C.J. Westerberg

A Teacher Shares Student Feedback about
The Flipped Classroom

"Risk-taking and support are two of the most common themes
I think often about in my teaching."

by Stacey Roshan

Another year of AP Calculus: in reverse. The model I have chosen to use in this class is centered around creating more class time by sending the teacher-driven lecture home, otherwise known as "the flipped class." In AP Calculus, I have a large amount of material to get through and I'm constrained by the testing calendar. My students are high achievers and anxiety is natural in AP classes. Part of my job, however, and one of my main interests, is how to reduce the stress level for my students. An anxious classroom is not where learning, or growth, thrives. One of my main roles as a teacher, I feel, is to create a calm, excited, inspiring atmosphere to stimulate true learning.

The student satisfaction survey that I had my students complete was overwhelmingly positive. I additionally received much constructive feedback which I will share with you, along with a brief outline of some of the major results along with all comments received, unedited. But first, I want to reflect on my journey with the flipped class format.

Roshan.Bullis.reverse.learning.jpgPhoto: Teacher Stacey Roshan (far left) with two of her students
My goal in flipping my class was to reduce student anxiety. We place so much pressure on the high-achieving teenager, an area that I don't think gets enough focus. We talk a lot about the at-risk student, struggling academically, but what about the emotionally at-risk, overachievers?

I think it's important for us, as teachers, to recognize this pressure and help support students in finding balance. At my school, students are busy and involved: in academically rigorous courses, in sports, in the arts, and in the community, along with any other hobbies they may have. All of our students are required to do extracurricular activities and many of our students play on sports teams beyond just the school team. So to say they're busy would be an understatement. By the time they get home in the evening, they are tired . . . and probably in need of a shower and a hearty dinner. After sitting through an entire day of learning, usually followed by some physical rigor, students are expected to crank out intense problem solving late at night. A lot of time math homework is left for absolute last because it is the "dreaded" homework. Not only does it require a lot of thought, but it can also be frustrating. So by the time they get to their math homework, their brain is probably fried . . . 

But this is not a rant about the need to eliminate homework, because I couldn't run my AP class without it. And this is similarly not about lecture being bad pedagogy. What this is about is re-examining the thoughts I've just written and reassessing the traditional model of teaching and learning.

By "flipping" my class, students work the problems in the classroom (with their peers available to collaborate with, to learn from, and to teach) and are sent home with an assignment that has clear expectations. In watching a video lecture that I have prerecorded, students are more or less working through the problem with a virtual me. They jot down notes and questions and this becomes the basis for class discussion the next day; it is centered around what they need. And they walk into the classroom with the confidence that they will have the chance to wrap their brain around a difficult new concept. By working through the problems assigned, by listening to their classmates questions and answers, by having the opportunity to work with me one-on-one when an idea is really confusing - students are able to process the material and learn together, rather than having to do so in isolation. I am able to assign harder problems because I know that I will be there to support the students without sending them into a panic.

I expect for students to fail at times -  because failing is an integral part of the learning process. But knowing that I will be there to support them in this process is crucial, in my mind I view this idea as "supported failure."  Risk-taking and support are two of the most common themes I think often about in my teaching.  It is my belief that being a good teacher requires allowing students to safely take risks. While that may sound almost oxymoronic, providing a warm, welcoming classroom environment where students know that their teacher is there to support them is hugely important to me. But equally as important is for my students to become independent learners, unafraid to jot down equations or play with numbers even when they are not quite sure where they are headed.  While failure is an important element in achieving excellence, challenging students way beyond their comfort zone without being there to observe their reaction is not the healthiest learning environment.  So in reversing the dynamics of my class, I've been able to get a bit of the best of both worlds.

But knowing that I will be there to support them in this process is crucial,
in my mind I view this idea as "supported failure."

Overall, I feel extremely positive. Students again stepped up to the challenge and amazed me with their ability to process difficult video lectures at home on their own. They came into class ready to discuss and rarely looked overly stressed or anxious. Even with difficult lessons, they generally exuded the kind of confidence needed to get the difficult concepts sorted by the end of the period.

In Part 2 Students Talk about the Flipped Class, I will explore my student feedback to the flipped classroom from a recent questionnaire.

A lot of insight here!
Stacey Roshan's videos on Screencast
Stacey Roshan's videos in iTunes (not all videos stored)

The Flipped Class Manifest by Brian E. Bennett, Dan Spencer, Jon Bergmann, Troy Cockrum, Ramsey Musallam, Aaron Sams, Karl Fisch, Jerry Overmyer

How the Flipped Classroom is Radically Transforming Learning by Jon Bergmann, Aaron Sams

The Flipped Class: Shedding light on the confusion, critique and hype by Aaron Sams

Are you Ready to Flip? by Dan Spencer, Deb Wolf, and Aaron Sams

 "The Flipped Class:  Myths vs. Reality" by Jon Bergmann, Jerry Overmyer and Brett Wilie

 "The Flipped Class: What Does a Good One Look Like?" by Brian Bennett, Jason Kern, April Gudenrath and Philip McIntosh

Private School Math Teacher Flips Learning by Stacey Roshan

The Flipped Class:  Show Me the Data! by Stacey Roshan

Teachers "Doing the Flip" to Help Students Become Learners

  • audjkozdrey

    I love the idea of the flipped classroom, especially as state testing puts more pressure on teachers to cover the material before the test. Sometimes I feel like the education the kids are getting is an inch deep and a mile wide, which makes me feel...guilty. If I was able to pull off a flipped classroom, I think it would allow the kids more time to interact with the material, not just soak it up and regurgitate it (and, most likely, forget, it). One main concern, the technology required. How many times have I heard "I can't do the assignment because I don't have a ______________ at home" (even though you have hunch that they do). Yes, the school has computers for student use, but, as Roshan points out, they have already sat through six hours of instruction and have other obligations outside of school. Additionally, one of the attractive aspects of this model, in my opinion, is that the kids are learning in a relaxed environment where they are comfortable. Now maybe your school is run by funding bloodhound, but i have yet to work at a school that can conjure up the resources to provide each kid with the tech they need to make the flipped classroom work. Yes, most kids have ipods or whatever. What about the one that doesn't? You know, the one with the lawyer uncle (its ALWAYS that one!) ? Without an extremely generous donation I can't wrap my head around a way to sidestep this potentially legal obstacle.

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