The struggles of flipped classrooms

We’ve been back with in-person school for six and a half months now. Flipped classrooms were a struggle last year, and they still are. Although they were sometimes necessary during online learning, now that we are back in the classroom, teachers need to teach the material in class.

The main target of flipped classrooms has been math classes. Math is a challenging subject for many students and therefore demands a significant amount of structure. With flipped classrooms students aren’t getting the structure that they need to learn effectively. We should be moving back towards the normal structure of a math class: lecturing for the first part of class, then using the remaining time to work on the homework and get additional help. 

Instead, with flipped classrooms, our homework has become watching videos. Requiring students to watch videos at home in order to learn the lesson is hard on students; most struggle to watch or finish it, so when the time comes to do worksheets and activities in class they aren’t prepared and are still struggling to understand the lesson. The class time to do homework is great, but is extremely challenging and discouraging if you didn’t understand the video. And if you didn’t finish the activities and worksheets during class, and really do want to learn the material, there is now more work on top of having to keep up with new video lessons. 

As high school students, most of us are very busy with extracurriculars and homework from our other classes. It can be hard to make enough time to watch the video, and when you don’t have time to take good notes on the video, the easiest thing to do is to hit play and watch it without taking notes which is less than ideal. Even though it’s a 20 minute video, actively taking notes and trying to understand the material means it takes much longer to  complete, which makes students more inclined to passively watch it or not watch it at all. 

Having a video to watch every now and then is completely doable, but for every lesson is exhausting. It is so much harder to pay attention, retain or even understand the information this way. An integral part of processing new information is asking questions and getting additional, in-person explanations during lessons, but assigned videos take these interactions away. Learning material in class is more enjoyable and a much better environment for learning compared to sitting alone, by yourself watching videos that bring back the isolation of online learning that we have tried so hard to escape from. Most importantly, in class, it is so much easier to learn; everyone is more engaged, students can actively ask questions, you can work with your table group and the best part, your teacher is right there to clarify things, reexplain concepts and answer specific questions. 

While flipped classrooms were created with good intentions, it turned out they were not the most successful. Although we are already more than half way through the year, there is still time to continue moving away from this style of teaching, which would be beneficial for most students and hopefully more enjoyable and engaging for everyone. This technique, while doable online, is not ideal for in-person learning, and most of us would love to get back to the traditional, structured math classes we are used to.