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School Not Working? Flip It


We might have been doing school wrong all these years. The Atlantic profiles “the flipped classroom,” a new educational model in which students listen to lectures at home via digital technology and do their “homework” in the classroom. The benefits of this model may seem obvious—when you most need a teacher’s or professor’s help is when you’re working through that tough problem set—but it’s good to see a new study bear this intuition out:

The study examined three years of a foundational pharmaceutics course, required for all doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) students attending UNC. In 2011, Mumper taught the course in a standard, PowerPoint-aided lecture format. In 2012 and 2013, he taught it using “flipped” methods. Student performance on an identical final exam improved by 2.5 percent between 2011 and 2012—results now in press at Academic Medicine—and by an additional 2.6 percent in 2013. Overall, student performance on an identical final exam improved between 2011 and 2013 by 5.1 percent.

Students also came to prefer the flipped model to the lecture model. While 75 percent of students in 2012 said, before Mumper’s class, that they preferred lectures, almost 90 percent of students said they preferred the flipped model after the class.

One VM staffer had a class like this in college and found it extremely helpful; it made learning more self-directed, and allowed students to prioritize their work in ways that worked best for them. The students just came into class to take quizzes and those who did well could jump ahead to the next unit. Those who needed more help could come in for review sessions where they’d walk you through your mistakes step by step.

The traditional classroom is just one of the many ways that we’ve become frozen in outdated practices that don’t unlock the student’s full potential. Experimenting with things like flipped classrooms is essential to improving our educational system as we move away from a “time served” to a “stuff learned” model. We need deep changes to how we do education in America, but things like the flipped classroom are a good start.

[Mortar boards image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Pete

    Sounds like a good idea.

  • Kevin

    Sounds interesting. In some ways it s similar to the Socratic method used in any law school courses.

    I wonder if this will be as effective for less motivated students. In the end I suspect no one method will work best for everyone and having a variety would ideally allow each student to choose the right method for themselves.

    • Douglas6

      This is exactly like the Socratic method used in law school. The students read the cases on their own time, and the professor asks them questions designed to hone their ability to analyze and synthesize the cases.

      You may be right that it won’t work for non-motivated students. I know a professor at a tier 3 college who says his students never do any of their assignments – they are just there because mommy and daddy are paying for it and they want the credential. I asked him if he had considered “flipping” his class and he said the students would just come completely unprepared.

  • LizardLizard

    Presumably parents will be able to view the “lecture” too. Thus, they will know what their children are being taught and have the opportunity to protest extreme ideological indoctrination. Also, it will be much harder schools to cover up for poor teachers……

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