I have mostly fond memories of school, but one not-so-fond memory is the frustration I would feel trying to complete my math homework. I never had a problem in other classes, but math—almost any kind of math—always eluded me. I would pay attention in class as the teacher explained how to do something in geometry or calculus, and sometimes I would even think I understood the concept at the time. But as I sat down that evening to complete my homework, it almost never failed that the process of arriving at the correct answers would escape me. My frustration would often result in giving up. Now the idea of “lecture in class, practice at home” is being turned on its head. And it all happened kind of by accident.
In 2004, Salman Khan began posting videos on YouTube to help his cousin who was struggling to learn algebra. Other students found Khan’s videos and started watching them. Similarly, in 2007, teachers Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams began to record their lectures and post them online for students. Soon these online lectures started spreading, and the two realized they were on to something. Bergman and Sams began talking to other schools about their methods, and Sal Khan caught the attention of Bill Gates, which gave birth to Khan Academy.
Today, the flipped classroom is being piloted in many schools across the country. Students watch lectures at home about a particular skill, after which skills practice takes place in the classroom aided by a teacher. Clintondale High School near Detroit adopted the model with great success. Before the program, over 50% of freshmen failed English and 44% failed math. After instituting the flipped classroom, the rates dropped to 19% and 13%, respectively. Another by-product of the model was that discipline cases dropped from 736 to 249.
Some experts aren’t sure if the flipped classroom is the model of the future its proponents purport it to be. Ramsey Musallam, writing for Edutopia, addresses some of the criticisms: “Critics…argue that online instruction puts students that lack Internet access at a disadvantage. Moreover,…lecture is still a poor mode of information transfer.” But Salman Khan has a different take on it: “They could…pause and repeat the lectures without worrying that they were wasting my time. They could review topics from previous sessions without feeling embarrassed, and they could tackle new topics without the stress of someone watching over or judging them.”
I cannot go back in time and find out if the flipped classroom model would have ended my math homework frustration, but this concept that is gaining popularity sure is intriguing.