Science

Iowa teachers try 'flipped' classroom teaching method

Posted 10:27 a.m. Saturday

— Dubuque Senior High School students circulated Angie Bishop's classroom, graph paper in hand, during a recent honors Algebra 2 exercise.

The students traveled from table to table, where slips of paper with math problems to solve were laid out. Meanwhile, Bishop spent time working with individual students who needed help.

They learned the material before class by watching videos Bishop made to walk them through the lessons. Then during class, they practiced graphing and writing functions.

"We haven't been spending a long time on this topic, but I feel like I understand it better," freshman Eva Wood told the Telegraph Herald .

Bishop's Honors Algebra 2 courses run on a "flipped" classroom model. Her students learn lessons outside of class and then come to her room to practice what they have learned.

Bishop is one of several Dubuque County teachers exploring the classroom model. For Bishop, "flipping" her classrooms has been a way to raise student engagement and provide them with more of the individual support they need.

"I feel like my students are a lot better thinkers than they were before," Bishop said.

In Bishop's flipped classes, students' homework consists primarily of watching 15-minute videos of Bishop teaching the material. When they come to class, they practice with quiz games, stations and other exercises.

Bishop contrasts this with a traditional model, in which a teacher gives the lesson in class and then students go home to practice the material for homework.

"It's a very engaging environment," she said. "Students aren't just passively sitting there."

Bishop first tried flipping her classroom during the second semester of the 2016-17 school year. She said the practice has helped her build better relationships with her students and catch their mistakes as they learn.

Alidia Mickelson, a junior at the high school, took a flipped class with Bishop last school year. She said she liked it better than a traditional class.

Mickelson appreciated that her only homework was taking notes on the videos. When she worked through math problems in class, her teacher was able to help her.

"It was nice to have the teacher there," she said.

Zakiya Johnson, also a junior who took a flipped class last school year with Bishop, said the switch meant her teacher had more time to work with individual students.

"Having the teacher there to help you with problems is so much more convenient," she said.

A handful of Dubuque Community School District teachers are piloting a flipped classroom model, district spokesman Mike Cyze wrote in an email. Other local teachers also have adopted elements of flipped classrooms.

In the Western Dubuque Community School District, at least 20 teachers have adopted what district officials call an "enhanced" classroom model in which teachers are provided resources to record themselves teaching, according to Jim Roberts, director of instructional technology for the district.

There are no teachers with fully flipped classrooms because of the number of students who don't have internet access or computers at home, he said.

Some teachers record themselves during class and then upload the videos so students can re-watch lectures as many times as they need to, he said.

Other teachers record lessons ahead of time. Students then can watch the video during class while the teacher works with students who are struggling with a concept.

That practice works well for students who are ahead in class to keep learning new material while the teacher continues helping students who need it, Roberts said.

"Students weren't having to be held back," he said. "They were able to keep progressing."

Tim Berning, a chemistry teacher at Wahlert Catholic High School in Dubuque, has been using the flipped classroom model for about five years.

His Advanced Placement students have a fully flipped classroom. Students watch videos of his lectures, and class time is focused on problem-solving, group work and labs.

"We take away me standing in front of the kids telling them what they should look up," he said.

He also offers his students other video learning resources.

"The goal is for the kids to get the information and for me to be able to be that bridge on how they can apply it," he said. "And I think it's worked out really well."

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