By Greg Green, Principal, Clintondale High School in Clinton Township, Michigan

Have you ever stopped and taken a moment to reflect on what we are actually doing in education or wondered why has no one taken the time to design a school model that promotes the behaviors and instructional strategies that research reveals?

While many well-intended professionals have tried to create solutions for the current school model, they have failed to drill down to the core problems in design and delivery that have led to the failure of our schools. If we want students and teachers to use technology and maximize the use of instructional strategies that enhance student achievement, we need to build a platform where students and teachers naturally integrate technologies into their everyday practice.

Oftentimes, our schools do not use technology simply because there is no reason for it: students still receive their information directly from their teacher. Our “modern” classrooms continue to be built around receiving information and not around processing and practicing various learning strategies.

Careful thought about design and delivery is crucial to our nation’s schools success and our desired outcomes as educators.  In schools, we demand that our teachers and students work collaboratively, yet we have classrooms designed to have seven rows and student desks that weigh 45-50 pounds. The most basic feature, the design of a classroom, discourages students and teachers from working synergistically.

Traditionally, our school’s individual classrooms are built around receiving pertinent information through an individual teacher.  When examining our student’s experience in a typical classroom, a teacher spends approximately 40 minutes of a 60 minute class period actively reviewing and explaining the required information. Add in another 5-8 minutes of transition time and suddenly the total time that a student is actively learning with expert feedback comes to a grand total of 12 minutes. This is exactly 20 percent of a class’s total time – and we all wonder why our students struggle with subjects like mathematics!

Our current delivery model does not encourage teacher feedback, cooperative learning or personalized instruction. Classroom time is devoted to the delivery of information, while our student’s time at home is devoted to practicing new concepts. However, the home is where many of our students lack the expert support and the means to replicate a successful learning environment.

In a flipped school’s learning design, students attend class, not to simply listen to a lecture, but to work on assignments, projects and activities directly with a teacher, and have access to his/her expertise and immediate feedback.  Because of its learning design, students are able to move in and out of independent work, group work, teacher guided and skill building activities.

Under a flipped learning model, a teacher and his/her students use screencasts to make the learning process individualized, so students can move at their own pace. When we received a grant from TechSmith and began using Camtasia Studio to flip our classrooms, it was the first step in widespread change at our school and inspired us to transform the design of our classrooms.

At my school, we found that this redesign of the classroom yielded significant results. Two years ago, Clintondale High School’s failure rate was 61.2 percent. Using a flipped instructional model (with no other operational, funding or structural changes to our teaching methods) it is currently 10.8 percent, a reduction of 50.4 percent!  Our success with this new method of teaching has highlighted the importance of restructuring our school’s physical environment to coincide with new, proven, methods of teaching.  The flipped classroom requires new design features and considerations that lend themselves to a flexible, interactive learning environment.  In a flipped classroom, the teacher is no longer the center of attention, eliminating the need for long rows of desks. Instead, teachers and students work side-by-side to digest new material. Rather than orienting the room in a way that includes an obvious “front,” a formal instructor’s workstation is unnecessary in a classroom that emphasizes collaboration and the use of technology.  This rethinking of the classroom design is crucial to our nation’s schools success and our desired outcomes as educators. Should we truly want to become facilitators of our classroom, and inspire strong learning relationships, we must reassess the way that we arrange our classroom’s physical structure.

By redesigning the classroom, and reversing the model by which our students receive information, we are able to transform our schools to achieve the outcomes we so desire.

4 COMMENTS

  1. By reversing the model by which our students learn, would we then need to restructure the way we evaluate students across the board? I love leaving the learning up to my students but whether they advance to the next grade or not is dependent on their scores on standardized tests!

  2. Yes, standardize tests are the way in which we are measured. In order to achieve our desired results, we need our experts spending their time helping an active learner rather than a passive one. Does an ACT prep coach spend lots of time lecturing to their the customers? In most cases, probably not. Most often they assist their students as they engage and practice. They teach them learning strategies on how to be successful with the content or task. Having students create and collaborate allows them to engage in the content itself and climb Bloom’s Taxonomy. It enables them to build tomorrow’s skill. State and national assessment’s will be ultimately up to the power players. How we engage and support our students will be up to us at the local level. We need to just focus on how we can best use our time, expertise, resources, tools and experience.

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