Monday, July 9, 2012

Flipping and Frontloading to Enhance Learning

A recent article by Jo Napolitano in Long Island's Newsday looked at the increasing popularity of "flipping a classroom" where teachers provide their lessons in video format prior to the class and students are responsible for accessing this new material independently, before the class period. In this educational model class time is then reserved for reinforcing the material presented in the video and expanding the lesson to encompass additional, generally enriched material. Students are expected to demonstrate that they have actually followed the video at home by taking notes and responding to questions set out in the materials. 

The benefits of this model include additional time for individual and small group instruction, the opportunity for students to pause the video, or to rewind and listen to some or all of a lesson again. This differs from the pace of classroom lecture, where once something has been stated, it is generally not repeated; a student who loses focus for a moment may miss crucial material. Some science teachers note that this model allows them more time for demonstrations and experiments in class. Detractors complain that students who do not have computers or smartphones readily available to view the lessons are at a significant disadvantage, even if schools make such devices available in libraries or elsewhere in the school building. 

What we find of particular interest in this educational model is how closely it resembles a low tech approach that we frequently recommend to students -- frontloading. Frontloading is the process of preparing to learn by becoming familiar with the concepts and vocabulary the student will encounter in a lesson. Some examples of frontloading include using available texts for clues about what is important by looking at questions at the end of chapters, bold-face headings, and section titles. Students can research vocabulary, read simple books on the subject, and search the internet for related materials. Teachers can faciliate frontloading by providing students with vocabulary specific to the upcoming lesson or by introducing a subject with models, artifacts, or even outside speakers on an important topic. 

What flipping and frontloading have in common is the recognition that by preparing students to learn a lesson they can better absorb the material and get the most out of their classroom experience.

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