UMass instructor supports ‘flipped classroom’ strategy; idea gaining ground in higher-ed

Last modified: Monday, January 01, 0001
AMHERST — Supporters say “flipped classrooms,” a teaching strategy that began in K-12 education, has value for higher education too. The model involves reversing traditional homework and in-class activities through the use of online technology.

Heath Hatch, a senior lecturer in the Physics Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst describes himself as “a fan” of flipped learning. Creating online lectures that students view outside of class “allows your time in class to be about the actual application of content,” he said.

The nonprofit Flipped Learning Network defines a flipped classroom as “a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.” (www.flippedlearning.org)

Although professors have been recording their lectures for years, the explosion of digital technology has made it easier for those lessons to be “delivered” to students outside class, Hatch said.

Hatch believes the approach allows his students to come to class better prepared and more willing to participate. He has also been able to move through his course material more quickly, leaving time for guest speakers and other in-class activities.

Hatch said there are many misconceptions about flipped learning — in particular, that it simply means posting things on a website. In reality, he says, it takes thoughtful planning so that materials students work with online enhance their in-class activities.

“Instructors need to be very careful about the delivery of content — if you just tell them to read the post you haven’t really flipped,” Hatch said.

He plans to run an experiment this fall with different sections of his physics classes to track the results of flipped assignments on student work.

“That way, I’ll have more than my gut feeling,” Hatch said. “I think this does take more work but the learning is substantially better.”