Our thanks to Justin Joslin, Director of Experiential Learning, New Hampton School, for experiences in flipping the classroom. Visit his Youtube channel, nhsjjoslin, to see his full collection of flipped videos.

Brian Fisher (BF): How did you come to using the flipped classroom?

Justin Joslin (JJ): I began using flip teaching in my Pre-Calculus class two years ago. I attended a workshop with a Holderness School  math teacher who had begun using the technique in the fall.

I see three primary purposes to flip-teaching. The first is to remove the teacher from being the focus of the class. The second is to free up class time to do more important and more interesting work. The third is to allow students to learn at their own pace.

I immediately saw the benefit of being able give more directed and individualized help to my students, and I was also very excited about the opportunity to let my students learn at their own pace. So, I went from being a traditional lecture style teacher in the fall to being a full asynchronous flipped-teacher in the spring. My students watch videos, complete problem sets, and take assessments all at their own pace.

Flipping the classroom is not something I recommend for every teacher, but it fits with my personality. It gives me some really good feedback because my students were able to compare both methods and I was able to look at their performance from both semesters. Overwhelmingly, the students preferred the flip-teaching method. That has continued to be the case.

BF: What does Flipping mean/look like?

JJ: In a fully flipped, asynchronous class, the students are really asked to take control of their own learning. While I would like the students to have more input into what they learn, this is really a great way for them to become more independent learners.

Students now teach themselves most of the material, and they use me more as another resource, much like they would their textbook, their peers, or the videos. And that is exactly how I treat the videos, as another resource. I don't require my students to watch them. In fact, one of the unexpected outcomes of this was that students realized they could teach themselves the material from the textbook. So, if they prefer that method, I don't penalize them for not watching the videos. Other teachers keep their kids at the same pace, and therefore it makes sense for everyone to watch the same video each night.

To an outside observer, my class looks very different than other math classes. An observer will not see me lecturing at the board. At times, the only thing I am doing in class is watching and listening. Often, I spend the class just circulating and answering individual questions as they arise. I also encourage students to help each other more. This has allows me to give the students who need more help way more focused and personal instruction. It also allows the fast movers to work at their own pace and to not be held back by me.

Another outcome of this method is that I can require my students to master skills before moving on to the next chapter or unit. Because my students take their assessments when they are ready, I can require a minimum standard for them to meet, which is a 75% in my class. If they don't earn this mark on a quiz or a test, they have to fix their mistakes, and retake a different version of the assessment. They have to repeat this process until they earn the minimum mark. Students love this because they no longer have to worry about having a bad test. While they don't want to have to retake a test, they appreciate the ability to do so if needed.

BF: Challenges of Flipping?

JJ: At first, this method can be a lot of extra work for the teacher, especially if the entire class is being flipped. It's not that it's terribly difficult once you have your method, but the teacher has to find the best way to create and host the videos.

For me, it was important to have ownership of my videos, meaning I did not want to have to host them on a separate website. I wanted to be able to put them on our Whipple Hill class page with all my other resources. That's why I stayed away from the Educreations and ShowMe apps on the iPad.

I use Explain Everything on the iPad because it has a ton of features and I can own the files I create. If a teacher doesn't have an iPad, they can use screen capture software to make the videos. Quicktime even has a built-in feature for Mac users. A smartboard or a tablet for the mouse are really helpful so that you can use your normal handwriting. Otherwise, it might be best to talk over a standard slide presentation. Now that I have a solid method that works for me, I can create and upload a 5 to 10 minute video (it's important to keep them short) in about 20 to 30 minutes.

The amount of work that you put into flip teaching depends on how you want to use it. So, a teacher considering this method really needs to evaluate how they want to teach and how they want to use the tool ahead of time.

I wouldn't recommend jumping in midstream like I did. If you want to use it as a tool that you pull out of the quiver every so often, that's great. It's low maintenance and doesn't take a whole lot of effort. This works really well for the lessons that you teach over and over again every year, like Pythagorean Theorem or the Bill of Rights.

If you want to try it more seriously, do a single chapter or unit, and then get feedback from your students. It's important to make sure that it works for them. If they don't like it, tweak it so that it does work. I think fully flipping a class the way I have done will work for very few classes. Math obviously lends itself to this better than most disciplines, but I do think that it can be used in some way in any class.

BF: How does ‘Flipping’ your classroom fit with the traditional boarding school small class?

JJ: I think most of the benefits of flip teaching are enhanced in a boarding school setting.

I teach 10-12 students in a class, and so circulating an answering individual questions as they arise is much easier to do than if I was teaching 30 students. That would be a nightmare and totally an unreasonable way to teach.

I also think that the independent school environment allows us to more easily teach asynchronously because we are not tied to state standards and we don't have to teach to a test (in most classes).

Our next big challenge is going to be dealing with the strict academic schedule and the traditional grading periods and methods. If we want students to show skills mastery, then they need to be given the appropriate amount of time to do so. That means some students will take 6 months to complete Algebra II, and some will take 18 months. I think boarding schools could be an early adopter of this pedagogy if they are willing to take the risk.

BF: Successes and Challenges?

JJ: Successfully, my students cover more material; they do more problems; and,  they do most of it under their own instruction.

I have seen a dramatic increase in the use of the textbook and a decrease in dependence on me as the teacher. My students are allowed to work at their own pace, but they must demonstrate mastery of material before moving on.

Challenges- it took almost two years to create all of the material necessary for my course, including the videos and the online problem sets that I use to track student progress. But now I have a vault of material that can be passed on to another teacher or that I can continue to use.

The learning curve was steep, but once I mastered a technique that worked for me, the process became much easier.