“Ok class, let’s start today by reviewing Example 3 from the video in your pods. Take turns explaining each step and I’ll be coming around to observe.” It’s not a typical way to start a math class, but for Mrs. Chani Wiens and her Advanced Functions class, it’s the new norm.
Mrs. Wiens, UMEI’s Academic math teacher since 2009, has introduced a new style of teaching to the school – The Flipped Classroom. “I started to research classroom flipping when I became frustrated that, even in a small classroom, I wasn’t meeting the needs of each student as much as I wanted to,” explains Wiens. “I felt that my higher level students could be further challenged, and my struggling students would benefit from even more remediation and personalized attention.”
Classroom flipping “flips” the traditional method of spending class time on instruction and home time on homework questions. Now, students watch lecture videos created by Mrs. Wiens at home and spend class time working on group challenges, interactive activities, and the practice questions from the textbook. “The risk of becoming stuck on a concept at home no longer exists because, with the new flipped concept, the homework is done in class,” explains student Josh Isley. “If I need help with a question, Mrs. Wiens is present to answer my question and I can continue ahead without having to wait until the next day and fall behind.”
Mrs. Wiens is always looking for new ways to reach her students; however, flipping was a big risk for her to take on. She started with her Grade 11 Functions class in February 2016. “I had to decide to commit to the concept, which meant recording hours worth of footage before the class even started,” explains Wiens. “It was important for me to record my own videos to maintain the relationship with my students. There are thousands of math videos on the Internet, but the research I did suggested that students learn best when hearing and seeing their own teacher.” With all of the videos online through a learning management system called Schoology, students are able to self-pace their learning by re-watching videos as often as needed, viewing ahead if desired, or watching the video during class time if they choose. “The most convenient thing about the flipped classroom is its ability to accommodate my busy schedule,” says Josh. Like most UMEI students, he is heavily involved in extracurricular activities and also takes a wide range of challenging courses.
The flipped classroom had another unintended benefit last year. Student Jordan Latam went to Switzerland on exchange for three months, and was able to learn all the material on her own. “I was able to start working on the math before the semester started and then keep up while I was away,” says Jordan. “Instead of struggling through my work with only my textbook and email, I felt like I was part of the classroom despite being so far away. I ended up with a much higher mark than I expected and, as we continue with the concept this year, I really feel like the flipped classroom ensures that I understand my homework.”
The real advantage of the flipped classroom is the ownership it gives students over their learning. “At university or college, these students will be on their own to figure out how to best learn the material and where to go for help.“