In 2 wildly popular blog posts 1 and 2 on the flipped classroom, “notable advocates of the flipped classroom” clarify what is meant by the term. They include Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, who are credited with developing the most prevalent implementation of the flip. In the first post, the 8 advocates write: “In most Flipped Classrooms, there is an active and intentional transfer of some of the information delivery to outside of the classroom with the goal of freeing up time to make better use of the face-to-face interaction in school.”
The eight flipped classroom gurus also write, “This can look very different from classroom to classroom and we recognize no two Flipped Classrooms look exactly the same, just as no two traditional classrooms look alike. The Flipped Classroom is a pedagogy-first approach that strives to meet the needs of the learners in our individual schools and communities. It is much more an ideology than it is a specific methodology…there is no prescribed set of rules to follow or model to fit…Practitioners of the various flipped classroom models are constantly tweaking, changing, rejecting, adding to, and generally trying to improve the model through direct experience with how effective it is for kids.”
We want to be clear, for ourselves and our readers, about what those most famous for the flip mean by the term. We think it’s a wonderful model and a great way to describe some of the core features of Peer Instruction, despite many differences.
A fundamental implementation of the flip however, is to engage students in coverage activities before they come to class (in Bergmann’s and Sams’ rendition, this is typically watching a lecture or an online video, and engaging with peers and instructors online before class).
In Peer Instruction, this also varies, but generally involves students doing readings before class and interacting with instructors by engaging in retrieval effort (a cognitive science term that refers to the activity used when students are required to pull information from their memories and then produce that information, an effort which is linked to memory improvement, see Karpicke and Roedeiger, 2008, The critical importance of retrieval for learning).
Peer Instruction Network member (PINm) James Lacey from Franklin Pierce University asks, “How do I make sure students do the pre-class readings and their homework?” And Emily Blue from Indiana University asks: “What strategies have been useful to persuade students to do the necessary pre-reading needed for Peer Instruction to work?”
For pre-class readings, which we distinguish from homework, we use a specific research-based method, called Just-in-Time Teaching, developed by Novak, Gavrin, Christian, and Patterson in 1999. You can read a specific article using JiTT with Peer Instruction here. The workflow for JiTT is depicted in Figure 1.
The 2 conceptual questions can be closed- or open-ended questions, but should not be questions that someone who hasn’t done the reading could answer. The conceptual questions should be appropriately challenging, and test students’ understanding of key concepts that represent the big ideas instructors want students to get out of the class (learning goals).
In our JiTT implementation, we sometimes ask students to tell us how confident they are in their answer, which gives cues to them and us about how deep we need to go into the concept during the following class period. The feedback question is generally something to the effect of “What did you find most confusing about what you read?”
We analyze the feedback responses before class starts, thematize them into general areas (according to those big ideas) and we spend the entire class period working with students using ConcepTests–conceptually based questions we ask using clickers. Those questions are always linked to the concepts as they have indicated through their feedback that they need the most help with.
When we get to class, we also anonymously display for all students a few representative student responses to the feedback question, so that students can see that they aren’t the only ones who are struggling with certain topics. In this way, students, not instructors, direct what happens in class, and instructors serve more as coaches than sages on a stage. This coaching is depicted in Picture 1 below. Students are motivated because they see their needs and effort recognized by the teacher during class time.
Of his experience implementing JiTT with Peer Instruction, PINm James Fraser of Queens University said “As a surprise, with JiTT and PI I had students saying positive things about the textbook, and they generally really appreciate the immediate feedback they sometimes get on reading assignments.”
In our experience, however, we learned that students need extra motivation, beyond seeing that the instructor is paying attention. For this reason, we always give students credit for responding to their reading questions. Eric gives enough points to move students from an A- to an A or a C+ to a B-, if they do most of their reading assignments. I give my students 33% of their final grade, instead of giving them credit for attendance or participating in the class (which they do anyway, using a clicker).
Watch a 2 min video here about JiTT and Peer Instruction, which includes some student reports about their feelings about doing their reading before class.