Point of View

Flipping classrooms increases collaboration, higher thinking

May 20, 2013 

This month Luke Miles, eighth-grade social studies teacher at Durant Road Middle School, was named Wake County Teacher of the Year and was praised for using the flipped classroom technique.

Instead of giving lectures, he records short videos explaining the material that his students watch for homework. Miles’ class time is then used to engage the class in activities that let them go deeper into the material. As a principal, I’ve seen the benefits of the flipped classroom model firsthand.

Last year was the first time that all the eighth-grade math teachers at Durant Road flipped their classrooms. Katie Gimbar, trained by Dr. Lodge McCammon from N.C. State University, inspired her peers to adopt the FIZZ method of flipped instruction. As a result, Durant’s Algebra 1 EOC test scores from the 2011-12 school year showed improvement in proficiency and growth. In fact, these teachers outdistanced the district by an impressive amount.

When I first came to Durant, flipping was just a “math thing.” As a result of this success, the technique has spread across the school to more content areas, including social studies. Two terms I love to hear teachers, like Luke Miles and Katie Gimbar, use are “collaboration” and “higher order thinking.” Yet those are the hardest to fit into a classroom because teachers spend so much time lecturing. Walking into flipped classrooms, I see collaboration and higher order thinking happening every day.

For example, in Miles’ social studies classroom, I see him walking from group to group, facilitating conversations to keep the collaboration going. It’s amazing to see a child you know has a learning disability, a child who is academically gifted and a child using English as a second language all working and thinking together, discussing advanced concepts.

We have a growing community of teachers who are taking the initiative to flip. They sought a recording room in the school, which even I’ve used to create videos for flipping faculty meetings, effectively modeling the practice for our teachers. As an administrator, I want to remove barriers so our teachers can use this method and feel supported in doing so.

At Durant, flipped instruction is more than a teaching technique, it’s part of the culture of learning – a culture that now includes the Wake County Teacher of the Year.

Drew Sawyer is principal at Durant Road Middle School in Raleigh.

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