Parkway e-News Story

Flipping Classrooms

Student grades and motivation are improving with a new teaching concept called flipping the classroom.

With the strategy, students learn their subject matter at home and do what is typically considered homework at school, enabling teachers to spend more time helping students one-on-one in class.

At South Middle, math teacher Kelly Bettlach produces short videos for students to watch at home. In these videos, Bettlach explains the math modeling concepts of say, expressions and equations. When students arrive at school the next day, they put what they learned online at home into practice by solving problems and graphing a function.

“Students who once spent no time outside class on math are coming to school prepared,” says Bettlach. “I can tell the students watch the videos at home by the specific questions they ask.” 

Sample video from Bettlach to her students

News story from KSDK on Parkway teachers flipping classrooms.

Since flipping her classrooms last October, Bettlach says student grades have improved by nearly one letter. If a student typically had a 76 percent average in class, that student jumped to nearly 86 percent.

One helpful feature of the flipped classroom is that students can return to the lecture videos to review a concept again and rewind if they don’t understand something. They can learn at their own pace. Once in the actual classroom, the teacher can work individually with students.

"Flipping the class frees up more time in the classroom for clarification and enrichment activities so I can be more effective," says Scott Kreher, who teaches English I and journalism at North High. Kreher has tried the flipped classroom concept with his English 1 classes. His students watch YouTube videos with grammar, writing and reading skills that he and his curriculum learning team members have created. Since flipping his classes, Kreher has noticed a 10 percent improvement in grammar with students.

Tara Stepanek, a journalism teacher at Central High, has seen the power of flipping the classroom. Sometimes she even has her students develop the content for home consumption. “It allows students to access the content they need when they need it rather than when I present it to them,” she says.

“A lesson that normally takes a 50-minute period to explain can now be presented in a more concise 15-20 minute (or less) video,“ says Ruth Knop, who has flipped her honors pre-calculus class at West High. “I spend the extra time in class with small groups or one-on-one with students, in follow-up activities.”

To focus on students who need help in class, Bettlach sets up signs at four tables. At table one, a sign reads, “Wait, I have a question.” At table two, a sign reads, “I think I have it.” At table three, a sign reads, “Challenge me, I am ready to move on.” Students assess themselves by sitting at the table that best describes their understanding of a concept.

Nancy Overby, who just flipped her honors pre-calculus classes at North High, says “student needs become apparent more quickly because so much individual attention is able to be given during class time. The improvement has been tremendous with a large growth in top scores.”

To be sure, creating the videos for home consumption is a Herculean effort, taking anywhere from an extra 30 minutes per day to hours. “It takes four to five hours to create a good 20-minute flipped video,” says Overby. Some teachers say the time constraints have prevented them from flipping all their classes. “My goal is to use the flipped classroom in all my classes, but it is a very time-consuming endeavor,” says Ruth Knop. In all, roughly 30 Parkway teachers are using some version of the flipped classroom.

Kelly Bettlach, who has flipped all of her math modeling classes, says the time spent producing videos and follow-up activities for students has been tremendous. “But it won’t be time-consuming next year,” she says, “because all the work is up-front. I will have everything completed then.”

Meanwhile, Bettlach’s video audience now includes parents. “I hear your voice while I am cooking at home,” one parent told her. “Parents also tell me a particular concept is much easier to understand now than when they were kids,” she says.