The article «Flipped classroom instruction for inclusive learning» by Lisa Altemueller and Cynthia Lindquist discusses the titular teaching methodology, its possible beneficial effects, and suggests methods for implementing it. The authors describe the inverted or flipped classroom as an approach to teaching where instruction is delivered outside the class, while the classroom activities are more focused on problem-solving and application of the learned material (Altemueller and Lindquist 2017, 341). This method originated from online lectures for high school students who missed class, but has found applicability and is spreading to other settings, including special education, which is the focus of the article. The flipped classroom methodology, the authors argue, allows for differentiated instruction, students’ ability to choose their pace for the lessons and mastery of learning, and improves collaboration and feedback.
Before discussing the effectiveness of the inverted classroom approach or making any suggestions, Altemueller and Lindquist provide a thorough literature review on the subject. First, they cite two studies of student satisfaction and perception with the method. Both showed increased motivation and satisfaction, particularly among the lower-achieving students with a less pronounced effect on the high achievers. Although no explanation of this change is put forward, it is likely that the ability to self-pace plays a significant part in it.
The authors point out that teaching students with different levels of ability are a critical part of a teacher’s work. However, differentiating instruction for every learner in their responsibility is not practical for many teachers (Altemueller and Lindquist 2017, 343). In a flipped classroom environment, teachers can spend more time in one-on-one or small group sessions with students who need them most (Altemueller and Lindquist 2017, 343). Differentiated learning can be further facilitated by providing class activities for multiple levels of achievement. Finally, assistive technology is mentioned as necessary for students with learning difficulties, but no explanation of its unique interaction with the inverted classroom methodology is offered. Furthermore, the authors do not address the primary issue with differentiated instruction: that affording more time for individual sessions with some students will limit the time available for others.
Corroborating the previous observations, students’ ability to self-pace is advanced as a significant benefit of the flipped classroom. This is achieved through a technological solution, where direct instruction is delivered via recordings, allowing students to pause and rewind as necessary (Altemueller and Lindquist 2017, 344). This increased control facilitates learning for both high-achieving students, who can advance through the instruction quicker, and low achievers, who can repeat the material as necessary without causing any issues. Furthermore, instruction delivery through online methods allows students to adjust not only to their pace, but to their learning preferences, as well, if sufficient material is provided, and better structured optional content. In essence, students are more capable of choosing their approach to learning toward their mastery objectives.
Improved cooperative and collaborative learning is another proposed benefit of the methodology. However, unlike other claims, the relationship between a flipped-classroom approach and improved student collaboration is more challenging to define and quantify. The studies cited by the authors show an increase in student scores in flipped classrooms and with learning activities that focus on collaboration; however, there is no claim of a unique link between the methodology and collaboration (Altemueller and Lindquist 2017, 346-347). Finally, the methodology’s focus on one-on-one sessions facilitates giving students feedback, which is another critical component of their learning.
The overall effectiveness of the flipped classroom methodology is demonstrated by the final section of the literature review, where a variety of studies by global professionals show nearly-universal improvements owing to its implementation. However, issues related to its reliance on technological solutions, such as limited access to technology and a lack of time dedicated to physical activity, as well as the time necessary to create teaching resources for the new model, are also explored.
Implementation Strategy and Challenges
Despite its benefits, implementing the inverted classroom methodology has its challenges that must be overcome for it to be effective. The primary concern is access to technology: some children, particularly those from less wealthy households, may not have the computer and internet access required to benefit from it (Altemueller and Lindquist 2017, 351). This is a significant complication that, while possible to overcome with solutions such as using DVDs or flash drives to distribute the materials, requires a broader policy approach to resolve.
Implementing the flipped classroom methodology should be a gradual process that starts with adapting existing material and technology to the new approach. Since tools such as PowerPoint presentations are already commonly used and can be developed into stand-alone video lectures with relative ease, they are a natural aid in the process (Altemueller and Lindquist 2017, 352). Furthermore, the students’ ability to self-pace, as well as the use of technological and internet resources allows teachers to make more use of available external online materials in their curriculum, especially as optional elements. Collaboration between teachers is another critical component of the transition as it can significantly reduce the required time.
The inverted classroom is a relatively new and promising approach to teaching. It can significantly benefit those with access to required technology and the knowledge to use it. This requirement applies to both teachers and students, and can pose a significant barrier to implementation, but as the availability of computers and internet access grows, it is becoming less pronounced. While studies have shown a significant benefit of implementing the flipped classroom methodology, the authors admit that this is only initial research. Moreover, some of these benefits may not be unique to flipped classrooms, but rather be caused by related changes in teaching. Nonetheless, schools across the world are eager to adopt this new model, corroborating the existing data and finding little drawbacks compared to the traditional teaching model.
Altemueller, Lisa, and Cynthia Lindquist. 2017. “Flipped Classroom Instruction for Inclusive Learning.” British Journal of Special Education 44 (3): 341–58.