The Flipped Classroom: Benefits Students with Special Needs

Posted by Reine L. on Feb 22, 2017 12:28:00 PM

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 12.08.57 PM.pngHow does Flipped Learning benefit students with special needs? In 2009, Cole and Kritzer wrote an article in Rural Special Education Quarterly, 28 (4), 36-40, titled Strategies for success: Teaching an online course explains that the reason the flipped model is considered a strength amongst educators is that it allows for a more efficient use of class time. “. . . In the flipped classroom, students can get the most out of class time by spending it on practical application, not on inactive lecture.” Cole and Kritzer add that lecture content can be provided through electronic means, and this modality allows teachers to improve the quality of their video lecture or short instruction to a manageable length with an emphasis on important points and less extraneous information. For example, teachers support and enhance lessons by assigning reading selections through an eBook library, such as Big Universe, on specific subject matter content material in areas taught throughout the quarter. In doing so, students read ahead and prepare for active learning in the classroom, whether a writing activity, classroom discussion, or project-based learning, this is just one example of the framework in a flipped classroom model.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 11.22.44 AM.pngThe flipped classroom, or flipped learning, has become popular and is currently being explored in the elementary schools. Traditionally, teachers would instruct on a specific topic during class and then reinforce the information taught through homework assignments. The flipped classroom approach includes instruction via a specific online modality, usually outside of the classroom and often in a more relaxed environment that is different for each learner. An example might include a video lecture easily accessed online or through a DVD or a thumb drive (USB flash drive that contains information and downloaded from an individual computer). One advantage that the flipped classroom has for students with special needs is that the recorded lecture can be paused, rewound, re-watched and forwarded as needed. It offers the opportunity for students who are "twice-exceptional" to multi-task, and process the content without the regimented schedule that a stringent classroom lecture format. Flipped learning is a hands-on approach to learning, because it provides students the opportunity to delve into the content, while exposed to the beginning, middle and end of the material. For example, if I assign a writing activity, without explaining how to compose, but I offer a means in which for students to "figure it out," like a map of resources, and then I provide an few example of the final expected product, then I am giving the student room to reach his or her full learning potential, while providing individual supports as needed. Hence, the doldrums of listening to a teacher lecture about the "how-to's" in the writing process" causes most students to not only become bored, but it also hinders their momentum of learning in and of itself, because students tend to "tune-out" or may percieve that they have to follow all the steps outlined by the teacher. Rather, offering the writing process schematics and references, and explaining those steps when the question arises and during the process seems to be more targeted to a students zone of proximal development. Further, the reliance on "student thinking" for themselves is part of the flipped classroom philosophy. The teacher facilitates the learning, students are constantly thinking about how to achieve the expected outcome.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 12.06.18 PM.pngFlipped learning is especially important for students who are autistic, and have to visually assign a picture “in their mind” and then transcribe the script into their individual schema or word bank. The flipped approach supports students with learning disabilities, such as students with expressive and receptive language delays or even students who are easily distracted in the classroom benefit because accommodations and modifications are applied as they navigate though the assignment. The flipped learning concept gives students learning opportunities that address differenty types of thinkers, more specifically recognizing the difference between a left and a right brain thinkers. The flipped classroom model is designed so that students spend class time on small group projects, whole group discussions, and more time for reinforced practice activities. Additionally,  small group rotations futher allows students to experience a variety of teacher-designed centers. In order to implement such an endeavor, a teacher would benefit from a class syllabus that involves parental support, and updates through weekly newsletter communications with parents, so that the implementation and structure will be successful. Visualize walking into a classroom where students are more actively and engaged, one in which students are doing most of the talking as the teacher interacts either directly or inderectly with students and the teacher provides supports, as needed, in an impromptu manner as questions arise.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 11.26.49 AM.pngMost of the flipped classrooms are in the middle and high school level; however, the concept is being explored in the elementary classrooms because of the increased level of diversity, inclusion of special education students and increased need to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all learners and their individual learning styles and/or individualized education plans. The flipped model benefits the gifted and talented population because it allows a greater opportunity for students to reach higher-level expectations and goals. An elementary school teacher new to the flipped model might consider implementation because the “flip” has less to do with replacing the lecture material, as to providing background information about topics planned prior to the actual teaching of the topic, giving students the opportunity to prepare outside of the classroom in advance. It is certainly a “less-controlled” teaching model, in that in order to be fully operative a teacher cannot pre-suppose that her students are merely empty vessels that require the need to be filled with knowledge.

Successful implementation of the flipped model would require more of an in-depth understanding and mind-set of the teacher as one who believes in a brain-based learning approach or style. Science Tech Tablet published an article online on 31 December 2016, New Brain-Based Learning Strategies Explored, To Help Achieve Your Full Potential, “. . . Any learning activity that actively personalizes a learners’ involvement in the process, will increase memory retention and meaning of the content. Also a teacher or instructor should utilize surprises or uniqueness in the presentation of content, so as to capture the attention and focus of a student. In fact, effective teachers and instructors have intuitively used some of these brain-based instructional strategies, well before brain-mapping science was developed. Educators formally assessed the effectiveness of these methods through test results; however, today, evidence-base neuroimaging is confirming the scientific reason for the learning success.”

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 12.07.59 PM.pngCase in point, Johanna Mansfield Sullivan Macy, better known as Anne Sullivan, who became a teacher to Helen Keller at the age of twenty (20). Ms. Sullivan  began teaching a 7-year-old blind and deaf child known as Helen Keller. At first the curriculum involved a strict schedule with the constant introduction of new vocabulary words; however, Sullivan quickly changed her teaching method after seeing that it did not suit Keller. In essence, Sullivan changed from a traditional teaching approach and methods to that of a “flipped” classroom model, and although the use of technology was not available in the 19th century, somehow Ms. Sullivan managed within six months to utilize a method that proved to teach Keller 575 words, some multiplication tables, as well as the Braille system for reading! The idea of concept and mind mapping in order to personalize the learning activity, through the use of a “flipped” classroom model is to enable better recall and to stimulate creative thinking. The National Research Council, 2007, quoted: “The meaning of ‘knowing’ has shifted to being able to remember and repeat information to being able to find and use it.”

Topics: Classroom Ideas, Writing, Technology, Literacy

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