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Mizzou researchers study effectiveness of 'flipped' classroom instruction

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Public Radio

Lauren Coale sends students in her math classes home with videos on how to do complicated algebra or geometry problems.

Instead of lecturing her students, Coale’s class time at Lindbergh High School is free for student interaction, instead of instruction on the overhead projector.

“They’re able to work together,” Coale said. “And then they have the teacher there the entire time guiding them, helping them struggle through the practice.”

Coale is among a growing number of teachers who use a so-called “flipped” classroom model to make classrooms a more dynamic place for learning. That’s the practice of students watching short instructional videos at home instead of listening to a teacher lecture in a classroom.

Two math professors at the University of Missouri - Columbia will spend three years tracking high school algebra teachers to see if the teaching style is effective.

“What they say is that when you send the lecture home, you can spend more of that class time really digging into the concepts,” said Mizzou’s Zandra de Araujo, one of the researchers.

Students are able to watch the videos until they master the concept and move at their own pace, fellow Lindbergh math teacher Heather Fadler said.

“Ten minute instruction on the videos really helps them focus and learn the material,” she said, rather than students struggling to pay attention for a full class period.

Software programs that help teachers develop lesson plans and track student progress have made Coale and Fadler’s jobs easier.

“It took me a little while and little bit of stress” to change how she prepared for school each day, Fadler said. “I had to rethink my brain.”

Some educators, however, consider flipped instruction a fad. They also say the method is harder to implement with students with limited home internet access.

That’s a barrier in high poverty or rural school districts, de Araujo admits, but says there could be unrealized benefits for non-traditional students, such as English language learners being able to slow down or repeat a video lesson.

The Mizzou study is funded through a $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney

Ryan was an education reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.