‘Flipped classroom’ concept brought to school board

MARSHALL – Members of the Marshall School Board had the opportunity to experience a “flipped classroom” concept at the work session meeting Monday at Marshall Middle School.

Throughout the school year, Marshall High School math teachers Dawn Sterzinger and Kari Meyer have piloted the flipped classroom, which is where students typically learn the materials by watching a video lesson outside of class and then use class time to work on problems. That way, if students gets stuck, their teacher and peers are there to help them.

“A flipped classroom can offer the engagement of students,” Sterzinger said. “You can meet them better where they’re at.”

Much like they’d do in their own classroom, the presenters handed out admit slips to the board members who then adjusted their headphones and began watching a video on individual iPads that the math teachers brought in for them to use.

“We thought we’d show you instead of just tell you about it,” Meyer said. “The students would watch the video at home or after they finished their work in class and then fill out the admit slip. When they come to class the next day, I’d collect the slips whether the students are done or not.”

While a teacher looks over the admit slips to see if there are certain areas where students had difficulty understanding the video lesson, another activity would be assigned. On Monday, board members worked in small groups to complete a 3-2-1 activity, which required them to write three things they learned, two things they didn’t understand and one item of concern.

Afterwards, students normally have a discussion in a large-group format before homework is assigned to do in class, the presenters said.

Having access to resourceful tools is one of the benefits of the flipped classroom, Sterzinger said, noting that it can be a very powerful tool for students who chose to take advantage of the process. On the other hand, non-motivated students seem to continue lagging behind.

“It can certainly increase student engagement, but it’s not a cure-all,” Sterzinger said. “You will still have reluctant learners. It still comes down to what students want to put into it.”

In response to Superintendent Klint Willert’s question about how the pilot program has impacted homework completion rates, Meyer expressed similar concerns with the reluctant learners.

“Those who are watching the video are getting their homework done,” she said. “Those who don’t watch spend the first half of class trying to understand what we’re doing. It’s getting those students who don’t like doing homework to do homework.”

One of the biggest obstacles was the time involved for teachers, the presenters said.

“In my Algebra II class, my students need a video three or four days a week,” Meyer said. “The videos are about 10 minutes long, but it takes time to record them, check them for errors and upload them.”

Both presenters said they felt the experience would get easier as time went on.

“The first time is always an experiment,” Sterzinger said. “It always gets better. It’s a like new shoes. Once you break them in, they’re more comfortable.”

If the flipped classroom were to move forward in the district in the future, the presenters offered five issues to consider. Individual student e-mail accounts would allow students and teachers the ability to transfer materials easier back and forth. More iPads would also be necessary, they said. Upgrades to the wireless network and time were other issues they noted as was more training and/or the opportunity to collaborate with other teachers who have successfully implemented a flipped classroom.

When board member Ken Wilson asked them which two were most important, the presenters said the creation of student e-mail accounts and more iPads.

“Since we didn’t have individual accounts, we’d go back to paper and pencil,” Sterzinger said. “In a survey, students said they didn’t like that. They’d rather stick to using technology.”

Willert pointed out that since the district receives E-Rate funding, built-in structures such as safety and security are required for any correspondence.

Tiger Spotlight recipient La Oeltjenbruns was also honored and thanked for her 24 years of service in the district.

“La has helped me tremendously to be a better board member,” board chairman Jeff Chapman said. “She’ll always be the type of person who will go the extra mile. If you ever wonder, when you get to the end of your life, if you made a difference, you did. Your life matters.”