Going All In On the Flipped Class

This is a guest post by Greg Green, Principal of  Clintondale High School in Detroit, MI.

Greg Green, Principal, Clintondale High School

Greg Green, Principal Clintondale High School

Teachers working in at-risk schools and non at-risk schools go about their teaching assignments generally the same way.  Classrooms are designed so that a school’s teaching staff goes over academic information with their students.  Students are then asked to process most of their work for further understanding.  The processing of understanding for a student generally is performed outside of their classroom.  Staff will assign such assignments as practice problems, presentations, work-based projects, descriptive math problems, and research papers which are all valuable skills necessary for higher order processing at work and in college.

Time Spent on Delivering Content in a Traditional Delivery Model

Recently, our forty teaching staff members were surveyed on how much time on they spent on reviewing and repeating classroom information to their students during one 60 minute class period.  The results indicated that on average we spend 39 minutes of the 60 minutes on introducing, reviewing and repeating content in class.  Our results also indicated that opening and closing activities were consuming 5-8 minutes of our classroom time.  In total, we spend approximately 44 to 47 minutes of our total class time presenting and reviewing information however; only 13-16 minutes per classroom period is spent interacting with students in their classroom material.

Upon further evaluation, our minimal amount of classroom engagement time equates to 65 to 80 minutes per week and 43-55 hours per year within a 40 week school year.  Generally, in a traditional delivery model, a student who takes four years of a core subject would only receive between 172 to 220 hours of a possible 800 hours available for processing within a traditional productive environment.

Five Factors that Influence Processing Outside of a Classroom

As a result of our 2009-10 senior student interviews, our high school seniors helped us identify the top five factors that directly affected their ability to successfully process information outside of class.  We also compared the results of our students who were considered at-risk through our free and reduced lunch application to those students who were not. Table 1 shows what was regularly available to our at-risk students and non at-risk students after school.

Table 1. Comparison of interventions available after school to at-risk and non at-risk students

At-risk Factors Non-At Risk
Basic Needs X
Technology X
Family Core Solidified X
Community Values X
Expert Help X

The table  reveals that at-risk students generally struggle in obtaining the five resources that positively affect their ability to grasp, complete, and process information.  In addition, it also lends credibility to why we have a low homework completion rate when our free and reduced lunch percentage is at 72% for the 2010-11school year.

It also reveals that when using a traditional delivery and instructional model in an at-risk setting, we are setting students who are most vulnerable up to fail.  In a traditional setting, we are asking at-risk students to do the majority of their classroom processing at home where they don’t have the necessary tools for a successful outcome.

How does an at-risk student create a presentation if they have don’t have a place to study, have a computer or Internet service, and/or live in a community riddled with crime, and that lacks tutors and parents or community leaders to help them study?  In a non at-risk environment, most student’s have their needs met in order to help them process and understand complex information and to fulfill their homework requirement.  In an at-risk student’s life, school simply ends when the bell sounds.

Flipping Our Instructional Model

Clintondale High School (A) is located in Clintodale Township, Michigan

Clintondale High School (A) is located in Clinton Township, Michigan

The flaw in at-risk schools is their instructional model. It has been built around a traditional delivery model which lacks the outside support that at-risk students desperately need when trying to do their higher-order thinking.

The question still remains: How do at-risk students have their needs met in order to help them excel academically?  Where can they get their five basic needs met? Where can they use a computer? Who in their life cares and supports their pursuit of education.  Where can they find an expert? The answer: in school!

At-risk schools must properly align the learning platform and delivery system for their at-risk students.  At-risk schools must have their school, classroom, and teacher be the primary support mechanism for higher-order thinking and processing in order to increase content understanding and achievement.  This is no secret. However, how does a school deliver required content and increase its time to help students process information for better understanding without increasing the cost?  The answer is flipping their instructional delivery model.

Flipped Instructional Delivery Model

In a Flipped Instructional Delivery Model, classroom time is structured around activities that develop a deeper and more thorough understanding of content.  This enables a teacher to focus on learning and understanding with all the resources available to their at-risk students.  Classroom content, instead of being delivered by the teacher in class, is digitally created by a staff member and viewed prior to class by a student outside of class hours through the Internet.  This flipped instructional delivery approach allows for at-risk students to have the same advantages as other non at-risk students.  The flipped instructional delivery system allows staff to work with students directly in class so that they can review, clarify and develop classroom content.  It also gives at-risk students a chance to work with peers, engage in the content, ask questions, gather supplies, and take advantage of technological resources in a safe, caring environment.  If students do not have access to the Internet through their phone or home prior to class, teachers simply make the presentation available at the beginning of each class.

Increased Processing Time

Flipping a classroom’s instructional practice allows a school to increase the time in which students’ process information and work with a teacher and their peers in an environment that supports their endeavors.

In a normal school year, using a traditional delivery system, at-risk students completed 43-55 hours of their processing at school.  Within the flip model, time that traditionally has been devoted to covering content, now is devoted to student processing and understanding. This additional time significantly increases their processing time in a productive environment.

Example of Extended Processing Time:

●        Traditional Processing Time:  13-16 minutes of 60 minute class x 5 days a week  x 40 weeks /60 minutes/hr. = 43-55 hours per year

●        Flip Model Processing Time:  44-47 minutes of a 60 minutes class x 5 days a week x 40 weeks / 60 minutes/hr. = 146 – 156 hours per year

This change in our instructional delivery approach almost triples the amount of time that students spend in a productive environment.  At-risk schools, by flipping their instructional model, allow their students to experience in an environment that is conducive to learning with an expert and a group that can motivate innovation and understanding.


Currently, a traditional delivery approach places stress on a family to produce.  By reversing a school’s instructional practices the responsibility is placed on a school for which they have to resources to do it.  Parents no longer feel the pressure to help students with their work in which they are unfamiliar with.

  1. Thanks for this excellent article. You’re really serving your students well by adopting the inverted classroom model. I’d be interested in hearing how parents/caretakers respond to this approach, and whether you’ve had issues with kids being able to accessibility issues with the kids (lack of high speed internet outside school, need for subtitling with ESL learners, etc.).

  2. Interesting article. One phrase really caught my attention: ‘If students do not have access to the Internet through their phone or home prior to class, teachers simply make the presentation available at the beginning of each class.’

    Why not simplify the model and eliminate all the time you will take to create the podcasts by just teaching for 10 minutes at the start of class and then using the remaining 44 minutes for processing time as described in the article? Planning for the 10 minutes will cause a teacher to focus on the content and streamline the presentation just as you would for the podcast. This would make the model more accessible to teachers who don’t have the time to create the podcasts.

    I guess this also begs the question: is it the model (flipped classroom) or the technology (podcasts) that helps students learn or are both required for successful implementation?

  3. A couple of things…The comments that I receive from parents is thank you!!!! I can finally start to get involved because I understand what is going on.. That way by creating screen captures parents finally have access to it. For students who don’t have access to technology, the school becomes the technology resource. We do not have 1:1 computing so the library and the computer labs have to be accessible to students. If we don’t digitize the information teachers again teach on an island. By a teacher digitizing their lecture, it can be shared and used by many stakeholders 24/7. It also allows for schools to play upon teachers strengths. We would be considered by most schools to be technology challenged so we have tried to be as creative with our existing resources. Finally, we see the flip and the integration of technology being equally important.

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