January 19th, 2012
05:38 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Could 'flipped' classes help struggling schools?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

We saw lots of reaction to an opinion piece by Greg Green, principal at Clintondale High outside Detroit, Michigan. He described how his school started a "flipped classes" system, where schoolwork (i.e. homework) is done in class, while lectures are viewed outside of class.

My View: Flipped classrooms give every student a chance to succeed

Readers debated whether flipped schools are a possible solution for struggling schools.

Graduated Clintondale high school student – class of 2011: "As a former student, I was part of the 'flip-school' program. The program works all across the board on all scores including ACT and MME scores. Believe it or not, majority of the students were fed up with poor grades and wanted a change. We, the student body, adapted well with the program and in turn had significantly better grades. It wasn't because we had less homework, it was the same amount, we just understood it because we had a prior exposure and dedicated teachers who reinforced the knowledge. The program was and continues to be successful because the students care and want better. As the future, we want a better world than what our parents have given us. If it takes a complete reformation of the education system then let's do it."

Another poster said there are more questions to ask.

tffl: "A couple of concerns here: This is a 'school of choice' – meaning that the parents have already invested more concern and effort in their child's education than many low income parents can (or choose to). In most public schools (especially those catering to low socioeconomic level students), this isn't the case – instead, you have low involvement parents, and parental involvement in educational efforts correlates strongly with student outcomes. This 'learn outside the classroom' approach assumes that the students choose to put in the effort. Even in this school of choice, the principal indicates that 'the students weren’t paying attention, they weren’t doing their homework, they were being disruptive, or they weren’t coming to school at all.' He doesn't indicate what about the new program changed that, and without those things changing, no educational approach is going to be successful."

This commenter said responsibility needs to go elsewhere.

flashtrum: "Sounds about right – blaming every problem the kids have and the school has on the 'economic climate' rather than holding PARENTS, the KIDS themselves, and the TEACHERS accountable."

In the story, Green notes that 75% of the students at his school are on a free or reduced-price lunch program, and he also mentions that lectures can be watched on smartphones. Some of our readers questioned parental priorities.

Joshua: "Does anyone else have a problem with students (75 %) on free or reduced lunch but they "watch these videos outside of class on their smartphone"? Seems to be a bit of priorities that aren't where they should be. Breakfast, lunch and dinner ... maybe there is an app for that...???"

keeth: "It's really time to stop thinking that just because people are poor, that means they have to live like cavemen. Yes, people have different priorities and sometimes they buy a $100 smartphone over $100 of nutritious food. That's life in our great consumer culture, which tells parents and kids that a smartphone IS more important than nutritious food. It's not a problem with just poorer people, it's a problem with our culture as a whole."

In some subject areas, these sorts of ideas have naturally found their way in, some said.

cindy: "I think this would work really well in math and science classes. But my favorite thing about history and English classes were the debates and back and forth flow of ideas that could happen during class. The class sizes were small in my HS so maybe this isn't as common in other schools, but I really gained a lot from those classes. I left class feeling stimulated and ignited. I wouldn't want students to miss out on opportunities to have their voices and opinions heard and valued. What would I be like if it weren't for my junior year history teacher? She opened my eyes to so much and through her lectures and class discussions, I found a passion, a yearning, to seek the truth. It wouldn't be the same just watching a video."

Cindy-less: "Cindy ... English, Debate, Literature... you liked them and learned from them because they already followed this model. For debate and literature, you read the material at home (the screen time) and come to class prepared to work on the subject (debate, analyze, focus groups) where the teacher is there to comment, or analyze your interpretation. It was just difficult for people to figure out this model for math and sciences, where it has always been lecture, lecture, lecture. History in another one, sort of 50-50. But better ones went where you read the chapters at home and discussed the result and decisions in class. I had history, though, from lecturers as well, and those classes were awful!!"

One reader thought kids with attention deficit concerns might do well in a flipped school environment.

Travelista: "As someone who often has trouble paying attention (thanks ADD!) I actually think this kind of thing would be MORE helpful to kids who have learning disabilities or other issues that might make them distracted during the day. They can watch the lecture as many times as they need to absorb the information as opposed to hearing it once while in class. Then, when they ARE in class, they can ask their teacher more in depth questions. It offers them time to collect their thoughts and questions and it gives the teachers the opportunity to go more in depth during class time. How can this not be a good idea?"

Overseas, things are different.

bobo: "Ask the Chinese how there education system is working... discipline, homework, no B.S., no iPads, no computers at home ... they are taking over the world economy without iPads??? What??? How can this be??? Technology does nothing but get 95% useless information to idiots faster. Have fun on Facebook, America. They will own us in 10 years."

NHWoman: "I am a teacher and I also have two children from China and have taught with Chinese teachers and taught Chinese students. So...#1. There is no such thing as special education in China; if you have a disability, you just work harder–or you drop out/don't go #2. Teachers have two or three classes a day and the rest of the day to prepare, grade, etc. (they don't have to take it home-they actually are given time at work to work and the students are the ones that work all night). I see these as the major differences. ... This is all very reminiscent of education in America earlier in the 20th century."

One teacher said she fears teachers are focusing too much on "rote memorization."

aflarend: "I hope that these online lectures are accompanied by some kids of writing assignment to make them less passive. Also, are there any stats to show how many students are viewing the videos? Perhaps they are not really watching, but the changes in the class time are what is making the difference. The teachers could be planning more in-depth activities or pinpointed problems. Maybe the lectures themselves are irrelevant. Bottom line, folks, there is no single magic bullet and the target keeps moving."

One teacher has mixed views.

aunttammie: "I've been doing this on a modified basis for a few years–several lessons, not all of them. It works well if the students actually watch the videos that they are supposed to. I'd be interested to know how this school handles the students who refuse to do their part and walk into class without having seen the assigned lesson. My experience is that the students who don't do written homework also don't watch the videos."

Some readers wondered how results were being measured.

LMC: "Have these results been audited by a third-party with no interest in the school? Also, does this work for children across the learning spectrum, like special ed, behavioral problems, foster kids, etc.? We really need this to be replicated across environments to prove that it works in each and every case."

What do you think? Can flipped school systems help, and what needs to be done to improve U.S. education? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Warrior

    Its just the first step toward a continuance school education. Imagine in three years how our system of education would be. To lazy to do home work so now they do it in class so it just puts the system behind. Oooookkkkk.

    January 19, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. roadwarrior

    no child shall be left behind

    January 19, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    "No child shall have a behind"

    January 19, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Now that's flipped! 😉

    January 19, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    The USA's entire mentality regarding education has been "flipped," and now it is sunny-side-down.
    When I was a student in public schools during the 1940s and 1950s, our schools functioned well. I was told that it was my responsibility to learn, not the teacher's responsibility to teach me.
    I was also told that if I did not learn I would fail in school and not get even a high-school diploma, and that if that happened, I would have to dig ditches or live in the
    All of my classmates were told the same thing that I was told about the consequences of not learning.
    I learned well.

    January 19, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Trapper John

    How does a one-room schoolhouse relate to what's happening today?

    January 19, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. daniel 2:44

    @ Trapper John, when religion was taken out of the schools, and parents parental right for correcting kids was taken away! Thats how it relates! Im sure alot of remember before the government got involved in everything kids had respect! Not now tho!

    January 19, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    I'm not sure I fully understand this thing of "flipped learning". The student does his homework in class, and has the lecture outside his or her class. OK Then do the kids meet the teacher for the lectrure at the local 7-11?

    January 19, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alyssa

      The lecture is done via the internet.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    .....lecture at Walmart. Class? What does the electron do? It whizzes around the protons and neutrons, where eventually....they end up in sporting goods.

    January 19, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. MJK63

    Hey daniel ok! Whatever you say! The overuse of ! Doesn't make your point any more valid! And. If I want my children to learn about the Lord, I will send them to s school that has paryer in it! In the meantime, I say, pray quietly! Too many different religions today to make prayer ib scool feasible! Allow one, and ya gotta allow them all_ it's only fair! This isn't the fifties! If youkre that out of touch with society, don't comment!

    January 19, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kandi

    Nothing wrong with kids learning respect, although ive seen prime examples of why they dont if they cant learn it from home!

    January 20, 2012 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |


    January 20, 2012 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. Ledgem

    This model makes sense. Under the traditional class model, class time is a fairly passive learning process. Homework was the active learning part, where information had to be recalled and utilized. That's where learning and understanding truly occur. Yet many children either rush through their homework, cheat (must be pretty easy to do with the internet around), or otherwise don't give homework the full attention and time it really should get. Doing homework in class not only forces the student to spend the time and focus on the work, free of distractions. It is also inspirational to be around others who are working hard – this surely helps students to focus and work hard at what's before them, as well. And as was mentioned before, having a teacher present to answer questions that might arise is surely helpful, as well.

    This seems like a good model to me.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
    • BENZ

      I also agree this concept makes sense. What better way to understand your "homework" with your teacher alongside to help when you need it. It's very difficult for a parent to help their kids with homework, especially higher-level math, if they don't understand it themselves or can't remember that far back in their own education.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  14. Karen Greenhaus

    Why lectures is my question? The comment that this would work well in math and science but not other subjects like history because of the debate I think typifies what's wrong with our education. All subjects should be engaging students in debate, thinking, analyzing and relating what they are learning, not providing lectures and content to be memorized and regurgitated on homework and standardized tests. If it worked, we wouldn't be in the situation we are currently. Flipped classrooms are not the solution unless they truly use the time with the students to engage them in DIFFERENT WAYS OF LEARNING...not reviewing homework. If they are just taking the same traditional way of teaching (lectures and homework drills) and making it 'look different', because they reversed the where of each, then it's NOT different. It will only be different if we change the way we teach and learn, not just flip where lectures and homework happen.

    School should be about inquiry, making connections, getting students to debate and think and talk and SOLVE PROBLEMS that will help them be productive and able to survive in a world where collaboration and creativity and problem solving are important. I am not completely against the flipped idea if the time with the teacher is NOT spent on reviewing homework but is spent collaborating, debating, working for solutions that are RELEVANT (not drill and kill). Change what we DO, don't just flip the location of where we do the same things we do now. If it's the same things, then it's the same results.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • KF

      Whats wrong with out education is comprehension... which is clear from your post. Your comment "The comment that this would work well in math and science but not other subjects like history because of the debate I think typifies what's wrong with our education." clearly shows your lack of comprehension of the article and the quotes listed. They were saying that the history/debates classes were already "flipped" and that it was the math and science where it was difficult to "flip" the ciriculum traditionally.

      Another aspect of lack of comprehension would be "Change what we DO, don't just flip the location of where we do the same things we do now. If it's the same things, then it's the same results." How exactly are people supposed to learn if not through the methods we use now? Altering those methods (that have been working for hundreds of years by the way) to use the students and teachers time more effectively by adjusting when they perform certain actions makes perfect sense. Learning breaks down in to two key steps; you have be exposed to the material, and you have to practice the material in order to create a fundemental understanding of the material. Practicing the material (homework) by yourself when you don't fully understand the material only leads to frustration; very little learning is done. But by doing the reading or listening to the lectures ahead of time it allows for the teacher to spend the class time reinforcing key concepts and helping students who have questions rather than simply talking at the students the whole time.

      The only real question here is why haven't we been doing this already? To be honest many of the good schools and teachers have been doing this already to some extent. Most college classes expect you to do your reading before class. What really needs to happen is a nationwide push to make this the rule rather than the exception.

      January 21, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |