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Students finding success under ‘flipped’ classroom model

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Ashley Hirtzel
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WBFO News

Teachers at Niagara Falls High School are testing out a new model of teaching that switches lecture and homework time. The flipped classroom concept aims to give teachers more time to work one-on-one with students.

Chemistry teacher Carla Parkes is one educator trying out the concept of a flipped classroom.

“It has given students more hands on time in the classroom. It’s allowed them the opportunity to experiment more. The stuff that they don’t really need me for, which is copying words, they do at home,” said Parkes.

Niagara Falls High School began the pilot program for the flipped classroom model two years ago. The participating teachers create an 8 to 10 minute lecture video, post it to various secure websites, and assign the notes portion of class for homework using the video, also known as a vodcast.

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Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO News
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WBFO News
Sophomore student Siddeh Harth (middle).

Instructional Coach Ed Maynard introduced the concept after he learned other schools across the country were trying it out.

“Kids can access those videos from outside of the classroom either on their phone, tablets, computer, or wherever else they need to go,” said Maynard.

Maynard says the method was used in math classrooms to start because math students naturally need more time with their teacher to understand problems.

“When they’re on their own and stuck doing multiple questions over and over again and only maybe having a textbook to go by, it just doesn’t make for a very good success rate,” said Maynard.

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Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO News
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WBFO News
Niagara Falls High School chemistry teacher Carla Parkes.

Today, the flipped classroom model is being used in math, science, and social studies. Parkes says if a student doesn’t have internet access, they can ask for a DVD copy of the lesson or they can watch it in class before or after school. She says either way, the school ensures students who want to participate in flipped classroom have access to the videos.

“I’m two weeks ahead in the content that I’m teaching them and on the last test I had 70% of my students master, which means they score an 85% of higher. Last year on the same test, 30% of students mastered. So, I’m getting more one-on-one time with kids and their getting the opportunity to show that they know it,” said Parkes.

Sophomore Siddeh Harth says he loves the flipped method. He says before it was introduced, he felt like there wasn’t enough time to do both labs and notes.

“I like it, because we can do more fun stuff in the classroom. We don’t have to waste time on notes that we can do at home,” said Harth.

Senior Staci Biondi agrees.

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Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO News
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WBFO News
Niagara Falls High School.

“You’d go home and you’d do the homework and you’d have no idea what to do, so it definitely helps me,” Biondi said.

Ed Maynard says there are some teachers and students that don’t participate in the flipped classroom method because they say there is no scientific data proving that the approach works.

“Some of our teachers that are against it are saying this does not prepare our kids for college because they are going to have to sit in those classes and they are going to have to listen to those teachers lecture. Yes, they’re going to have to do that, but quite frankly, our kids are not there yet,” said Maynard.

However, the school has been collecting its own data on the model since it was adopted. Maynard says their statistics show test scores have improved from one year to the next for those who participate.

“Sometimes, in education, we’ve got to go with our gut. Our gut kind of told us this might work,” said Maynard.

Niagara Falls High School Chief Educational Administrator Joseph Colburn says he envisions a school where educators can choose from a variety of teaching methods.

“What works really well in first period may not work in eleventh, and you need to be able to change that up. Not all models work for all kids and this is another attempt at giving kids a way of learning material that’s not always easy,” said Colburn.

Maynard said he will continue to present the flipped classroom concept and its success at Niagara Falls High School to various schools across western New York.