STEM flipped classroom lets you escape ‘planet content’

meristem australian national university STEM education
Teachers collaboratively problem solving at a meriSTEM PD in Canberra.

What do you love most about teaching? Most of the science teachers I’ve talked with don’t even pause. They respond with the same answer: the ‘Aha!’ moments. Those gems of moments when the student in front of you suddenly gets it. For bonus points, it’s when they ask a great question that makes you pause to think. The STEM flipped classroom can help you to make more time for these ‘aha’ moments.

The sheer weight of curriculum content to be covered in years 11 and 12, not to mention the looming high-stakes assessments, can send creative minds scurrying and best-laid plans to be interactive dropping off sharply by week 7. There’s still a long list of dot points that needs to be added to students ‘brain buckets’ before term assessment because we ‘wasted’ time making sure they really understood unit conversions.

It’s nothing new to call out the direct conflict between the high level content requirements and the expectations around personalised differentiation, incorporating general capabilities, higher-order thinking and interpersonal skills. We all have plans for our ideal classroom. But within the current system, in today’s classroom, how can we escape the gravity of ‘planet content’?

“Brutally evaluate class time”

One pathway for reaching escape velocity is to brutally evaluate how you use class time. Spend a week counting the minutes of the lesson where you’re talking to the whole class compared to minutes talking to individuals or small groups (or task some students to do it for you!). If you find you do more talking than you thought, you’re not alone, and the STEM flipped classroom model might be just what you need.

The concept of flipping isn’t new, but technology has made it easier for it to be more engaging and effective. Essentially, you swap traditional class activities with traditional homework. This might mean the class video, a talk and some notes copied off the board becomes homework, and the follow up practise, problems and assignments are done in class. Now that you can set videos and quizzes as homework, you’re likely to get more buy-in than ‘read chapter 5’ before class.

The hardest part for teachers attempting this is the time and energy to find or even make videos themselves. meriSTEM, an initiative from scientists at The Australian National University, is creating free STEM flipped classroom resources for senior secondary science, and currently provides a full year 11 and 12 physics course aligned to the Australian Curriculum.

Adopting a STEM flipped classroom strategy is one way to free up class and planning time, enabling teachers to work directly with students to do more problem solving, more engaging investigations, more collaborative and cooperative projects and to better differentiate activities. With the content always available for students to study and refer to at their own pace, you’ll find more time for sharing those ‘Aha!’ moments. Flipping could launch your classroom up and away from planet content!

After more STEM education content and classroom resources? Check out our Teachers’ Hub

Jay Ridgewell

Author: Jay Ridgewell

Jay is a science communicator and educator. She’s worked teaching, writing, performance, training, puppeteering and gaming into sharing biology, geology, physics, astronomy and chemistry with others.

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