Flipping the Classroom: In Germany!

This is a guest post by math, physics, natural and applied sciences teachers Felix Fähnrich and Carsten Thein of Wilhelm-Hausenstein-High School (WHG) in Durmersheim, Germany for the quarterly newsletter, The Learning Lounge.

Learning models like the “Flipped Classroom“ and “Inverted Classroom“ have been popular concepts in the English-speaking world. However, only a few universities in Germany are currently implementing this form of blended learning. Our goal of www.fliptheclassroom.de is to establish a solid foundation for discussions about the pedagogy of mathematics within Germany.

The Education System in Germany

High school in Germany ends after eight or nine years with a special examination afterward (“Abitur”), which qualifies students to go on to universities and other post-secondary schools. We are evaluating the Flipped Classroom in Mathematics during the last two years of high school in preparation for the final exam.

In the years after the first PISA study and its eye-opening findings in international education, both educational structure and teaching methods in Germany have changed drastically, especially in German high schools. Instead of focusing mainly on the teacher, now lessons are much more student-oriented and learners actively participate in shaping the learning process.

It is our experience that this new kind of orientation makes it more difficult to manage the required curriculum within the same time frame as in the traditional classroom setting. This is exactly the point where the Flipped Classroom comes in. Our main goal is to gain more time with students during the lessons so that we can use it to actively engage them in many different ways.

Our Basic Concept

Students will watch our instructional videos at home and will get familiar with the theoretical basics at their own pace. We will then do various practical exercises during class time at school. Learners should switch from a passive role to active participation. This allows our students to be responsible for and in control of their own learning process, and ultimately their own success.

Tutorial Videos

We created all of our videos with Camtasia for Mac, a software solution for screen recording and editing by TechSmith. We based our videos on our school-specific course materials (Lambacher Schweizer Mathematik, Kursstufe Baden-Württemberg). Today, we can target relevant learning content with our own videos much more effectively than with any third-party tutorial videos. The fact that their own teachers are the faces and voices in all videos increases our students’ enthusiasm and their motivation to work with the videos.


Can’t see the video above? Watch it on YouTube

The work consists of watching the videos, finishing the corresponding assignments, and writing a short description of the process. All videos use a uniform, easy-to-follow structure, and provide “Introduction,” “General Information,” and “Assignments” sections for the students.

It is a great advantage that the students can, at any time, rewind, review or jump to the chapters of interest. If a student misses a class, it is easy to catch up quickly, understand the processes and do the exercises later as well.

Homepage

Students will not only find the latest videos at www.fliptheclassroom.de but also an archive with previous recordings. Each video provides a commenting feature so that students can ask additional questions. Our goal is to identify as many questions as possible before we meet again in class. Ideally, most questions will already have been answered by some of their peers.

Classroom Experience

At the beginning of each lesson, the teacher and students briefly discuss learning contents of the previous video with the help of a few examples. This allows teachers to check on their students’ comprehension and learning progress. Specific problem areas can be identified and it becomes apparent which areas need more detailed work.

The following phases differ depending on the requirements of the current topics:

    1. Practicing New Knowledge – Students work independently or in small groups on practical exercises. All problems are categorized as easy, medium and difficult so that everyone can work on their own level. Students can check their own answers when they are ready. Teachers support each student’s learning progress and help individual students when needed.
    2. Applying Learning Contents & Know-How – More detailed tasks – which the majority of students might find too difficult to solve on their own – would traditionally be discussed in classroom lessons. However, we work with what we call an “active discussion group.” Two students will do moderation and documentation. The teacher stays in the background and only interferes in order to support the moderator when needed, or – in case the students run into dead ends or take the wrong approach – to help steer the conversation in the correct direction.

The teacher stays in the background. He or she acts as an observer and supervisor, and helps when needed.

Conclusion

We have five parallel math classes at our school. Three of them are taught in the traditional way, and the other two implement our Flipped-Classroom model. After one year, students from “Flipped Classrooms” are on the same level as students from the traditional classroom settings. During the first year of this experiment, students were asked for their opinion in regards to the new concepts. ALL of them find that flipping the classroom makes sense, and all students are in favor of continuing this model during their second year.

About the Authors

felix-carsten
Felix Fähnrich (right) and Carsten Thein are teachers for mathematics, physics, and natural sciences & applied sciences at Wilhelm-Hausenstein-High School (WHG) in Durmersheim, Germany.

Both want to provide their students with a modern and motivating approach to mathematics. They promote self-reliance and independent learning – but at the same time, it is very important to them that all students have enough time to practice and to challenge themselves on more difficult tasks.

You can check out their website with additional information and videos at http://www.fliptheclassroom.de/.