There’s a new kind of learning in town that stands the traditional model of education on its head. “Flipped” classrooms make students, rather than teachers, the center of attention during class time by replacing lectures with interaction.
“It’s no longer teachers standing up there saying, ‘I have all the knowledge, you’re a passive learner, and you’re going to listen to what I’m telling you,’ ” says Lourenco Garcia, the principal who brought the concept to Revere High School in 2012. “Instead, it’s a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the instructor guides students. He or she is not there to deposit knowledge but to facilitate knowledge.”
One way this works is through technology that students can access any time, anywhere. At the start of each year, all of Revere’s roughly 1,800 students receive an iPad that lets them watch brief lectures, read articles, take tests, and do assignments after school. Moving classwork home frees up time in school for higher-level learning through hands-on activities and project-based study, all of it customized to how individual students learn best.
The RHS school day doesn’t look like what you might remember, with students shuffling zombie-eyed from a 40-minute math class to study hall. Instead, the student-centered learning approach means kids attend four 80-minute blocks a day focused on English, math, science, social studies, and foreign language (and, for upperclassmen, electives and internships). “If you’re going to have 80 minutes of instructional time,” says Garcia, “you have to make sure kids are participating in the process, put the responsibility on the student, and create ways of delivering knowledge where kids aren’t bored.”
“It’s definitely not boring,” says Samantha Karl, a 16-year-old junior. “When I started high school, I never would have expected to go into a class one day and get a piece of paper saying, ‘Plan out your movie.’ ” In her AP English class last year, Karl’s group of four students was asked to re-create a scene from the book and film Water for Elephants based on a larger concept; the group chose feminism. “So we not only learned about the scene and about feminism,” Karl says, “but we also learned about camera angles and moviemaking.”
Pilot programs that flip one or two classes in various grades are ramping up in Framingham, Milton, Easthampton, and elsewhere in the Commonwealth, but Revere High seems to be the rare school around here that’s gone all in with flipped learning. The results have been impressive. Though 19 percent of the school’s students are living in poverty, about 12 percent study English as a second language, and 80 percent receive free or reduced-price lunches, the school has been rated Level 1 or Level 2 by the state’s Department of Education in the past couple of years. It has won several awards, including Silver Medals two years in a row from U.S. News & World Report. And it has raised its MCAS scores and AP Honor Roll numbers significantly.
From any perspective, that’s something to flip for.
10 IDEAS TO TRANSFORM EDUCATION:
Use the pull-down menu below to read more stories from the Globe Magazine special issue.
Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.