Flipping AP with the AP Daily Videos

By a high school social studies teacher with much flippin’ experience

I’ve long been a fan of flipped learning. I’m also a fan of the AP Daily videos. That said, I will use the AP Daily videos this fall to periodically flip the learning in my APUSH, APGov, and APMacro classes.

Flipped learning (aka flipping) is a term that has become “something of a buzzword in the last several years, driven in part by the Covid 19 pandemic along with several high profile publications in the New York Times (Fitzpatrick, 2012); Chronicle of Higher Education (Berrett, 2012); and Science (Mazur, 2009).”

Below, three very good though slightly different ways to define the term flipped learning.

  • Flipped Learning is an approach that inverts the traditional classroom model by introducing course concepts before class, allowing educators to use class time to guide each student through active, practical, innovative applications of the course principles.
  • Flipped Learning is an innovative teaching method that calls for students to gain first exposure to new material outside of class, usually via reading or lecture videos, and then use class time to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge, perhaps through problem-solving, discussion, or debates.
  • Flipped Learning is the use of modern technology to provide students with the ability to learn, while away from class, the very content that students were typically taught while in class, thereby providing the teacher with more and more freed-up class time, with this freed-up class time to be used by the teacher to employ strategies that maximize engagement and increase students’ depth of knowledge.
  • With flipping, my students can learn the content at home at their own pace. Therefore, whether it’s the special education student, the student who misses class, the student who finds it hard to focus in class, or the student who wishes to learn the content before anyone else does, flipping provides each of these learners with a chance to learn the content in a way that works best for them. With flipping, my principal tells me, I get to claim that I do a good job of differentiating instruction.
  • With flipping, my students’ parents, resource specialists, and/or
    tutors are provided with everything they need to help my students learn the content.
  • With flipping, I don’t need to spend as much time in class teaching
    the content. This means I have time leftover for PBL and other more
    engaging learning activities. This is especially important now, as there is more and more good reason to incorporate PBL into AP.
  • Flipping often leads to students having to do a lot of homework, and I am not a big fan of homework. I don’t believe hours and hours of homework have any real long-term impact on academic achievement.
  • Flipping typically requires students to learn the content via the computer. Students, in the name of flipping, therefore often spend many hours on the computer; this in an era when I think adolescents are already spending too much time in front of their computer screens.
  • Flipping often requires students to view a video ‘lecture’ of some sort, and I don’t think that this generation of adolescents, raised to believe that everything should be interactive, responds particularly well to a lecture, no matter how good the lecturer (this from someone who still lectures quite a bit).
  • Flipping often opens a teacher up to a charge of not teaching. Many
    of my school’s parents certainly aren’t yet fully sold on flipping,
    believing that a teacher’s primary job is still to teach the content and to
    teach it from inside the classroom.

First, I created several SAQ questions for various P1-P9 AP Daily Videos, with my questions designed above all else to get my students to learn the all-important content presented in the videos. My questions were also designed to get the students to (1) learn the meaning of all-important words presented in the videos and (2) to connect the content of the video to the content presented both earlier and later in the course.

As much as possible, my questions were phrased in the form of a typical APUSH Exam short answer question, though I could only do this with about 50% of my questions. I also tried to incorporate, as much as possible, the language of the CED’s “Key Concepts.”

Now and then, I would also include, at the end of my questions, one or more topic-relating videos produced by someone other than an AP Daily teacher. A Steve Heimler produced video, for example. Or one produced by Adam Norris, Tom Richey, a TED-Ed educator, and others.

After creating the questions, I posted them to my Medium account.

I then provided the students with a link to all of my questions.

Next up, I periodically assigned one or more of the AP Daily videos for homework, holding the students accountable for the learning by using several different assessment tools, the AP Classroom Progress Check MCQ and SAQ Questions in particular.

If I were to break it down into a percentage, 40 % of the time, I require the students to learn the content outside of class via either an AP Daily video, some other teacher-produced video, or via some reading, and 60% of the time, the needed content is learned while in class.

Next year, my flipping will consist almost exclusively of me placing before the students one or more AP Daily videos.

All in all, I think the AP Daily videos (and not just the ones for APUSH) do an excellent job of teaching the students the content that they need to know to do well on the APUSH exam.

Sure, I would like to have seen the “slides” that accompany each video incorporate a few more images, maps, etc. I suspect that in the years to come, the videos will be revised to do that.

Nonetheless, the AP Daily videos, as they are, provide teachers with a wonderful way to free up class time, time that I use to employ strategies (PBL) that maximize engagement and increase students’ depth of knowledge.

At the end of every school year, I ask my students to grade me in several categories. I also ask them a few open-ended questions. This year, I completely forgot to ask my students what they thought about my attempt to flip the learning. I only asked them what they thought about my SAQs, to which they overwhelmingly responded with words of thanks and praise.

Next year, I’m guessing that my students will report that they generally support my attempts to flip, though I suspect many will encourage me to produce my own videos. I can surely see the value in doing so. On the other hand, I’m not going to go down this path. Too much time; too much energy. And how do I know that so much time and energy is required? This past year, I gave it a go.

Jon Bergmann is a teacher, author, radio host, and flipped classroom pioneer. I have known Jon for years and, before publishing this post, I asked him to look it over.

Aside from giving the post a general thumbs-up, Jon wanted me to include mention of the following:

  • When flipped learning is done poorly, it’s true. Flipping often leads to students having to do a lot of homework, but when it’s done well, the opposite is true.
  • Though flipped learning can lead, in some instances, to students spending many hours on the computer, some research suggests that flipped learning replaces screen time — so it is a win.
  • One of the best practices is to make the video interactive. Today, there are lots of ways to do this. Click here and here to view two excellent Edutopia articles describing how to create engaging instructional videos.

Before publishing, I also asked several AP Daily video-producing (and not just APUSH) teachers what they thought about this proposed post. The feedback I received was positive, with two representative samplings appearing below:A

What you wrote looks good. I particularly like how you point out flipping the classroom requires time and accountability, especially if the materials are created by the teacher and we assess students. I also think this pedagogical approach is important so students can take more ownership of their learning. It also reinforces the notion that skills are just as important as content. In the past, some history teachers would primarily focus on being content-heavy while sacrificing the application of historical thinking skills. These two are not mutually exclusive and it’s all about finding the right balance based on our respective students’ needs. Lastly, flipped learning is also very useful while covering less foundational/essential or heavily tested material and when reviewing.

I used the AP Daily videos and flipped my AP Govt. class this year for the first time. With the uncertainty of how the school year was going to look with COVID regulations this gave me a sense of peace that my students could learn the content on their own and then with whatever time I had with them whether, in-class or virtual, I could take a more hands-on approach with the content and skills required for the AP exam. I was fortunate to teach AP Govt. in the second semester so all the videos were completed by then. I have to say it was the best decision I made. I will be teaching AP Psy for the first time next year and I plan to flip that course as well.

High school APUSH teacher with much in-class and online teaching experience. Also a blogger, keynote speaker, editor, podcast host, and conference presenter.