ELSIE MCKENDRY/SAGAMORE STAFF
In the 2019-2020 school year, 38 students took the AP Physics C: Mechanics exam from the high school. Of these students, only nine were female.
High leveled science classes seem to be meant only for the most elite of students because they are surrounded by a stigma of extreme difficulty. However, the flipped classroom model attempts to break this stigma and encourage more female students to engage.
In a flipped classroom, students are typically assigned video lectures and readings. They are then expected to take notes and return to class ready to work with peers on practice problems so they can learn the applications of this material.
Physics teacher Tyler Brown started using the flipped classroom model this year after being interested in it for years. He said that AP Physics is often misperceived to be extremely grueling, which causes many students to avoid the course.
“Everybody thinks that is the hardest class that you can ever take and that limits a lot of potential for students to take the course because they hear it’s so hard and so difficult, and it moves so fast,” Brown said. “And it’s hard, and it’s fast, and it’s difficult, but it’s not undoable.”
Science Curriculum Coordinator Ed Wiser said the flipped classroom model makes taking a high level science class less daunting.
“The biggest feature of the flipped classroom that allows students who might be really fearful of taking classes, is you’re going to get the help when you’re supposed to be doing solo work, but you have all of the resources around you to help you get through that,” Wiser said.
In this learning model, senior Daniela Levy said that students can easily revisit the material, enabling more students to feel comfortable taking the course.
“I think a lot of the things that discourage people from going into the class is the very cutthroat atmosphere and with the flipped classroom model, it cuts back on that because you can rewind the videos and go back to them at any time you want and, if you don’t get something, you can just redo it until you do,” Levy said.
Brown said that the individual aspect of the flipped classroom model can make a class less formidable with hands-on synchronous work.
“The hope is that it lowers the bar for getting more people into the room, specifically women and people of color,” Brown said. “Over the years, I’ve found that many of the women and people of color who are in my class are just as capable, if not more capable than a lot of the white boys in my class.”
Math teacher Deborah Winkler taught Precalculus Honors using the flipped classroom model for four years until 2016. She said she appreciated the active collaboration between students in class.
“Before I flipped it, kids would come to class and we would always go over the last three hard problems on the homework, or they would skip it and I found that when I flipped it, they were working collaboratively on those problems in class,” Winkler said. “They didn’t shy away from the harder problems as much.”
Winkler also said that she noticed increased participation from a larger range of students in these small groups.
“Everybody participates more, because when you’re in a large group, fewer people get to participate and then all the kids who are reluctant to say something in front of a whole class for whatever reason, it could be the girls or minorities, would just be quiet,” Winkler said. “But in a smaller group, it was much more equitable.”
However, Levy said her voice is often drowned out working with other students in breakout rooms as a woman.
“Sometimes it can be really frustrating when you’re in a breakout room with two guys and you’re saying something, and it’s as if you haven’t spoken at all. You can try to talk, but sometimes people straight up won’t listen,” Levy said.
Levy said Brown is very cognizant about different voices being heard in a whole-class discussion.
“The flipped classroom model helps reduce this white, male-dominated atmosphere in the class, which is really, really important to me. I’ve definitely been in classes where I do feel very unheard a lot of the time, but I can tell Mr. Brown is trying to combat that,” Levy said.
Junior Yagiz Idilman said Brown invites students to answer questions raised in the beginning of class.
“Usually, three or four people jump in. In the first semester, it was really challenging to get people to ask questions, but now we all know each other, so it’s really more continuous, and I think that’s really helpful,” Idilman said.
Brown reduces the amount of time he spends in class lecturing to allow more students to speak who may not in a traditional classroom setting.
“It offers a lot more voice and opportunity for students who maybe don’t usually get a chance to talk,” he said.
Brown has tailored his AP Physics C class to encourage a larger range of students to take it, but as of now, the general composition of the class is not where the faculty wants it to be.
“We hate the stigma behind it,” Wiser said. “Students feel as though these high level classes are inaccessible and we do so much work to make them accessible, that if students are interested in the subject, they should absolutely feel like they can take the class.”