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A recent trend in teaching, the flipped classroom offers greater interactivity and a more dynamic classroom experience.  But for international students and those hailing from more complex backgrounds, the system also presents challenges.  How can you shape your application to take advantage of these new challenges?

In 2007, Colorado high school teachers Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams were tired of sick students missing lectures and falling behind in class, so they decided to take advantage of technology to rectify the situation.  They began taping their lectures and posting them online for all their students to see.  The lectures became very popular online, and Bergman and Sams realized that without intending to, they had stumbled on a new form of pedagogy – the flipped classroom

So what exactly is it?  It’s pretty simple.  In a flipped classroom, students spend their class time doing workshops and ‘homework’ and the professor serves as a guide to help them learn.  At home, the students are expected to watch lecture videos and review the baseline material they will need to perform the workshops in the following class.

The advantages of the system are fairly obvious – it makes class time more interactive and increases student engagement, and saves professors from having to repeat the same twenty-five power-points over and over and over again.  But the flipped classroom also makes a unique set of demands on prospective students.  As more and more medical and business schools make use of this teaching method, it’s important for you to understand what kind of student excels in a flipped classroom, so that you can (hopefully) embody those principles in your application!

To be clear, we’re not suggesting you USE any of this terminology in the essay.  But if you are aware of the qualities that make flipped classroom students successful, you should be able to find ways to integrate that naturally into your essays, short answers and interview responses.

Leadership.  Many students from international and conventional American scholastic backgrounds are used to being champion followers.  It’s how they got top marks, how they stood out from their peers, and how they earned praise.  Top American business and medical schools, however, are not looking for that kind of student anymore.  They are looking for a strong follower who has also demonstrated leadership capabilities.

Showing leadership in an essay is not hard – leadership is, simply put, any time you are building consensus or guiding a team in pursuit of a shared vision and overcoming obstacles – but living leadership in a meaningful way is, for some students, a major challenge.  If you are serious about Stanford, Harvard and Columbia, start seeking out leadership opportunities nearby, either at work or with volunteer societies.  Think in terms of group leadership rather than individual leadership.

Initiative.  Success in a flipped classroom comes to the student who is not afraid to carry ideas beyond what the professor initially hands down.  Independent thinking and research serve you well in an environment where you are expected to perform in front of your peers and your professor.

When you are crafting your application, writing your essays and thinking about what you’ve accomplished in your life up to this point, try to find times in your life when you sought out new challenges or invented them.  Look for opportunities you were able to exploit that others missed out on or gave up on.  The more natural initiative you display, the more successful you will be in a flipped classroom.

Teamwork.  In a flipped classroom, all the students learn together, as a unit.  The professor acts as a guide but cannot (and will not) correct every slip-up and error.  Therefore, students must create a collegiate atmosphere, helping one another understand challenging concepts and taking the time to review challenging questions.  In other words, it’s not OK to let someone in your workshop fall behind.  Everybody has to come along for the ride as much as possible.

When writing about teamwork, focus on how you teach.  Explain your method, and describe how you are able to adapt it to different people with different styles of learning.  Talk about why you find it rewarding.  Demonstrate a sustained interest in helping and collaborating with your peers.  It will make you not only a more appealing candidate in the classroom, but also in clubs and overall campus environment.


Questions about flipped classrooms?  Flip us an email!