Optimizing Flipped Classrooms for Students with ADHD

Flipped classrooms turn the traditional model of instruction upside down by migrating in-person classroom lectures into videos that are watched independently by students on their own time. Class time that had traditionally be spent listening to lectures is now replaced with interactive assignments designed to reinforce the previously-viewed video presentations. In effect, the activities of homework and class time are flipped – lectures are watched at home and assignments are completed during class. For students with ADHD who struggle to complete homework assignments efficiently and consistently, the flipped classroom model is appealing for two reasons:

  1. Classroom-based lectures are not an optimal strategy for teaching students with ADHD. Didactic instruction via lectures is rarely an effective teaching style for students with ADHD. Many students with ADHD struggle to focus and process verbal information quickly during lectures, and have poor note taking skills. They often leave class having missed key points from the lecture and have sparse, ineffective notes to refer to when completing assignments or studying for exams independently.
  1. Homework is a struggle for students with ADHD. As any parent or teacher of a child or teen with ADHD knows, homework is an ongoing struggle for these students. Even under the best of circumstances kids and teens with ADHD have difficulty completing their homework efficiently and consistently. This is due in part to the time of day when homework is completed (in the evening when fatigue is setting in and ADHD symptoms are worsening and when ADHD medication has worn off) and the lack of support from peers and teachers during homework time.

Flipped classrooms at least partially address both of these problems for students with ADHD. When lectures are provided in video format, students can watch them at their own pace. They can rewind if their attention drifts and they can listen again to catch key points that they may have missed. Taking notes becomes easier when they are able to slow down the pace of the lecture, and notetaking may become less essential if teachers and classmates can serve as resources when assignments are completed during the class period. When assignments are completed in class instead of at home, students with ADHD may be less fatigued, will have the advantage of their ADHD medication is still being in effect, can receive individualized instruction from the teacher as needed, will have the social and intellectual support of their classmates, and ideally, the assignments will be more interactive and less tedious than in traditional homework.

Even with these clear benefits, optimizing flipped classrooms for students with ADHD requires special considerations:

“Homework” will continue to be a challenge for students with ADHD.
In flipped classrooms, homework does not altogether disappear, it is simply replaced by video lectures. Students with ADHD will still struggle to focus on the videos, they will still procrastinate, and they will still miss key points during the lectures. Optimize the use video lectures by incorporating elements that are known to increase engagement and compliance for students with ADHD:

  • Keep the videos as brief as possible. Small, digestible chunks of information will be absorbed more readily than lengthy presentations.
  • Incorporate interactive features. Insert pop-up questions and activities throughout the lectures and grade students on their responses. Provide immediate feedback to students about the accuracy of their responses.
  • Set due-dates and measure progress. Set clear due dates for lecture viewing, and monitor progress. If a student skips a video, follow-up and brainstorm strategies for getting back on track.
  • Reward students for meeting deadlines. Give students point for watching videos, and tie these points to meaningful rewards. Allow students to track their progress toward earning rewards, and incorporate game-like features whenever possible. Remember that praise is also very rewarding! When you notice that a student is consistently watching videos and meeting deadlines, let them know that you’re impressed and encourage them to keep up the good work.
  • Encourage the development of notetaking skills. Notetaking remains an essential skill for students throughout high school and college. Since students with ADHD struggle to take effective notes, provide specific instruction on notetaking, and require students to take notes during video lectures. Review their notes and provide feedback about things the student has done well and areas where they can improve.

Flipped classroom assignments present unique challenges for students with ADHD.
Students with ADHD who struggle to complete assignments at home will also have challenges with classroom assignments.

  • Provide individualized instruction whenever possible. One of the benefits of flipped classrooms is increased opportunity for individualized instruction. Students with ADHD don’t always stand out as needing individualized attention, particularly when they are bright students who can compensate relatively well for their weaknesses, and when they are more inattentive than they are impulsive or disruptive. Seek out these students and aim to give them a boost in areas where they may not be reaching their full potential.
  • Encourage effective teamwork and collaboration skills. Group-based assignments are more common in flipped classrooms. While there are many benefits to group-based learning, students with ADHD are more likely than their peers to have difficulty participating effectively in these learning activities. Students with ADHD often lack confidence in their knowledge and abilities. As a result, they may hang back from the group and fade into the background. Conversely, they their insecurities may drive them to act out and become disruptive. Focus on teaching strategies that will help them become confident, engaged members of their team, and participate in ways that enhance the group as well as their own learning process.

Flipped classrooms have the potential to be far more engaging for students with ADHD than traditional instructional models. Tailoring flipped classrooms to meet the needs to students with ADHD can have a positive impact on their ability to learn and their motivation to participate in the learning process.

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