The Flipped Classroom: New Look, Same Great Taste!

Why not try things upside down, backwards, and inside out?

My first reaction to reading about the flipped classroom was:

How is this new, exactly?

After all, the definition of the flipped classroom appears to be as follows:

  1. Teacher finds video.
  2. Students watch video at home.
  3. Teacher and students analyze, synthesize, evaluate…problem solve in class.

This is the opposite of what many appear to see as the ‘traditional’ model of lecturing in class and assigning problems to reinforce the concepts (a method recommended by the ASCD).

And, like, wow. It’s not like teacher have ever, like, assigned students a chapter to read, and then, like, asked them to be ready to talk about it the next class.

But whether it’s a new phenomenon is beside the point. The fact is that teachers should continuously question how they could use their students’ time more effectively, and flipped instruction is a way – not the only way, but certainly a valid one – to do that.

So let’s get some things straight. The Flipped Learning Blog tells us it’s a myth that flipped learning is all about the videos. Certainly, “kids can get the lectures, can get the content delivery and skill modeling as well (or often better) by computer lecture than in person.” But this is not the exclusive province of videos. While videos can be more engaging, this doesn’t mean that a reading assignment wouldn’t be just as – or more – effective, especially in a highly literate student population.

Furthermore, in-class lecture has its advantages, like engaging with the audience: allowing students to ask questions to a living, breathing person. They’re simply more interactive than videos.

In any event, as the Flipped Learning Blog reminds us, it’s not all about the videos. Rather, once “you’ve freed up class time, you need to use it productively” (Reverse Instruction). It’s all about what you do with your class time to challenge your students to move up Bloom’s Taxonomy. This is what the flipped classroom doesn’t specifically address, because it’s an ideology, not a teaching strategy. The freed up class time is where your university pedagogy classes come in.

Flipped Classroom: New Look, Same Great Taste.

This is a good thing! No, it’s not novel. Nothing is original. It’s a repackaging of the same principles that we’ve always known comprise good teaching, with a bit of 90s tech thrown in. It’s a philosophical mashup/remix. It’s marketing. But it’s still a good reminder for us as teachers to focus on the intellectual habits that we need to be teaching our kids. If the flipped classroom does that, then it’s alright by me.

And by the way, I think you could easily do this in the humanities, at least in social studies. History documentaries and a few movie clips? Solid gold. The only strong objection I have is: WHAT DO YOU DO IF THE STUDENTS HAVEN’T DONE THE WORK? Sure, you can hold them accountable, but I teach a population where 10-20% of the kids aren’t motivated by adverse academic consequences. It’s really more an issue of motivation and management rather than the flipped classroom ideology, but it’s still something to think about.

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