I need to stop myself from engaging in the same conversation over and over.
Take this Tweet from my online colleague, Amber, who is an elementary school assistant principal:
#edcampdallas flipped classroom allows you to meet the needs of all of your students..ALL…while ensuring student success!!— Amber Teamann (@8Amber8) September 29, 2012
Amber is one of many virtual colleagues with whom I connect frequently and banter about all things related to education, technology, and even family. Her Tweet offers some strong support for the idea of the “flipped classroom”; an idea which has gained a lot of momentum among progressive, well-intentioned educators in the last couple years. It ensures success for ALL students, she states.
I have three main cognitive hurdles that prevent me from fully jumping on board with this idea:
- First, we lack the common language to meaningfully engage in a dialogue about flipped classrooms. Many times I try to tweet back at someone to probe their thinking further. Unfortunately, no matter how softly I try to couch my questions, they are often met with fierce defense of the Flipped Classroom.
- Next, amidst much debate about the effectiveness of any kind of homework, proponents of classroom flipping generally frame it as an opportunity for students to view the “lecture” portion of class as homework. The rationale, as I have understood it, it so that there is more class time for “fun stuff” like labs and hands-on activities. Doing so carries a load of assumptions, including (minimally) the fact that students (1) have access, (2) will bother to watch it, and (3) have the skills to process and make meaning of what they’re watching (note-taking, summarizing, and the ability to ask good questions about what they don’t understand for starters). In my experience, these skills often need to be explicitly taught and scaffolded for students.
- Finally, I have not seen any evidence that suggests that a flipped classroom is better than a traditional classroom with all other things being equal (same content, same instruction, same teacher…). I often read words like “better” and “improved” (again, laden with assumptions about what’s going on in other teachers’ classrooms) without any qualifiers. Better than what? Based on what? Improved compared to what?
Taking a great lecture and “flipping” it removes the interaction and shared experience of being in a classroom or lecture hall with a strong teacher who can read the room — a teacher who knows how to coax the best out of students through purposeful, intentional verbal and non-verbal cues. Flipping a lousy lecture just tortures kids at home instead of in the classroom. There are just too many variables missing from the conversation around flipped classrooms.
If we want to create relevant, problem-based, constructivist learning opportunities for our students, simply rearranging the “old way” of doing things won’t be enough.