Is Flipping far enough?

There is a lot of press and chatter around the flipped classroom at the moment. While this could be a great first step in the evolution of classroom practice I wonder if it is far enough to make a real difference. What changes when you flip? Is the flipped classroom approach still valuing content but just switching the delivery mode? Are there real opportunities to flip the type of learning that occurs in schools – from teacher-directed to student-centred?

When I first heard of the flipped classroom idea my first thought was – why? I may be overgeneralising here, but what is the benefit of doing class lectures at home and homework (eg. worksheets and number facts) at school? Digging deeper though and unpacking the idea by looking at its context (some stimulus was provided by Steve Collis’ post on the Anatomy of a Flipped Meme) and the potential has helped me move beyond my initial reaction. However, like any educational trend it’s more about what you do with the idea with your class that matters. So its effectiveness is dependent on teacher, student, context etc.

By assigning the lecture at home, we’re still in charge of delivering the curriculum, just at a different time. From what I’ve seen, flipping doesn’t do much for helping kids become better learners in the sense of being able to drive their own education.

Will Richardson

The greatest variable I can see at play here is how time that is ‘freed up’ in class is used. If it is not used to increase interactive learning and allow students to unpack, clarify, reform and explore ideas then it is not doing much to change learning. From a connectivist perspective the instructional videos are a node or connection for learning within a broader tapestry of learning experiences. If there is ‘conversation’ around these instructional snippets, then there is potential for students to take this in a direction that matches where they want to go with guidance from their ‘expert learner’ teacher. For many classrooms this would require some change and appropriate scaffolding to allow students to learn this way.

For many teachers the flipped classroom could be a powerful first step towards more student-centred models like project based or challenge based learning. The ‘extra’ class time freed up by removing the could be used to hand over the control. The greatest opportunity I can see from this approach is the time in the classroom to shake things up; be more interactive, social, hands-on, creative, and hopefully too student-directed. Of course there would need to be achievable steps for teachers and schools to change and grow and maybe flipping is one of the steps to get there – perhaps there is another blog post in working out the steps.

I would love to see the homework/videos as stimulus for inquiry and dare I say that the flipping could also be done by the students. Sites like Mathtrain provide an interesting case. If students are creating the videos at least some of the time then the ‘homework’ could become an end of the day reflection on learning and plotting the next part of the journey… And another thought…  Shouldn’t we stop calling it homework and call it an opportunity for continued learning?

So… in answer to the question that titles this post. Is flipping far enough? – On it’s own it’s not enough to bring great and dramatic change but perhaps it is a start for some (and others have moved beyond this). It is dependent on a broader interpretation of learning and what is valued most – content, the process of the connections? What I’ve seen so far tends to place more value on content… But I’ll happily be proven wrong with some powerful examples.

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3 thoughts on “Is Flipping far enough?

  1. I enjoyed this direct look at the Flipped Classroom that was devoid of any hype. I liked this part, “The greatest variable I can see at play here is how time that is ‘freed up’ in class is used. If it is not used to increase interactive learning and allow students to unpack, clarify, reform and explore ideas then it is not doing much to change learning”. You direct attention to the dialogue that creates new knowledge that might be enabled by innovative design.

    Cheers!

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