Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Flipping the Classroom--Or not

An incident with a student today got me thinking about the "flipping the classroom" trend, or buzzword, or fad, or whatever you feel disposed to call it.  However, as I am now an administrator for an indeterminate amount of time, I can't go into the details of the encounter, so I'll skip to the reflection.  Suffice it to say that the student was complaining that some instructors had gone to a "flipped classroom" approach and it didn't work for this particular student.

So, why did it not work for this student?  One of three reasons:
1.  the student did not do her part to make the learning strategy work
2.  the instructors did it "wrong"
3.  the instructional strategy of flipping is not the perfection it is touted as.

Now, I am being purposefully snarky.  I do not hold to #3.  Flipping is something good teachers have been doing for a long time, but good teachers have not been flipping, too.

What about #1?  Highly possible.  Other instructors who have tried to "flip" have complained that students do not respond well to it because it's more work for them. 

#2?  Also highly possible, because the use of any new instructional strategy is not automatic.  It takes time, just like a course redesign is not complete on the first day of the semester.  By "wrong" I don't mean they were clueless and incompetent, but that the method had not reached its full potential because they had little experience with it.

A colleague says of "flipping"--"what a unique and innovative concept--having the students read the material before coming to class!"  Of course there is more to it, in that the class meeting is supposed to be interactive, practice-oriented, discursive, engaged--just not lecture or content delivery. 

I have written on this blog about the pros and cons of lecture.  Suffice to say, some students learn--or think they do--better through lecture.  Of course, this goes to a deeper question--what is learning, and who judges if learning is accomplished?  If I think I have learned, have I?  In the case of classes, an external measurement says so, and in this student's case, she hadn't.  But why? Because she chose not to take advantage of the new method, or didn't understand it, or it was done insufficiently?

I would love to have some input here. 

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