It is wonderful that the “flipped classroom” initiative is providing opportunities for many teachers to get in amongst their students during class time. But, is this a real improvement in education? What do teachers do in this “freed-up” time?
“Flipping” a classroom so that a teacher-directed class is replicated in content-based videos for homework in order to free up class time for group work, research, etc. is admirable. However, it is based on a paradigm of education to which not everyone subscribes. Online resources such as the Khan Academy, TED-Ed and Wikipedia are just that – resources. They are not a substitute for effective teaching and learning and they cater for specific learning styles.
In many classrooms around the world, teachers plan units of work in which students discover answers to high-level, conceptual questions with guidance from the teacher. There is a time and place for the teacher to address all the students at the same time, but the bulk of student time is spent working through carefully-crafted, differentiated learning engagements, either individually or in cooperative groups. The teacher has time to move about the class, working with groups and individuals, as well as getting to know the students as people.
The pedagogical foundation for student-centred classes has been around for a very long time. It is the tools and resources that change. In the past, teachers relied on commercial video, books and other resources to enrich their classes. Now, we have the ability to create our own content for students that they can use whenever they need. The difficulty is in creating effective content. Videos with disembodied voices describing what is happening with a pen moving around a screen are, at best, an aid to memory and/or understanding. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people who make persuasive, memorable videos, using what psychologists know about learning, are in advertising. Educators can rarely afford to employ such expertise.
Many teachers have the skills and knowledge to create units of work with solid conceptual bases and high-level questions that utilise cooperative work and research. They have the ability to design activities that require students use resources to answer questions that go beyond content and cross subject boundaries – “real-life” questions. The use of supporting videos and other resources is planned into these activities, in class time. It is the quality of teaching time that is important, not the quantity. The most important thing that these teachers do is their planning. Well-planned lessons almost deliver themselves.
Flipping classrooms is all very well, but maybe it could be better for students if teachers became acquainted with the thoughts of educators such as H. Lynn Erickson, Sir Ken Robinson, Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe and Carol Ann Tomlinson, to name a few?
Jackie Gerstein provides an excellent perspective on flipped classrooms here