We all know the flip-flop has a bad reputation (and I mean in a political sense), so is “flipping the classroom” a flop?
Don’t get me wrong – from what I can tell from the far reaches of the world (I live in New Zealand), Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann are terrific teachers. They are credited with creating the idea of the “flipped classroom” where the student does ‘schoolwork’ at home and ‘homework’ at school. Sams’ chemistry podcasts are to be viewed ‘asynchronously’ – any time any place that students can access them – and in the classroom he focuses on how the students are applying the knowledge.
Likewise, the non-profit organization Khan Academy has inspired thousands of teachers (and Bill Gates) to ‘flip’ the classroom by providing over 3000 videos on a wide-range of subjects: maths, science, history, you name it. Teachers have their students watch the video lecturers at home, or at their own pace in the classroom, and then apply the practical skills in the classroom where the teacher is there to guide and assist them.
Is this great teaching? Well, elements of it are, especially the formative assessment / formative teaching that’s happening in the ‘flipped’ classroom.
But here’s my beef – this should have been happening all along and shouldn’t need a “flipped classroom” to be achieved. The work of Down-Under researcher John Hattie into the power of formative assessment – often called “feedback” – rates the right sort of feedback to the learner among the most effective influences on learning.
In fact I think the viewing of podcasts at home is problematic as the immediate opportunity to offer feedback is not there and neither is the power of explicit teaching and immediate peer and teacher interaction.
For learning to be at its most effective there should be three elements:
1. Explicit teaching – so that learners know from the expert teacher how to go about the learning
2. A chance for the learners to think, talk, and elaborate on that learning, preferably with others (their peers and their teacher) until they have “got it”.
3. The opportunity to use the learning so that they can deepen it from experience.
What the “flipped classroom” has got right however, is that there is explicit instruction, albeit by video; there is feedback hopefully the following day and, vitally, the flipped classroom creates meaningful homework. Too often homework is busy work done to please (the parent, teacher or even the learner) rather than done to learn.
However in our literacy work we see such great benefits coming from classroom communities talking through their understanding of concepts and strategies that my money is still on the classroom as the pedagogical ‘engine’ for learning – as long as teachers know how to foster a rich learning model and not the flopped idea of ‘sage on the stage’!