It is lovely to see that my post from yesterday was so well-received by many of the folks who resonate with me in my larger network of educators. It occurred to me in a follow-up conversation with a friend, that I was only really addressing half of the issue I have with the notion of “flipping” a class. The other half is this: I have yet to see any convincing evidence that “flipping” one’s class is any sort of guarantee against bad practice.
I can think of a raft of issues that might come from half-baked notions of what it means to “flip” one’s class. I can also think of a variety of ways in which the concept, as it is presented, can be misinterpreted and abused by teachers who mean well, but don’t put the requisite amount of thought and self-analysis into the process when making the transition. If we assume that the “flip” concept is meant to connote a variety of good instructional practices, then it stands to reason that moving from a more instructor-centric class to one in which students have a larger voice in their learning is not something that should be done without a lot of planning, and critical thought. Without this analysis, teachers run the risk of using the bells and whistles of the “flipped” movement to perpetuate the worst aspects of bad teaching.
I propose we call this style of instruction “flopping”.
To me, “flopping” one’s class is among the worst things that can be done to one’s students. To use technology, and the various structures that seem to accompany “flipping” one’s class to perpetuate the most damaging aspects of factory-style instruction, is a major danger, and one that is perhaps not given enough direct consideration when “flippers” decide to flip. Without that consideration, I see nothing structurally inherent in videos, small-group instruction, or the decision to offload content accrual to extra-instructional time that will ward off the proverbial bogeyman.
To be clear, I have nothing against the amazing teachers I am fortunate enough to interact with who consider themselves to be “flippers”. While we may quibble about the utility of the term, they are doing amazing things, and should be encouraged. As to the “floppers”…well…I don’t find myself feeling the same way. I worry that the ease of buzz-wording can be a coat of polish on an instructional turd, and that seems problematic to me.
The following is a (partial) list of attributes that was developed in response to the following question: What does “flipping” a class mean? The list is the collaborative work of sixteen high-quality biology teachers, as part of a currently ongoing professional development experience. The phrasing expressed is firmly a product of my limited ability to recall exact words:
First-pass through content is taken care of outside of class.
Students are presented with a palette of options for interfacing with content (video, text, etc).
More class time is spent on labs.
Direct instruction is conversational in nature.
Students are asking many of the questions.
Students are frequently dealing with material in small groups.
The instructor is frequently dealing from the collaborative stance.
There were others, but the above is representative of major threads.
What is most apparent to me is that the above list is largely indistinguishable from what anyone would call “good teaching” (or at least anyone who is philosophically aligned with my own thinking). That being noted, I am not clear on why we need to describe it as anything other than what it is. I don’t consider myself teaching a “flipped” classroom. But I’m doing everything on the above list.
In fact, I’ll be so bold as to suggest that taking all of the good pedagogy that is described above, and cooking it down to a single buzzword is anathema to what many (though certainly not all) good teachers would be inclined to do when considering their craft. And who can blame them? Why should we try to condense the complexity of what we do on a daily basis with our students to a bi-syllabic piece of jargon? What, exactly, is that helping to achieve?
I’m not “flipping” my class, I’m teaching it. Should you be fortunate enough to work in this amazing profession, I encourage you to do something similar.
I’ve taken to blogging anything that I stick into my Pocket bin:
While Saint Nicholas may bring gifts to good boys and girls, ancient folklore in Europe’s Alpine region also tells of Krampus, a frightening beast-like creature who emerges during the Yule season, looking for naughty children to punish in horrible ways — or possibly to drag back to his lair in a
from Pocket http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2013/12/krampus-saint-nicholas-dark-companion/100639/