Does the Flipped Classroom Really Accomplish its Goals?

Shelley Wright is not afraid to admit that she made a mistake when it came to embracing the popular concept of flipped classrooms. About two years ago she gave the approach a try in her own classroom, saying at the time that in the hands of the right teacher, it could be a completely revolutionary [...]

Shelley Wright is not afraid to admit that she made a mistake when it came to embracing the popular concept of flipped classrooms. About two years ago she gave the approach a try in her own classroom, saying at the time that in the hands of the right teacher, it could be a completely revolutionary approach to education.

Since then, she has flipped back, and in an article for Ed Tech Magazine she explains why.

“Flipping” involves reversing the way a classroom is typically run. Instead of using the school days for lectures and assigning homework to get students to practiceconcepts, the material is primarily delivered via videos or taped lectures with school time used to answer questions or explore more in depth via discussions and activities.

Wright employed the approach in a limited way for six months at her school in Canada. For example, during the unit on genetics, students watched a video about DNA at home and then built models of the molecule in class.

But less than a year and a half later, the flip was no longer part of my classroom. Although I didn’t ­disagree with anything I’d written in the earlier post, I had found that the flip didn’t produce the ­transformative learning experience I knew I wanted for my students.

Wright explains that the idea of flipping the classroom appealed to her as she searched for a way to turn learning more towards the students. It seemed like a logical way of allowing students to take more of a hand in their own education, allowing them to set the pace and become more responsible consumers of knowledge.

As our classroom shifted from teacher- to student-centered, my students began to do the majority of their own research. Sometimes, this means they teach each other. Sometimes, they create a project around the knowledge they are ­acquiring. Sometimes, they create their own driving questions. Sometimes, they create their own units.

Ultimately, we have realized that three fundamental questions should drive the teaching and ­learning experience:

1. What are you going to learn?
2. How are you going to learn it?
3. How are you going to show your learning?

As this new way of learning has played out over time, my students have found that they no longer need me to locate or create videos for them. They can find their own resources and direct their own learning.

The ideal classroom is one where students learn how to learn which helps them not only with the immediate goal of passing a test or earning a good grade but sets them up to continue acquiring knowledge for the rest of their lives. However, that does require more input from the teacher standing on front of the classroom that flipping seems to provide. As Wright points out, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the idea of a flipped classroom — except that it is not an ideal means to a goal of getting students to the point of not needing a teacher at all.

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