Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Caution on Flipping Classrooms

The idea of a flipped classroom is great. Have students watch video lectures or something similar before class, then work on applying the theory in class.

It is a great idea, even if ironically similar to the innovative idea of textbooks some time ago... You know, have the students read material written by an expert before they come to class. Then you don't need to have brilliant professors to have a college. In class, a less brilliant facilitator can explain the material the students have read before class and help them apply it. :-)

I tried to flip a Latin class this Fall. I made video lectures over the content of the chapters with the idea that we would then spend our time in class doing translations to apply and solidify the learning. Now, mind you, the kind of student interested in Latin is generally at the upper end of the academic aptitude spectrum. In other words, you would expect a Latin class to be ideal for this sort of experiment.

I abandoned the approach about a month in. Why? Because the videos just weren't consistently being watched or maybe not watched well. I'm not faulting the students--I love them, top of the heap. I just don't think the current climate is wired for this to work well right now most of the time. Bottom line: The flipped classroom only works if the students do the prep work.

I heard of a professor who tried this in science, I think it was. It was a great idea in theory. He put a great deal of intentionality and preparation into the design. Pedagogically, it was a masterpiece. BUT, the students largely didn't do it, didn't like it, and the rumor has circulated that the teaching evaluations have suffered accordingly. Now a different kind of smarts comes into play--stubbornness versus common sense. It doesn't matter how good the theory is if it fails in practice.

The flipped classroom is a great idea. I hope it works for you. I would try it again. But have a back up plan!

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