Thursday, 30 October 2014

what was old is new again - flipping the classroom

Maryellen Weimer published a great post on the Faculty Focus website yesterday. There she raised some concerns about the current trend in flipping the classroom. The issues discussed are worth consideration and are ones that I have thought about myself since implementing Team-Based Learning in a couple of my courses. One that I think is worth serious consideration is the content dump I sometimes see in flipped classrooms - make room for active learning in the classroom by moving everything else outside of the classroom for students to complete. Actually this could be a problem for any course regardless of how it is delivered: online, traditional, blended, or flipped. We need to consider carefully the work and cognitive load we are placing on our students. In the flipped classroom, rote work (reading, podcast viewing) is done outside of class individually by students and what was once considered to be homework is done inside the class under the guidance of the instructor and often in collaboration with classmates. However, I have seen many flipped classrooms where additional projects are assigned to be done outside of class. This can easily get out of hand in terms of students' workload and cognitive load. Students are often encountering course material for the first time when doing the assigned reading or podcast viewing and this requires careful thinking on their part. Flipping the classroom means that homework is now the initial encounter with course material and assignments are done inside of class. We need to be careful to not load too much more on our students to complete outside of class.

I also wanted to address the title of this blog post. I, along with others, sense that flipping the classroom is a familiar idea. Didn't we used to be expected as students to have read the assignment and come to class prepared to discuss the material? Seems like at its essence this is what flipping is. I think what is different and improved since I was a student is that we are being more aware of holding students accountable for what we have assigned. JiTT and TBL both make use of pre-class quizzes to both check what students know or misunderstand from the assignment and also as a means of ensuring that students are responsible for their out-of-class preparation. So many times I remember while a student coming to class unprepared and quickly flipping through the textbook before the instructor started the day's class. I wonder if I would have better prepared if I knew there was going to be a quiz on the material before it was discussed in class? And I also wonder with the growing prevalence of in-class collaborative work if the pressure to contribute to my group would have given me the drive to be prepared. Peer pressure can be a wonderful inducement for making students responsible for their own learning.


Weimer M. 2014. A Few Concerns about the Rush to Flip. Faculty Focus, October 29.