Sunday, September 2, 2012

Should We Be Flipping?

Flipping is all the rage in classrooms across the country.  So popular that educational publishers are being bombarded with manuscripts about Flipped Instruction.  If you are new to flipping, the basic premises is that teachers are assigning videos of their lectures for homework to free up class time for hands on activities.  I've just now finished reading an article on Flipped Instruction for the second time.  The more articles I read about this teaching method the more I question it's value as an effective teaching strategy.  

Maybe I should begin by stating what I consider to be positive about this strategy.  Educators who flip are not actually decreasing the amount of lectures they require their students to listen to. They are still lecturing, but in video format. Although lecture can be a valuable teaching strategy, it loses it's effectiveness when it is the strategy relied upon and/or lectures go on for more than 15 minutes.

  • Using class time to engage kiddos in hands-on learning is important.  Particularly for our kinesthetic kiddos who are often forgotten about.  If structured well, hands-on learning can benefit & engage all types of learners not just kinesthetic.  
  • Video recording lectures can be a valuable tool for some of our students.  Those who benefit from repetitive instruction or are absent from class during a topic can gain benefits from this strategy.  (This is one of the reasons why I use Evernote to record the conferences I have with my students; they can replay our conference as many times as they need to help them apply something we discussed.) 
  • Those who flip state that they are able to meet with students more often.  Frequent, specific, action-based, goal-oriented feedback is guaranteed to deepen learning, application, & synthesis.  Isn't this what we want our 21st century citizens to be engaging in?
With all of that, you may wondering why I question what many consider to be an invaluable, highly effective strategy.

Those who flip are assigning kiddos homework that they may or may not be able to complete.  You may be thinking, "All they have to do is watch a video! How can they NOT complete that?" Not everyone has acces & are unable to get online to watch the required videos.  Yes, some teachers are providing alternative ways to watch the videos.  Some invite kiddos to stay after, come during a free period, or come in early.  But for some that's just not feasible depending on extra curricular activities, familial obligations, school coureload, and travel demands.  If you are a kiddo who is unable to watch this video & watching it would greatly help you with the next day's learning then you are up a creek.

Some educators who are flipping are beginning to offer choices to their kiddos when they engage in the flipped homework.  Maybe they watch a video, read an article, or something else.  Choice is a powerful strategy in and out of the classroom.  When we incorporate choice we are preparing our kiddos for life.  But...if this can be done for them outside of the classroom for the purposes of flipping, then why isn't it being used inside the classroom?  Im sure many will state time, but if thats the case, then we need to restructure how we soend our class time.  I applaud teachers for recognizing the need to find ways (other than lecture) to engage their students in learning, but does it need to be done by assigning  unnecessary homework?  Isn't there a way to provide kiddos with choices within the classroom of how they learn the content that includes video lectures, reading text, and hands-on activities?  A few teaching practices come to mind: Responsive Classroom's Academic Choice, Kathy Nunley's Layered Curriculum, Heidi Hayes Jacobs's Curriculum Mapping, & Carol Ann Tomlinson's Differentiated Instruction (or any combination).  Instead of eliminating one effective strategy that has come to be overused (lecture) and replace it with  the over use of others, we need to find a balance in employing a variety of strategies in the classroom.