What should we flip?

My last post had some criticism of the flipped classroom.  David Cox, Frank Noschese and I were discussing the nuances on twitter and each had an important insight.  David noted that the better flip described in my example lesson is to put the problem first then the teaching.  Frank chimed in by noting that the example flips to put exploration before explanation.  Both of these ideas are not “new” (see problem based learning or the learning cycle), but our discussion highlights that the “what is done at home vs what is done at school” is not the most important “flip”.  In some ways, I believe the home/school flip is simply a reorganization of pretty traditional instruction. So, what then might be better “flips”:

  • Rather then explain then explore, have kids explore first so that the explanation better addresses their thinking.
  • Rather than explain a concept then having students try a problem, have students try a problem first to see what they come up with.
  • Rather than abstract ideas preceding concrete examples, instruction should start with concrete representations
  • Rather demonstrating procedures to students, encourage them to create their own procedures.
  • Rather than asking questions to confirm student understanding, ask students questions to guide their learning.
  • Rather than letting curricula decide how we teach, use student interest to meet curricula.
  • Rather than letting politicians decide the direction of education, education professionals should be setting the course.
  • Rather than using assessment to judge students, use assessment to better meet students’ needs.

Of course actually doing these things is much more difficult than simply switching where/when kids listen to a lecture and when they do practice problems (yes, I know this overly simplifies the flipped classroom).  Real educational change requires us to flip so much more than the the classroom work vs homework.  So, while the current notion of the flipped classroom is a step in the right direction, we still have a long way to go.

I am sure I've missed some flips. Please, add more in the comments.
This entry was posted in Assessment, Class Activities, Curriculum, General Education, Learning, Teacher Actions and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to What should we flip?

  1. Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

    I recognize that a lot of this criticism is directed at KA but I’m hoping to tap into this community to improve my own teaching at the college level and to help me with two presentations I have this summer: one is at the APS New Faculty Workshop for people in their first couple of years teaching college physics and the other is for the PhysTEC community.

    Here’s where I need help. Given the excellent flipping suggests above, for each, what is the best thing to have students do out of the classroom. People in the flipped class community (http://vodcasting.ning.com/ is a good place to look) are willing to put together tons of resources for students to be able to access outside of the classroom. What is the best thing to do? It’s clear that the KA model is not good but most people see that as a “scratch the surface” version of what they do.

    I’ve read a lot in the physics ed research literature (I’d give links, but, come on, it’s Saturday morning and I’m in my pajamas!) about the usefulness of finding ways to get students to prepare for class. This at first sounds anathema to a lot of the themes presented in this post so I want to get a better feel for what students could do to prepare for the next class (note, I didn’t say lecture).

    Thanks for these two great posts, Jerrid, I’ve been waiting to join in the conversation about flipping but have felt that KA and its criticism has dominated the conversation.

    • jerridkruse says:

      Andy,

      First, i would note that the flips i noted above are not new and are firmly rooted in the science education literature, which coheres very well with the physics education literature. Second, let me provide some possible “what to do” or implications for each “flip” noted. I will note, that some of the flips have nothing to do with in-class vs at home, so will not address them.

      * Rather then explain then explore, have kids explore first so that the explanation better addresses their thinking.

      If they are to watch a video, have it be of phenomena with some reflective questions mixed in, but no explanation given in the video. Then, the next day in class ask students to explain what they saw – based on their ideas, you (the expert) can draw their attention to particular things or guide them toward more accepted understandings.

      * Rather than explain a concept then having students try a problem, have students try a problem first to see what they come up with.

      Give them a problem to attempt before instructing them on the problem. Maybe even have them submit how they worked to solve the problem. Then, the next day in class discuss some of their strategies and pros/cons before introducing a more formalized strategy.

      * Rather than abstract ideas preceding concrete examples, instruction should start with concrete representations

      Again, have them watch videos of phenomena without the explanation and ask them to think about how they would explain the phenomena before coming to next class. Also, try having laboratories be exploration of ideas they have not studied rather than verification of ideas they have already studied.

      * Rather demonstrating procedures to students, encourage them to create their own procedures.

      This would coincide nicely with the previous point about restructuring the laboratory.

      * Rather than asking questions to confirm student understanding, ask students questions to guide their learning.

      Give an open-ended pretest before you plan your lessons. After reading the students’ responses you’ll better be able to address their misconceptions and connect new ideas to their prior thinking.

      * Rather than letting curricula decide how we teach, use student interest to meet curricula.

      This is hard to give any prescription for (as they all are). One thing I do is start each class with question by the students. If the content is as important as I think it is, student questions will get me there.

      * Rather than using assessment to judge students, use assessment to better meet students’ needs.

      See previous suggestion about giving pretests.

      While these are not “silver bullets”, there are some ideas that i have used with some success. Hope they can at least spark some more thinking for you.

      • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

        Thanks, Jerrid, definitely things to think about. Here are some things that I was thinking about as I read your suggestions:
        1. If my students have a textbook, some of what you say wouldn’t happen the way you want, right? I definitely want to find ways to help students use the resources they have, both the text and any other resources I provide/collect/point out for them. To me that’s an important skill to teach them: how to teach themselves.
        2. I think having a back channel to be used outside of class can enhance some of the discussion between expert and student that you mention. One thing I plan to use in the fall is VoiceThread where students can put in their commentary/questions to any vids I put up for them. Sounds exciting, anyways!
        3. For most of what I teach, I struggle thinking about an inquiry approach. The most recent class I taught involved a ton of new math they’d never been exposed to. And, of course, for me, that math is a tool to be used/applied/etc to try to learn some new physics insights. If I did a pretest on a lot of it, it would come up with a bunch of zeros. It was a very fun class to teach, though, because the backchannel was great as new things were presented.

        These are just off the top of my head for now and they’re pretty raw. Thanks again for extending the conversation.

        • jerridkruse says:

          Consider assigning the text readings after you’ve discussed the ideas in class and asking students to connect the readings to what was experienced/discussed in class.

          Also, the back channel thing sound interesting. I have tried it off and on, sometimes it works, sometimes not.

          As far as the pretest and the math. Try giving the pretest on conceptual understanding rather than mathematical understanding. IMO, the math should be added only after conceptual understanding anyway. Of course, with more advanced students (college physics majors for example), one would hope they can do some of this simultaneously.

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  3. Rick Fletcher @TRFletcher says:

    For my large college lecture classes in chemistry, comparative testing has shown that the students perform better, which I hope means learn more, when they come to presentation “primed.” For me, that can be a prelecture video, where they are given an overview of what is coming in class but more often it is a set of prequestions that they attempt to answer. I use the theory that our brains organize new material better if we are answering a question, so I try my best to make them curious about the material to be covered, so I can get them asking appropriate questions before they come to class, or it takes minimal prompting from me to focus their questions in productive ways. So, I give them a video to watch where I ask them questions and it turns out, it takes a good bit of time to come up with provocative questioning.

    • jerridkruse says:

      Yes! Asking good questions is not an easy task, but is of such great importance for encouraging students to actively mentally wrestle with the material. The problem with both Khan style videos and lecture in general is the ability for students to be mentally passive.

  4. Brian says:

    A lot of this reminds me of preparation for future learning by Schwartz and Martin: http://tinyurl.com/6ahuz2r

    Which always makes me think of an article by Chazen and Schnepp: http://tinyurl.com/6a3wwo3

    Essentially, the first article is about how and why exploration before explanation works so well. The second article touches upon how to prepare students to learn from lecture in longer term.

    • jerridkruse says:

      Thanks for the resources. The math ed community is confirming what the science ed community has known for quite some time. You might look up Karplus (1977?) for your own interest.

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  6. bretbenesh says:

    Hi Jerrid,

    Thanks for the great post. I was planning on flipping my class next semester, but you (and several other sources) are making me question this (which I appreciate).

    You also gave me an idea for an upcoming blog post—thanks!
    Bret

    • jerridkruse says:

      I don’t want to say that flipping is a bad idea, but if you’re going to re-conceptualize your classroom, flipping is not that much different than current practice. Therefore, I’ll simply encourage you to go a bit further and flip some of the things mentioned above.

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  8. A lot of this flipping conversation also assumes that we “own” a certain amount of a student’s time and attention after school. Who makes that determination? What say does a student (and their family) have about time outside of school? If a student is excited and interested enough to engage in a backchannel outside of school time, that’s great, but is it a backchannel if it’s a requirement? What if student interest drove their time spent out of school – and they decided not to spend it on your class? Is that acceptable?

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      That’s a great question, Sylvia, especially for the pre-college level. For my situation, though, I have to ask a lot of my students outside of class. The old-school rule of 2 hours outside of class for every hour in really holds for my courses (physics at the college level).

      • jerridkruse says:

        Sylvia,

        I had that very same thought yesterday on twitter. Great minds, right?

        Andy,
        at the college level, I believe we can expect students to work outside of class. Especially since most students are only in class for about 3 hours per day. This is significantly less than what k-12 students put in.

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