Honest evaluation requires that we look at the cons of flipped learning not just the pros.
In last week’s slack chat that I helped moderate for David Walsh (@collsphysistry) our topic was “What problems did flip learning solve?” We also discussed “What problems did it solve that were never anticipated as problems?” When I shared this with a colleague his first response was “Those are some great questions, but did you ever ask what problems moving to flipped learning caused?”
My first thought was “Wow! we should have discussed that!” follow quickly by “Well it didn’t cause any problems at all”. The more I thought about it, if I’m being intellectually honest it did cause some problems. Some of the problems I was warned about, some of which came unexpectedly, and some of which I caused myself.
I was warned
From the very first time I heard about flipped learning from Jon Bergmann in a series of presentations, he did warn that switching the learning style of the classroom to flip learning would likely cause a specific groups of students to respond negatively.
That group of students tend to be the highest achievers in a traditional system. The reason they tend to be the group that responds most negatively is that they were the ones that were most successful in the traditional system. I do need to digress just a second and discuss “success”. “Success” for those students mean they likely had the highest grades or the easiest path in the previous system. However, those were also the students that were not necessarily being challenged the most to learn but happened to perform best within the constraints of the system that existed, regardless of their level of true learning. Pushing traditional high achievers to focus more on learning still is a problem that I face in the classroom having moved thoroughly to flipped learning. There are solutions but right now I’m focusing on problems.
Another problem that I was thoroughly warned about when transitioning to flip learning was the time that it takes to create content for the individual space. Initially, and still to some degree, that content is video based, although it becomes less video dependent and more varied as I move forward. A problem with flipped learning that I was not prepared for was the additional time necessary to plan what to do with all that in class time. Additionally, what type of activity and shifts and planning would be required on my part to make the classroom space more engaging and more active. I would not go back to the static classroom that I had before, but it does require more time and more planning than I ever did before.
Problem I didn’t expect
A problem I did not expect that was created by transitioning to flipped learning is the fact that I have to be an intentional and active communicator to parents and stakeholders about what my classroom structure and class the classroom methodology is like an intended to be. Every parent of every student in my district went through an educational process that would be considered traditional, and their frame of reference for education is from a desk looking at that board and a teacher lecturing. In my classroom it does not look like that at all, but I have to actively communicate to parents, students, administrators, technical people, and co-workers about what my classroom means and why this method is more effective for my students. This is something that I did not have to worry about when I talk from a traditional perspective
Problem I created
A final problem that comes to mind is one that I caused myself in the area of assessment. Not only was my classroom very traditional, but my assessments were also very traditional. The idea that my traditional assessment would still remain the most effective method in a classroom that no longer reflects a traditional focus, method, or mentality is something I should have seen coming. To be honest, this was a growing problem and I patently ignored until it became blatantly obvious. This is a problem I am still solving. In part, the problem stems from my own lack of information, experience, or motivation to examine assessment even in the traditional system, so this particular problem can’t be directly blamed on flipped learning but on me. On the other hand, the low expectation for assessment in the traditional model would have allowed me to continue my traditional assessment more easily than having it stick out like a sore thumb in my flipped model.
The four things that I have list as problems with flipped learning, all of them can realistically be called problems. Some of these problems are inherent in the system, like the necessity to communicate more thoroughly with parents, although arguably I should have been doing a better job of that anyway. Flipped learning for the high achieving students has not so much caused a problem for me, but a problem for that student requiring them too must adjust their perspective on learning. The problem does get tied back to me as it requires me to establishing new expectations with those students and those parents. As for the time involved in planning, there is no solution to that, it simply requires more time and planning. However, there is time gained by developing the library of resources for students in the independent space that can be reused, reorganized, and replicated to serve different needs in far more creative and varied ways allowing me to focus my efforts for planning on the groups space. As for the final problem I’m addressing assessment, as I said, I’m still working on it. but the time available in the group space and the online or digital framework that I use for the independent space has provided a structure that can be used in far different ways than being limited to a pencil and paper test in a 43-minute class.
Every change creates problems, and hopefully you have noticed that I have yet to fall back on the trope that “problems are just opportunities in disguise”. Flipped learning does create problems, and it does create opportunities, but it is not a one-for-one exchange rate. What flipped learning does allow for is addressing at least some new problems in new and different ways which provides a sense of learning and anticipation on both part of the student and the teacher.
What problems did I leave out?
What solutions to my problems do you have?
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