Monday, April 22, 2013

Any Proof?

Okay, so I obviously support the flipped classroom approach. I support it for all classes, but especially for composition and literature classes—the kind that I teach. However, do other composition and literature teachers support flipping the classroom? Why or why not? And is there any hard evidence that the flipped classroom works any better than the old, traditional lecture class? I should look into this.

Of course, I started with a Google search for flipping the writing class. I got about 10 pages of hits, so I glanced through them quickly to see if I could detect some sense of what people were saying online about flipping writing courses. Most of it seems anecdotal rather than rigorous study of the concept. There also seems to be some confusion about just what a flipped class is, which is not unusual for a new concept. For instance, one teacher—Shelley Wright a high school English, science and technology teacher from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan—wrote a post about why she gave up the flipped class. She says that at first she was excited about the flipped class, but "as this new way of learning played out over time, my students found they didn’t need me to locate or create videos for them. Instead, they learned how to learn, and they were able to find their own resources. For me, this was a much more important skill than following my directions or using the resources I told them to use." Ms. Wright seems to think that the flipped class is limited to her assigning outside reading and video lectures then drilling her students on the content when they gather in class. This is a very short-sighted view of the flipped classroom.

Ms. Wright goes on to say that "as this shift occurred, the flip simply disappeared from our classroom. It took almost a year for me to notice it was gone. Instead, our classroom had become a place where students discovered and shared their own resources, while engaging in projects with each other. There was no need for me to assign video homework or create portable lectures. It all happened during class." I don't think the flip disappeared, I just think it became the norm. This is the way all technology is. As Douglas Adams once observed, technology is stuff that doesn't work so well yet. When it works well, like the light switch in your bedroom, we don't notice it. I think, then, that Ms. Wright didn't get rid of the flipped class; rather, the flipped class started working so well that she and her students ceased to notice it. I think I'm beginning to get there in my classes.