Moving the Flipped Class

I have not written for almost two weeks now. Half of the reason is because of writer's block, another half because school is crazy, and a third half because of some family issues that came up unexpectedly. I opened up my blog a few times with intention to write, but I could not get anything to form. But that's okay. It gave me time to reflect on other's posts and thoughts while trying to get all of mine to fit in my head.

There has been a lot happening with the Flipped Classroom recently...almost too much to list. For example:

Plus, dozens of articles on the flipped classroom.

As I have been reading and following articles and discussions, one thing stood out: the prevailing description of the flipped classroom is "videos at home, 'homework' in school." And this bothers me.

The biggest complaint I hear from flipped class skeptics is that it still relies on homework and technology use. Any ideology that relies on any one tool is doomed. If your class relies on textbooks and kids do not bring their book, what will you do with no redundancy built in?

What is missed in so many articles on the flipped classroom is the fact that it does not rely on homework or video. That is simply one iteration of a larger process.

I have a flipped classroom, but I do not assign homework nor do I require students to watch lecture videos. What I do expect students to do is drive their own learning rather than relying on someone else (me) to crack the whip behind them. That is what the flipped classroom is about...reversing the learning roles. Not the video. Not the technology.

Flickr CC, Viernest

If you are a flipper, I want to encourage you to change the discussion focus from video to how we can better support student learning in a flipped classroom. What works well for you? What did not work well for you? How has your teaching changed since flipping? I do realize that video is a great tool in flipping, but it really is the smallest part of the puzzle and does not accurately represent the whole picture. If we want to move forward, we need to start having more deeper, connective conversations with other educators, just like we try to with our students.

12 thoughts on “Moving the Flipped Class

  1. Great thoughts, and I totally agree. I’m hoping now that I have one semester of “flipping” under my belt, I will be able to go more away from the video as the primary tool of instruction and utilize many more great resources that are out there. I’m also hoping to improve my in class “activities” and create more options variety. With time, I guess.

    I think it’s easy for someone from the outside to look at think it’s all about the video (as much as we say it’s not!) because that’s what sticks out as “different” about it – that is, until they actually come and become a part of a flipped classroom and realize it’s so much more.

    thanks for the post!

  2. Hurrah! You addressed what has be weighing me down of late. I have been reflecting on how to best address this crazy disconnect between what I am actually doing in my flip class and what people think I am doing. At first I thought best to stay away from conflict or argument and let it ride, thinking that it would work itself (the misunderstanding) out. But somehow it seems to have grown!
    Anyways, enough saga story. I appreciate your thoughtful, reflective and wise approach to facing the disconnect with a renewed focus on the practice in the classroom as that is where the magic of the flip class thrives.

    • Jim Rowley says:

      Carolyn, I read your blog. Thank you for sharing. Could you please share with me your ideas for no points grading and the options you are using for assessment options. I really like your thinking here.
      Great thoughts Brian as always. Hello Crystal – I look forward to meeting you all some day.

  3. WmChamerlain says:

    As you already know, I am very anti-homework and very anti-flipped as it is perceived by most people. With that being said, I don’t consider what you are calling flipped, which is basically a more individualized learning system, bad. I believe that students need to have access to the information they need to learn in many different forms and with more flexible time periods.

    I still think you are fighting an uphill battle by continuing to use the “flipped” moniker.

    • Heather says:

      I am curious. If you are anti-flip and anti-homework, how does your classroom work? What subject(s) do you teach? What is your definition of a flipped classroom? I love hearing the opposing side, it always makes me evaluate my own thinking.

      • Brian Bennett says:

        The flipped classroom is so much bigger than the videos getting attention. Will gives me a hard time because the name has taken a different connotation than what actually happens in my class. I know it is an uphill battle, but the true flip needs to be talked about more if we want to make real progress in schools.

      • WmChamerlain says:

        Heather, to preface I should say that I teach elementary so there is not nearly as much pressure to give homework as at the HS level.

        My goal in the classroom is to limit whole group instruction to the bare minimum. Sometimes it is the best way to communicate (heck, sometimes it is the only way to communicate.) My students get the assignments as a unit. Most of class time is spent with them working on their assignments individually or in small groups using whatever tools they need. That allows me to float around (this is what Brian means when he talks about flipping (hope I’m not putting words in your mouth, Brian ;)

        My definition of flipped is the students go over the content outside the classroom and create product/do work in the classroom.

        The real problem to me is not that the name being used differently causes confusion, it is that teachers are assigning work for their students to do at home. I have no problem with requiring them to quickly reflect or spend 5-10 minutes reviewing, that is good pedagogy. I do have a problem with them assigning (as a whole faculty) more than 20 to 30 minutes of after school work. That isn’t the teachers’ time, it is the students and we don’t have the right to steal it. I know the word steal has very negative connotations, so when I use it in this context it might help you understand this is a big deal to me.

  4. Dale says:

    I came to the following conclusion very early in my flipped teaching…its not about the videos rather its about what I am now doing instead of leading in the front of the class. Many ask me about flipped classroom and I always start with increased time to help students one on one or in small groups. That has been so powerful. Great post Brian.

  5. Andrew Thomasson says:

    I have come to find out that I’m a strange #flipclass proponent: a high school English teacher. But I am persevering anyway with the concept, as I think it’s a critical piece to the puzzle, even in non math/sci classes.

    My limited experience with the concept this year has shown me a few important things. First, students are initially very resistant to taking control of their own learning (especially my students, who are seniors and have been acclimated to gaming the system for 12 years). Second, as you’ve pointed out, I’ve used very little video to back the concept in my class–though I have made videos to explain concepts I have felt myself re-explaining dozens of times.

    Flipping, in my experience, is a step on the path to true differentiated learning. I use differentiated assignments for the same text, depending on a student’s skill level; I also am starting to experiment with letting students form reading circles around desired (appropriate) texts. Trying to figure out how to keep all those balls in the air at once is tough.

    But thanks for your work. It is very important, and keeps me trekking through.


  6. Heather says:

    Thought I had posted this already….I tried to respond, because you really made me think. It turned out so long, I just added to my own blog. ;) Here is the link. Comments are appreciated.

  7. Jason Kern says:

    To me the flipped classroom is very simple question, “what is the best use of your class time?” Very few teachers answer that it’s them lecturing if you ask about their best teaching days but they still feel like they need to deliver the basic concepts. By delivering those concepts outside of class, it allows you to recapture your classroom to do whatever works best for your subject. A flipped economics class looks and sounds very different from a flipped science class but they share the value add of a student centered experience.

    As Bryan says its not what you do outside of class, it’s how your class time is better utilized.

    • WmChamerlain says:

      I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but body language and background knowledge of me isn’t an option. What makes you think you have the right to make students do work outside of your classroom? Please read my response to Heather above so I don’t have to retype the whole thing here.

      Again, I hope I don’t sound like a jerk. That sure isn’t my intention.

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