If you follow the #flipclass moniker on Twitter, you slowly start to learn that there is no universal theory of flipped class. Frustrated, you start at Khan Academy and before you know it you wander into 1:1 iPad strategy and "50 Hot Education App" articles before giving up. In my view, flipped class strategies do agree on one thing: classes have a direct instruction component and an independent study component. Traditionally, lecture during the school day. Homework at night. Now, have them watch the lecture at night and do the homework during the school day.

Fine, I guess. This continues an issue I see in education: we've done [x-method] for decades, it is clearly correct.  The lecture portion has to stay. The homework portion has to stay. Doing them in a different order is an education revolution? Really?

At what point do we stop and really analyze what we have? Is all that direct instruction necessary? Many complain that students don't pay attention during a school day lecture (my first two years this was a huge reality). Does off loading that into a less supervised environment increase retention? You can already read a dozen articles offering advice for the flipped class doom scenario: my students don't watch the videos.  Sidenote: remember college when you thought you were smart and recorded lectures? Remember how many times you listened to them?

What happens if we just de-emphasize the direct instruction? What if we find ways to accomplish all of our goals inside the school day? Impossible, you say? Curriculum sheet too long, you say? 

I could go off on a few rants with those questions. The length of curriculum sheets is a giant problem on its own. In the name of completeness, we have a tendency to emphasize a lot of special cases that rarely get touched by real people (looking at you complete the square) . Incomplete teaching is somehow bad teaching.

Anyway, in my mind, I have a flipped classroom. My students spend a lot of their class time talking with each other or tackling a task of the day (or making art).  Sometimes, I give direct instruction. And yet, they're never watching videos outside of school or even doing homework, really.

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The time they spend with me is valuable and productive. In three years of putting an emphasis on student activity, I've never seen such a high rate of assignment completion. It sends the message that our class time together is for doing. Give your best effort in here, right now, and help is just a raised hand away. More students will take risks on assignments. It removes the "too hard, time for tv" hurdle presented by traditional homework. It removes the glazed over expressions from listening for 50 minutes.

Sacrifices are necessary. I may not cover as much curriculum as others. I may skip a few special sub-sections of topics. These clever activities take up a lot of time. My curriculum is not so important that it's a sin to leave a topic untouched. If I can get a low-performing student to give me their attention, to give me five classwork problems where traditionally they would do none, that is a huge win. I will take it every day of the week.

You should not race against your curriculum. You should not feel like a bad teacher if you miss something here or there. Cover as many topics as you can richly, meaningfully, and memorably. I would rather have students actively struggle with 10 topics than passively absorb 20.

I am guaranteed 240 minutes with a student each week. No matter how much I insist, I can't 100% guarantee I get anything else from the rest of their week. I control those 240 minutes. I choose to perfect what I can control. I maximize my 240 minutes. 

Posted
AuthorJonathan Claydon