October 29th, 2014

A Few Concerns about the Rush to Flip


I have some concerns about flipping courses. Maybe I’m just hung up on the name—flipping is what we do with pancakes. It’s a quick, fluid motion and looks easy to those of us waiting at the breakfast table. I’m not sure those connotations are good when associated with courses and that leads to what centers my concerns. I keep hearing what sounds to me like “flippant” attitudes about what’s involved.

In theory, I couldn’t be more supportive of the idea—it’s learner-centered from the inside out. And I believe those who are flipping courses are doing so for the right reasons: spending time in class problem solving, analyzing, discussing, and asking questions is good active learning pedagogy. But when students are responsible for learning material outside of class, their success depends on their abilities as independent, self-directed learners and that’s what concerns me.

This past weekend, a faculty member told me that his lectures are now all on podcasts that students watch on their own. The main advantage, he said (in addition to him not having to lecture), was that students could watch the lectures as many times as they needed. But the image that popped into my mind was a student at his desk, the computer on with the podcast running, loud music playing the background, the student munching popcorn and jotting ideas for an English paper he had yet to start writing. If I wasn’t old and cynical I could have seen a student in the library, listening to the podcast, stopping it to take notes and to look up related material in the text. Most students are probably between these two extremes, but I’m pretty sure a lot are closer to the first description than the second.

I worry that our affection for the idea of flipping, now supported by a range of wonderful technology options, is causing us to overlook the careful design work involved in guiding those independent learning experiences. When students don’t have good study skills, the materials they work on outside of class must do double duty. They must help students learn the material at the same time they develop the study skills on which mastery depends. That requires extensive design work. I often refer people to Dee Silverthorn’s great article, which describes what she created to ensure that students are studying in ways that promote mastery of the material.

My second concern is related, perhaps overlapping. Who should be taking flipped courses? First-year students or seniors? Or are they equally appropriate for everybody? We didn’t ask that question very often about online courses, and we now have pretty compelling evidence that they aren’t especially good for beginning students who lack motivation and solid learning skills. I keep wondering when it will come to us that very few instructional approaches work well for all learners. One of the first questions we should be asking about any new method is whose learning will benefit the most from that approach.

The third concern is a similar one related to content. Does the content of some courses flip more successfully than content in other courses? Is some content within a course more amendable to learning outside class, on your own? What criteria do we use when deciding what content to flip? Given the design challenges, plus the learning needs of students and these decisions about content, I’m encouraged to be reading (and hearing) the recommendation for incremental flipping—where you start small and only flip portions of a course. Whatever content gets flipped needs to be assessed, not with not anecdotal impressions, but systematic inquiries that explore whether the flipped material is being mastered at appropriate levels of learning.

There is nothing inherent that prevents flipped courses from being vital learning experiences, better in fact than what many students experience in face-to-face courses. I am fully aware that many students aren’t learning well in traditional classrooms. We need to be exploring alternatives and flipped courses hold great promise. But courses can’t be flipped as easily as pancakes. My colleague Nicki Monahan says it succinctly, “If flipping is just reversing what happens inside and outside of class, then it’s a short-sighted strategy.”

Silverthorn, D. U. “Teaching and Learning in the Interactive Classroom.” Advances in Physiology Education, 2006, 30, 135-140.

  • Nicholas Marshall

    As an enthusiastic convert to the flipped classroom, I would turn the question around; who should be taking lecture courses? I'd argue that lectures are appropriate only for highly motivated and engaged upper-level students who already own a solid foundation in their field. While you can argue that flip is more appropriate for this or that level of seniority or subject, I think that it is rather clear that it is more appropriate than lecture for a large plurality (possibly a majority) of courses.

    All our classroom decisions are relative, not absolute; we must compare them to the thing they are replacing, not some ideal standard of learning.

    • Melissa

      Agree… lectures are best for highly-motivated students who want to be there, or when they are very short. I initially flipped my astronomy courses for non-science majors and loved it. My students watch a video of slides (with my voice overlay) and take "reading comprehension" quiz before class to make sure they really watched it. Since most of the students don't have the background knowledge to figure out the quiz questions on their own, their scores show if they bothered to watch. Many (maybe most) of the students also take detailed notes on the videos, which they bring to class.

      In giving the students all this work before class, I lessened the workload by not giving homeworks. We do the homework material in class. Somehow this works out better for the students – the before classes quizzes actually get done, while a lot of them skipped homeworks or procrastinated on them and did very poorly.

      I flipped a majors class for the first time this semester and also love it. The students read the textbook and do a quiz before class, and we have a lot of time to really explore the science and issues around it in class. Of course, these are very motivated students.

      • Trey Korte

        I love how these two responses are all about lectures being good for "highly motivated learners who want to be there." Shouldn't that describe every college student? Since college is voluntary (and this blog is about higher ed) why should we indulge the students who aren't highly motivated and don't want to be there?

        Higher education would improve if we stopped trying to indulge and enable the worst student mindset.

        • Larry Spence

          Get real on any given day across the country a third of enrolled students are not attending lecture courses. The ones who are their aren't paying much attention.

          • TME

            You think the very same students who don't bother to show up to class will take the time to prepare for class at home – watch videos, read material? Get real.

  • Colleen Sharen

    I am teaching, for the first time, a fully "flipped" class in entrepreneurship. Students are asked to view video lectures or to read a chapter of the textbook each week. They then do work outside of class developing a business model, and present their results and get feedback each week in class – modelling the work an entrepreneur should do when at the beginning of a startup.

    What has become chillingly obvious to me is that, while willing to work very hard on the development process, very few of them do the reading or view the videos. This means that they don't effectively grasp the concepts that they need to develop their idea. It's as if they think that all learning needs to be fed to them in the classroom.

    That said, I'm going to stick with the flipped approach, albeit with some modifications. The fact is that the only way to learn entrepreneurship is to "do it". While this approach has some limitations, it still beats the lecture.

    • Mary Kay Copeland

      I agree with Colleen. I have found in a full flip that many students don't do the reading or watch the videos. I have gone to a partial flip in most my classes. This seems to work fairly well. I also often have them go group application work in classes, where they must apply the reading (prereviewed) concepts. The group application work is collected. This has worked as well.

      • Jeff Boggs

        Glad to hear I am not the only one who has had problematic results from flipped courses! I found that many students wouldn't watch the movies or review the powerpoints I had posted (essentially a short text-based movie, but with diagrams and calculations being shown in a stepwise fashion to show procedures and concepts). What I did like about flipping my introductory quantitative methodology and research design course, though, was the opportunity to work through problems with the motivated students. In particular, I was able to implement in-class scenarios designed so students could apply their new-found knowledge, and use scenario-based exams. I gave these every two weeks or so, which allowed me to identify students' mastery.

    • Laura S

      Colleen, I am doing a flipped hybrid this semester (second 8 weeks as well). So far the video lectures combined with reading seems to be working well. I suggest using a daily/weekly quiz to go along with each set of lectures/assigned reading. This is the "entry" ticket to the classroom – it assures that they are familiar with the material and prepared to discuss or otherwise work with it. Thus far, my students have done very well on the quizzes and seem to be enjoying the more active classroom.
      I do wonder why you also have them doing the project (developing a business model) "outside the class"? This would seem like the sort of work that a truly "flipped" classroom would have done INside the classroom – in small groups (more along the line of a true entrepreneur/business model where they form a "partnership").

  • I teach intro science classes at a community college. My students need a lecture in order to understand the content –and they need a lecture where the professor is watching them, looking for that visual feedback that tells us if they're getting it, or need a few more minutes and an alternate explanation. I include lots of in-class work as well, but flipping is not a good option for me. These students have been spoon-fed (teaching to the test) in high school, many of them not even allowed to take precious textbooks home with them. Independent learning isn't something they have any experience with. I'd love to see flipping work (I'd LOVE not to lecture!) but the intro students need a transition to college to teach them how to do some independent reading and note-taking before they're required to do it all on their own.

    I think the questions posed in this post are very important –teaching and learning has never been a one-size-fits-all, and that approach often contributes to poor outcomes.

  • David Taylor

    Flipped vs. lecture is a false dichotomy. If our only two choices were a one-way lecture delivered via podcast or in-class, then the flipped class would be a no-brainer.

    However, as a professor at a private university with relatively small class sizes (30 students maximum), I do neither. I deliver course content in-class, but it is an interactive format. I find that students need that interactivity to learn. If your idea of in-class lecturing is to stand in front of a Powerpoint presentation and talk — which, unfortunately seems to be the most widely used form of lecturing — then of course, it is to your advantage to record that and allow students to watch before class.

    However, our students don't seem to be willing or able to watch these videos or to read the textbook and fully understand the material. Thus, my class is a two-way discussion of the material, with students asking questions of me and vice versa. Our university has invested quite a bit into "lecture capture" technology, but I don't find it to be useful at all. Why would students want to watch other students discuss, rather than discuss themselves?

    Flipping the classroom may work for some areas, but I find that I, as the professor, am a crucial conduit to understanding the material. I don't lecture, nor do I flip the classroom.

    • Christopher

      THANK YOU!

      I have been an instructional designer in higher ed for over 15 years and have helped 100s of faculty. I truly don't understand why a huge majority of faculty are obsessed with being "tied to the podium." Regardless of the course delivery method, regardless of the level of the course, regardless of the number of students, regardless of the type of institution, ALL courses need to be interactive and engaging.

      When faculty look at their course(s), they should be asking themselves "does my course include all three types of interactivity?" Most courses usually include student-to-faculty and student-to-student interactivity, but very few include student-to-content interactivity. And NO, reading the textbook or watching a podcast is NOT interactivity. The easiest way to differentiate between the three types is to ask yourself "where is the initial feedback coming from?" The answer to that question determines the type of interactivity, and faculty should be trying to reach a balance between those three types.

      Student-to-content interactivity includes materials that have some type of automated, preferably intrinsic, feedback. These materials might include simplistic activities such as flash cards, crossword puzzles, etc all the way through the spectrum up to simulations and games (Yes, learning can be fun!). The point is that these activities have the feedback built into them.

      The flipped classroom is just one of the latest in a huge list of buzzword bandwagons. So instead of asking "to flip or not to flip" faculty should consider asking "what activities and delivery methods are going to best help my students learn this topic," and "how am I going to turn my classroom into an engaging and interactive learning experience?"

      • Becky

        For online classes, I'm trying to come up with a tactful way to say to some faculty/staff "Would you want to be a student in your class/workshop"? The majority do a great job, but some need to be taught organizational skills as well as skills for developing interactive activities.

        • Christopher

          I'm not sure that's limited to online classes. 🙂

      • R. Wilson

        I ABSOLUTELY agree with this. As an educator, I am always looking for ways to make the material more accessible, more meaningful and more fun to learn. I am always suspicious of these fads in education. What's most important is to continuously look at what you're doing and how well it's working. I am not about to turn everything on its head just to join in the latest craze. When things like this come along I find out what I can about it, consider it carefully and then try it out in small ways if it seems to have merit.

        I am also a little tired of being told that we have to cater to the current generation's 10-minute attention span. I teach physics and engineering. You can't do physics and engineering in 10-minute chunks. Most of the time physicists and engineers have to grapple with long, complicated problems. If your education before college did not prepare you for this, then you're going to have to learn it from me. Ever since I started teaching, I've been told that the 'old methods' don't work for today's students. I'm not convinced that the 'old methods' are the problem. But higher education is a business, so we're all forced to cater to the current crop of customers. Instead of all of us in higher education dancing around to accommodate a generation of students unprepared for college level work, why don't we all call on primary education to do it's job and get them ready?

  • Gabriel E. Guzman

    "But when students are responsible for learning material outside of class, their success depends on their abilities as independent…" Perhaps this is the main misconception about flipped classrooms. Learning does not happen outside the class. What happens outside the class is the familiarization with concepts; the learning happens with the 'doing' inside the classrooms, which makes the flip pedagogy particularly challenging if we don't know how to design lessons that include hands-on activities aimed to measure the students' understanding of the concepts.

    Watching a video (which is only part of what goes on outside the classroom) doesn't guarantee any learning, but coupled with carefully design activities in the classroom, the understanding of those concepts is better facilitated and is not left to a student's own abilities alone. There is more to the preparation of a flipped lesson than just videos or podcasts, and yes, it does take time because students need to be trained to do something very different than what they've experienced so far in traditional classrooms.

    To paraphrase Janet Zadina, the material presented outside the classroom 'fires' the students' neurons; what they do in the classroom should be designed to 'wire' their neurons, which ultimately leads to learning.

    My subject is Microbiology, by the way.

    • Barbi Honeycutt

      Hi Gabe! Great post – glad to see you explained the importance of preparation in flipped course design and how it moves beyond videos and podcasts.

  • Hans Gesund

    In the old days we used to give reading assignments and would then discuss the material in class. I still give reading assignments as well as problems to do as homework. How does the "flipped" class differ, other than that students no longer have to be able to read?

    • Great point! This is how I view flipping the classroom – it seems what was old is new again. I ask students to read the assigned chapters, do a reading quiz in class and then we either discuss or apply the material in class. Seems rather old school to me. This is what attracts me to flipped classrooms – it returns us to a time when we ask students to be responsible for their own learning. As instructors we can facilitate that learning by designing a fertile educational environment – but we cannot do their learning for them.

      Having said that, flipping the classroom is not all or none. For beginning students I produce reading guides that pose questions of the assignment that (hopefully) nudge students to better engage with the material before class.

      This is a topic worth careful consideration. Thanks for raising the issues Maryellen.

      • Gerda

        This is how I do my flipped classes as well. For my first year courses I've found it helpful to give students study guides along with the reading assignments, that spell out "basic" learning objectives that they can master on their own, and "advanced" learning objectives that we work on together in class. Learned about this approach in this very helpful post: http://chronicle.com/blognetwork/castingoutnines/

    • Gabriel E. Guzman

      How does the flip class differ? Imagine a student having problems understanding the 'homework' and has questions… Are we there to address those questions? What if the student has those questions at 11 pm, which happens to be the time the student has to do 'homework'? By doing the 'homework' in class rather than outside the class, I'm available to answer questions, address misconceptions, and identify where students are having more problems understanding concept. In my experience, addressing questions and misconceptions when they arise is better than wait to see if a student will even remember the next day what his/her question was.

      Another misconception about flipping classrooms seems to be that the entire course needs to be flipped. Whereas that could be done, it is not necessary and to echo somebody else's comment, this pedagogy can add to a well balanced classroom.

  • cognitioneducation

    Like other commenters here, I agree that the pitting "flip" against "lecture" is a false dichotomy or a straw-man argument. Not all material lends itself well to lecture, nor does all material lend itself well to a "full-flip." And, importantly, I too think about the question posed earlier, re: just how "new" is the "flip" idea? In a way, it is a repackaging of an old concept (study at home, discuss in class). But culturally, current trends in education – both primary and secondary – make a return to the old days an impossibility. Instead, what we have to work with are groups of learners who are inundated with information and stimulation at an unprecedented rate (tv, ipads, smart phones, gaming devices, magazines, and so on) and who need help learning how to sort it all out. They need help learning how to critically evaluate information and how to solve problems. A well designed "flip" can meet these needs. But sometimes, as others have already stated, students really need help with how to work through a complicated text, or how to critically consider an elaborate theory. In these cases, a well planed lecture, with carefully timed discussion breaks (e.g., "think-pare-share" prompts) and with the flexibility and willingness to take student questions at any point (i.e., as a writer above notes – not a lecture per se, but rather a professor- lead discussion or interactive presentation) is called for. In many cases, I think a well balanced classroom has a bit of all these things.

    In consideration of another thread here too, I find that many students at the university where I teach need structure in their studying — they need pragmatic lessons in how to take notes and they need a little carrot to keep them on task. To this end, I've started asking students to take notes in a template format that guides their thinking. They are required to turn these "reading annotations" as I call them in, and they get "points" for their work. I've noticed that students who really engage with the template are able to get into great discussions in class. It really works, in terms of showing students what I expect them to get out of their studying, when not in class.

    With an appropriately structured scaffold, students can do a lot. And I think that's the ultimate point of classroom "flipping" – the goal is to get students to go beyond what they might do on their own, without expert guidance. There are times when lecture can do this, and times when it can't. Likewise, there are times when "flipping" can do this, and times when it can't. The Professor's challenge lies in identifying when the time is right for a particular format, and recognizing that many variables must be considered in the process: age of learner, expertise of learner, classroom size and format, content, and so on. It's not an easy job!

    • Jeff Boggs

      I'm curious…is your "reading annotations" template a one-size-fits-all (of-your-course) model? Or do you vary it from week to week? Could you provide a reference or link on how to design these, or at least point me in that direction? Many of my students seem to take poor quality notes in lecture, and evidently don't even take notes from the readings.

      • cognitioneducation

        HI Jeff, I made the templates for the reading annotations myself and adjust as needed for each class and/or different kinds of readings. I am thinking I'll write a brief blog post about my process and link the templates to that post. I'll reply again to your note when the post is up – maybe a week or two though, given my busy schedule right now.

        • Jeff Boggs

          A blog post — at your leisure — would be lovely!

          • cognitioneducation

            Wow – a year later, not only did I finally write that blog post, but I remembered and found this thread too. I am amazed. I am not totally sure if the blog post I wrote today is what I was thinking a year ago, but here it is anyway, in case you are still interested Jeff. Instead of linking a downloadable form, I just stated the steps I ask students to go through as they complete the assignment.


  • Laura S

    Flipping pancakes may LOOK easy, but try it for the first time and you discover it is NOT as easy as it seems. So too with "flipping" the classroom. It takes skill developed from trial and error.
    That mental image of the student watching a video lecture while distracted is not unlike the long standing expectation that students are to read their textbooks. IF they do the reading, they are often not reading deeply and are often just as distracted as we imagine they are when watching video lectures. It's really no different. Students need to be self-disciplined and attentive both in and out of class. This is the sort of lesson they will learn only if they are forced to learn it – sink or swim. Given them a daily/weekly graded quiz to accompany either reading or video lectures and they will have the incentive to actually pay attention to their work outside the classroom, no matter it be reading or video viewing.

  • David R

    I have been teaching for quite a while and do a lot of flipped instruction. to the points of the article, not every class lends itself to being flipped, or at least flipped to the same degree. The techniques used need to be adjusted to take advantage of the flipped modality, and to try to address the downsides. Yes, like all things there are benefits and negatives to the flipped method. Just like in assigning reading, assigning video lessons or other such flipped methods requires the student to participate. So students that are have developed self directed skills tend to take to the flipped course faster. I still do some "lecture", though it tends to be more dialogue with students when it works right. We spend time addressing the deeper questions of a topic and doing activities to apply learning as much as possible.

    I think some topics lend better to the flipped space then others. It takes a lot of work to craft the flipped content and get deeper learning just like it does in the none flipped course. If all you want is students to be able to watch the lessons over and over, just record your classroom lectures/discussions…this isn't flipping in its optimal form. I do have classes where their are online lessons and I also record our class time together so students have both as needed.

    Flipped does not work for every student just like lecture does not work for every student. It is a tool to apply as most pedagogical methods are. They need to be adjusted and tested to attempt to bring out the best in instruction and the learning.

    We need to have more of these conversations to help us all become better instructors which in turn will hopefully help our students be better life long learners.

    • David R

      I apologize for spelling errors, I read my post after submitting and realized I did not do what I remind my students all the time. Read before you hit submit…

  • Scott

    While I am not a higher ed professor, I team teach Micro and Molecular Biology at a NE prep school and we have been flipping the class for going on 5 years now and would never go back to a more "traditional" approach. I agree with most of what has been pointed out in previous comments but would add a few items to the discussion. Students do need to "learn" how to learn in a flipped classroom; there is a definite shift in the responsibility for learning and this is not easy for some students. The ones who have gotten good at "doing school" have the most difficulty. As for the guarantee that the students are engaging with the video lessons, I would encourage folks to check out Edpuzzle.com. With Edpuzzle, you can embed questions right into the videos that allow students to check for their own understanding and give the teacher valuable formative assessment data to help plan the effective use of class time. Our students have loved the embedded questions and appreciate the chance to check their level of understanding as they are being exposed to the material the first time. Much less doubt as to who watched the videos either since the viewing time is recorded as is the number of times a student rewatches a section of the video. Last and not least, the student can not scrub forward on the video and must answer the embedded questions in order to resume watching video. Did I mention that the video needs to be in the active tab of browser or else it pauses?

    Rest assured that HS students can and do flourish in a well-designed and intentional flipped classrooms.

    • brilliantafrica

      Agree that EdPuzzle is a great way to go – lots of great capabilities.

  • Pingback: Flipped Courses: A Few Concerns | Center for Learning & Teaching()

  • dpchristianson

    One of the keys to success in a flipped classroom (I say from experience, not from research) is quizzing. If students know they will be quizzed, they are more likely to read.

    I have conducted professional development using a flipped model (before it was called flipped) and it was a disaster. The professional teachers usually did not watch the videos, read the content, or complete the activities before our PD meeting. There was simply no accountability component, and they felt like they had better things to do. So, our PD sessions were crammed with content consumption and a little bit of active learning, rather than a reminder of the content and lots of active learning.

    Classes for credit, however, can benefit from daily quizzes. In fact, quizzing is also an incredible learning tool, not just an assessment tool (Make It Stick, Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel), so don't feel bad for doing them frequently and making them reach back to previous lessons. Quizzes can help ensure the content consumption outside of class, help students recall the information, and set the stage for some great high-level learning activities while you have students all together.

  • Michael Strawser

    I recently wrote a response to this article on my blog and I would love to hear any additional thoughts! http://michaelgstrawser.blogspot.com/

  • Perry Shaw

    An interesting blogging stream. Very stimulating!
    I would want to step back and broaden the discourse, by asking about the process of educational development, which I see in three stages: Purpose; Strategy; Technique.
    1. Purpose. Why are we teaching this material anyway? Why should students care about this material in the first place? This leads to a consideration of the long-term learning that is needed.
    2. Strategy. In terms of the desired learning, what general approach might best serve that purpose?
    3. Techniques are the pieces that are brought in to serve and accomplish the strategy.
    In point of fact, flipped or classroom based lecture are merely different techniques, as are whole class discussion, workshop, simulations, etc. Any form of lecture (with classroom or video) is useful primarily for delivering knowledge and (to some extent) understanding – the two lowest levels of the classic formulation of Bloom's Taxonomy. Other techniques are far more effective in the developing of higher levels of cognition, and engaging the affective and behavioral domains.
    As a technique, the advantage of flipping the lecture is that it has the potential of shifting the classroom space to interactive techniques that may serve a higher knowledge strategy – but if a high level of interaction is needed throughout, the technique may not serve the strategy and the purpose is not fulfilled.

  • Pingback: A Few Concerns about the Rush to Flip | EduWire.com()

  • Pingback: Teaching myself to teach. | Chalk and Pixels()

  • Tracey Burrows

    The higher level of interaction via questioning, discussion and activities are what comes back into the classroom when Flipped Learning works well. The challenge is in preparing learners to know how to learn via a flpped approach, it takes time and adjustment and learner ownership.

  • Rainy Dube

    This is a great article that raises a lot of valid points. I support the caution you give about flipping especially since I am one of the new lecturers who has been very open to all new ideas that are out there. I have thus been failing forward. I have flipped classes without thinking about it in order to make sure students are not bored in class. As I have been flipping classes, I have done it in a small way because I was not able to provide lessons on podcasts, so most of the time I would give detailed lecture notes out and do some application activities in class. Some of lectures had been allocated a short period of time to begin with so pre-reading helped students. It was also not ideal because not everyone expects the students to learn before a lesson so it was probably a bit challenging at 1st. However, great fun was had by all because they were not used to this method of teaching. I have now see that blending methods is better when you endeavour on such new methods.

  • Pingback: What Will They Remember 10 Years From Now? | Happy Professor()

  • Bryce Hantla

    Great post and thoughtful considerations. I presented on this very interesting topic last year and provide some guidelines for those considering incorporating the flipped classroom. The full paper can be found here: http://www.napce.org/documents/!pdfs/papers-2013/

    One of our points in writing the paper, and one thing that the research bears out, is that flipping the classroom takes more time on the front end to develop. However, this is not much different than teaching any other subject; teaching is always front-loaded. Thus, if we train our new teachers to learn how to intentionally apply technology in their classrooms (moving lower-level content that is more easily mastered to independent learning and higher-level content into the classroom), the next generation of teachers will more sustainably integrate technology to save them preparation time.

    For more on how flipping can be implemented in humanities settings, see http://gradworks.umi.com/3581138.pdf or Chapters 2-5 in Bretzman's excellent book Flipping 2.0: Practical Strategies for Flipping your Class.

  • TME

    I teach a class that was redesigned as a flipped experiment. The videos and other materials developed for the class by colleagues (I was not involved in the process) are pretty good. They include brief quizzes to make sure students actually view the modules. Nevertheless, when I ask control questions in class after each module was due, it is clear that most students have not – not even remotely – assimilated the materials. I end up having to explain everything again. This is not surprising – the concepts presented in the modules are complex and unfamiliar to students. 15 minutes watching a movie won't be enough to really learn them (neither would 15 minutes of lecture, to be sure). Students get into the habit of minimizing their workload, in part because their workloads are really high (too high in many cases). So they have to watch the video and take the quiz, twice a week. But we have no way to ensure that they pay attention, take notes, go back to clarify something they have missed, or do additional readings. Most students don't. The average quiz score is around 75% for quizzes that are mostly very easy. From the student's point of view, why should they spend the time and make the effort to really understand the topic when a few minutes of passive listening and a short hit-and-miss quiz seem to be enough to get satisfactory scores?

    What is strange about the "flipped classroom" meme is that we have always asked students to prepare for class by doing readings at home. And we have always known that we can't rely on students actually being prepared. Why would anybody think that assigning videos instead of readings will be the game-changer? In traditional textbook classes, I ask students to read the chapter in preparation for class. Then I ask in class whether they have questions about the chapter. They usually don't because they haven't read the chapter! If I could assume that students come to class prepared – whether by readings or video lectures – I sure could teach differently. I could spend much more classroom time doing exercises and other class activities.

    As has been argued above, teaching motivated and well-prepared students isn't all that difficult. Teaching the others won't be made any easier by adopting another education fad.


  • TME

    One more comment on quizzes, since several posters have said that requiring quizzes is effective to make sure that students do the preparation. I am skeptical of the power of multiple choice quizzes. Yes, it is a tool to get instant feedback. No it doesn't reveal the depth of engagement. Students have learned to figure quizzes out superficially. I suspect that quizzes in many cases actually promote a superficial engagement and raise the false expectation in the student that as long as they have done their quizzes and gotten decent scores, they are adequately prepared. It is only when they are called on to apply their new knowledge and perform complex tasks that we get a real sense of learning success. I prefer to give students complex assignments every few weeks. Unfortunately, many students have never gotten into the habit of engaging in depth with the learning material – in part I suspect because most of their school career consisted of quizzes and standardized testing, solving isolated problems for the sake of test scores. I have never, throughout my whole 19 years of education, until I came to the US, ever taken a multiple choice quiz.

  • Pingback: Flipping the Classroom | advancedmethodsblogstuart()