I admit that I panicked a little the first time I realized that the flipped classroom was a thing. Since I’ve transitioned from teaching Gerbil to native squeakers of Hamster – a kind of classroom environment that is pretty interactive by nature – to teaching courses more amenable to the lecture-discussion-exam trifecta, I’ve worried that my new classes lack some hidden, powerful dynamism that I was not trained to unlock.
This notion has endured beyond my initial introduction to the concept, with plenty of coverage from multiple disciplines and angles. But none of the transformative rhetoric casting a saintly halo around the flipped classroom has addressed some very basic questions that have surely occurred to every reader of this blog:
What if students aren’t really interested in learning?
What if they start glancing at their watches (or staring longingly at the door) the instant their instructor begins a sentence with “Instead of a lecture today…”?
What if a clear majority of your students see any kind of required engagement with course material outside of the classroom as an unreasonable imposition on their God-given right to spend their twenties on self-directed and decidedly more hedonistic pursuits?
“Flipping” the classroom can only function if students are willing to put in the time outside of class – “at their own pace,” as the converts proudly trumpet – to prepare for activities set to take place in the classroom. Correct me if I’m wrong, but last I checked, the lecture-discussion-exam model also asks students to bring ideas and questions to class based on something they’ve prepared in advance: THE READING – and reading, by nature, pretty much automatically happens “at their own pace” as long as they give themselves the time for it (skimming frantically before class should never under any circumstances count as “reading”).
But students don’t do the reading. Every time I plan a class activity on the assumption that students will have read enough to do something fun, I am painfully reminded of what happens when you assume*. And I end up transforming the basic concepts into a lecture, on the fly, punctuated by the odd fit of brainstorming or a snippet of discussion thrown in for good measure. The students never complain.
If course material covered at home takes the form of a video / wiki / vlog / stage musical / interpretive dance instead of good old ink on paper, this does not mean that students will suddenly fall all over themselves to prepare for class so they can Do Things during course hours. Nothing will work if the students’ will to learn isn’t in place.
So if the administrators at Across the Seas U ever try to promote (or, God forbid, require) a flipped classroom, I’m fully prepared to flip them the bird instead.
|This bird, when flipped, flips itself right back.