The Elephant in the Flipped Classroom

In a recent opinion piece in the New York Times, Pulitzer Prize winning author Tina Rosenberg touts the advantages of the flipped classroom for helping students to master content at their own pace.  In describing the “flipped” concept, she states that “[i]n a flipped classroom, teachers make videos of their lectures introducing new concepts and assign them as homework. That frees up precious class time to work directly with students on projects, exercises or problem sets — the stuff that students would traditionally do at home.”  The major issue I have with this, and the major issue I am having as I try to implement some flipped concepts, is what happens when a majority of your students simply don’t invest the time at home to access the content?  No much of what I have read seems to address or even acknowledge this issue.

My students are supposed to be watching lecture videos, taking online quizzes, and reading and outlining text material all outside of my class on a weekly basis in order to access the content.  I am finding that many students are simply not doing this, which puts them even farther behind in class when we are doing an activity based on the material they were supposed to have accessed on their own.  The second problem is that I’m having a terribly difficult time getting students to utilize class time efficiently and focus on the learning activities without literally standing over them and constantly re-focusing them to the task at hand.  Many of my students have difficulty working independently and are easily distracted in groups.  Whole class instruction seems to be the only way to get some classes to focus on a topic or activity for any amount of time.  Due to this combination of issues, in many of my classes, I have had to go back to a few days a week of direct instruction.  I’m not giving up by any means, but I’m definitely feeling frustrated.

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4 thoughts on “The Elephant in the Flipped Classroom

  1. Definitely frustrating since you investing time to create videos!
    Districts with 1-1 device programs or those in which socio-economics allow more personal ownership of devices have a definite advantage.
    Does it take time for them to catch on?
    Would incentives (positive or negative) help?
    Do you need to tap dance and tell jokes? 🙂
    Thing #2 will help find answers!

    • I don’t think it’s a problem of access. Most of my students have told me both informally, and more formally through an Edmodo poll, that they have computer access at home. Negative incentives don’t seem to work (at least as far as grades go). I already tell plenty of jokes, maybe I should learn to tap dance, or juggle?

      The real problem is getting the kids to put the time in outside of the classroom. We’ve always had an issue getting a certain segment of our students to complete homework, and when the homework was essential skill practice, that was bad enough, but now that some of us are beginning to ask them to access content and do some of the learning on their own outside of class, it’s an even bigger issue.

      I think one thing that will help is familiarity as more and more teachers start to require that students develop these types of skills. I’m pretty sure our collective approach is still pretty scatter-shot and lacks the type of coherence necessary to allow students to develop and practice necessary skills from one class to the next.

  2. I keep reminding students what the Supt stated in our opening meeting “Students must do the work.” What this looks like is always the battle we have as teachers.

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