Monday, October 22, 2012

I'm Teaching Myself!

Among the criticisms of the flipped course model that are slowly making their way back to me is the complaint that they are teaching themselves because I'm not using class time to lecture.  This particular comment is the one that probably infuriates me the most.  It would have been so much easier--and so much less time and energy on my part--if I had stuck with my traditional lecture-based course.  Instead, I spent hours of time designing and delivering the filmed lectures.  It is unclear to me how the act of uploading a video and pressing play and listening to it (perhaps taking notes on it) is teaching oneself.  Really?  When you read the textbook do you also believe that you are teaching yourself?  Now, if you want to re-frame that comment to say that "I am working harder to construct knowledge", ok.  But, ironically, the place you are working harder to do that is not at home in front of the recorded lecture, where I carefully explain various concepts to you; it is in class, when I am asking you to do some application work.

I grasp that I can't expect undergraduate students to be reflective enough as a group to understand how the parts of the course are working together.  But it infuriates me when they complain that it is just an online class and that isn't what they paid for; and simultaneously complain about being required to come to class and participate in discussions about course material--because of course they don't want to learn the material on a reasonable schedule.  I recognize that these are issues that have to be addressed at the start of a semester with a new cohort.  And that I need to do a better job of explaining this new format to them and also thoroughly explaining the ways in which they aren't teaching themselves; this isn't an online class; etc.  Still, I am flabbergasted.  At the same time, I do understand that, if you haven't done your homework, you probably can't even begin to understand how carefully the in-class part of the course has been designed to identify flaws in understanding; and emphasize via application important concepts.

I just absolutely can't fathom how a student could possibly claim with a straight face that they learned more from lecture in class than outside of class.  I have done in class lectures for years.  When I started recorded them last fall, attendance plummeted.  Clearly those students were more than happy to learn outside of class. So, really, the issue is that they don't want to have to do any heavy lifting with what they learn.  They are more than happy to learn outside of class, but only if that is all they have to do.  I know that I shouldn't be surprised by this behavior, but it makes me sad.  It also shows that, in conversations about why higher ed isn't working very well, it's not enough to blame the faculty for not doing their job.  In many ways, the far more significant problem is that, for most of their lives, students have been taught to exams.  They haven't learned how to learn.  And when asked to do something other than sit in a room, write down what I say, and puke it up on an exam, some of them freak out.  *That* is the biggest problem with higher education right now.  I don't know how we are going to change student attitudes and learning habits except slowly and through a concerted effort to design and implement rigorous courses; and by ignoring student course evaluations until the worst of the growing pains of implementation are over.

1 comment:

  1. There is no way, in any stretch of the imagination, that you can argue that watching a pre-recorded lecture is "teaching yourself." I think your example of reading the textbook could be argued to be "teaching yourself," if the student feels that the lectures are doing such a poor job of helping them learn the material that they are forced to entirely (or mostly) abandon them and teach themselves from the book.

    My re-phrasing of that complaint is this: "Omg, I'm being forced to utilize time out of class, for class! The only time I should spend on coursework should be the time I spend in class!"