Saturday, June 1, 2013

Orienting Students to the Flipped Class: What NOT to do?


The research on implementing the flipped class model is in strong agreement that it is essential to explain the concept of the flipped class to students.  It is argued that, in explaining to the students the different pedagogical approach, they will be more likely to understand their own role in the teaching/learning dyad and give their "buy in".  Since the flipped class model has been especially embraced in K-12 education; and by math and science teachers, the research reflects the particular experiences and contexts of these teachers.

When I decided to flip my large enrollment Intro to Ancient Rome class, I read as much as I could about the flipped class model, in an effort to discern a set of "best practices" that I could use for my own implementation.  It was difficult to find any research that was directly applicable to my course, in large part because the research focuses almost exclusive on small class; on problem-based classes; and primarily at the high-school level.  Still, it made sense to me to spend some time introducing the flipped class model to my students and explaining to them how their learning experience would differ from a traditional lecture class learning experience.  I would tell them how much better this more active model was for their learning (sort of like those tablespoons of cod liver oil my grandmother forced my mother to take every day); and they would eagerly embrace the opportunity to be fully participatory agents of their learning.  It turned out that this was exactly the wrong approach for my particular group of students (I've written about this here).

In retrospect, I have a pretty good idea of why the orientation to the flipped class has to take a rather different form for college-aged (and older) students, especially for a course that is being taken almost exclusively by non-majors to fulfill a core requirement.  And especially in a state where nearly every student got to the University of Texas because they were in the top 10% of their graduating high school class and have internalized extreme grade anxiety.  Any whiff of change or experimentation raises hackles....and worse.  As well, especially for female professors, it's probably not a good idea to tell a room full of 400 undergraduates that you are trying a new pedagogical method.  They tend to assume that you are doing this because you don't know how to teach, and that you'd very much benefit from their advice.

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