Is the flipped classroom strategy a flawless idea?

I cannot really recall when or where the idea of flipped classroom captured my attention. But I am starting to see a reference to it in many places. Two weeks ago I came across this very good site from one of the pioneers of the idea, Jon Bergmann. The blog is called Flipped Learning. Then, while researching about “peer instruction”, I also learned that Prof. Eric Mazur from Harvard not only came up with the peer instruction strategy but also came up with what he had called “inverted teaching” (“Rethinking the Way College Students are Taught“) So this is where it seems to have started and now it is becoming a kind of buzz word.

My first reaction to the idea was “this is great, it sounds so obvious and desirable: to have time in class to engage in deeper higher level thinking”.  I talked to a High School teacher who was using the strategy and it was working well. We ended up making a presentation for the K-12 Online Conference based on this teacher’s flipped classroom experience in the IB Bio HL class ( Technology as an Ally in the IB Science Class). It was only when I discussed the flipped idea with a Middle School teacher that I started to contemplate possible difficulties that might come with the model. The first comment from this teacher was that kids at that age have a short attention spam and that they quickly loose engagement in class activites. So how to keep them interested in thinking during class?  Then someone else came with this interesting question: what if in a school all teachers decide to flip a class? How much time a student will need to cover all the material as homework? So the question becomes: Can the flipped class strategy be applied to students at different ages, does it help all types of learners and how far can a school go with the idea?

I have to confess that despite those questions I still keep a strong faith on the idea of using class time as “quality’ time, where students are engaged in higher level thinking.  This must be a good thing … So, engagement in class might work at different age levels with activities where concepts have to be applied for a meaningful purpose…. I guess that may require innovative activity design. And engagement in class might also improve as we work on student culture. The three students interviewed about the flipped class for my K12 Online Conference Presentation indicated different levels of comfort with the strategy. While one student clearly saw the benefits of deeper thinking in class, another felt that learning prior to class represented more responsability and the third student wished the teacher would provide a lecture on all topics.  So there was some student resistance to independent learning. I wonder how much getting used is necessary or what types of scaffolding could be offered to students to help them become more responsible for their own learning. We need research for different age levels and learning styles to be able to figure this out. Has anyone found good research in the area?

 

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