There is considerable buzz around universities at the moment about the “flipped classroom”. In essence, this is where the delivery of content is carried out online, leaving the face-to-face time available for discussion, interaction, group work and activities to promote higher level learning.
This is in contrast to what many term the ‘traditional teaching approach’, which in practice means racing through the content in lectures and leaving the students to make sense of everything in their own time. Somehow, over the years the traditional approach has been seen to have gained some mystical credibility (almost acting as a rite of passage) and has allowed academics to make crass claims about how much harder it was in ‘their day’, and how lecturing is in some way a grown up form of teaching that separates universities from schools. One of the arguments that has sustained traditional teaching within universities, is that large classes require a more formal approach, and lecturing at them seems to be the most economical method available. Observers have noted that this traditional approach also provides a mechanism to promote non-learning (Kinchin et al, 2008), and if we were to be really cynical, to keep students at arm’s length. Advances in digital technology over the past decade have produced mechanisms whereby the previously held objections to moving from the ‘traditional method’ have been made redundant.
The flipped classroom and Bloom’s Taxonomy: Blooms flipped
There are serious Pedagogical implications of flipping the classroom. Look for example at the annotated depiction of Bloom’s Taxonomy in the figure above. In the traditional classroom, it seems that the teacher is engaged in the lower levels of the taxonomy (remembering and understanding), whilst leaving the students to fend for themselves when it comes to engaging with the higher order thinking skills (creating and evaluating) – the time when they need most support. It seems the flipped classroom is the more sensible approach that offers students most support when they need it, and one that reflects more closely what might happen in compulsory education.
Maybe we should talk about the ‘flipped-back classroom’ to reflect this?
In their book, Bergmann and Sams (2012) consider in detail many aspects of the flipped classroom, including reflections by teachers who have experienced a move from the traditional to the flipped: “Teaching under a traditional model is draining. I feel like I have to ‘perform’, which requires energy, enthusiasm, and a “you are on-stage” effort at all times. … When I switched over I felt free. I was able to go in and watch my students work. I stayed busy interacting one-to-one.”
Perhaps we should have more discussion about the pedagogy of the ‘flipped-back classroom’ ?
Bergmann, J. and Sams, A (2012) Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. Alexandria, VA, ASCD.
Kinchin, I.M., Lygo-Baker, S. and Hay, D.B. (2008) Universities as centres of non-learning. Studies in Higher Education, 33(1): 89 – 103.