kitchen table math, the sequel: Who wants flipped classrooms?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Who wants flipped classrooms?

Bergmann and Sams co-wrote the book Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day, which some credit with starting the flipped classroom trend. Today, they serve on the board of the Flipped Learning Network.

Criticism of the flipped classroom model usually stems from arguments between the didactic and progressive camps within higher education, Bergmann said. Members of the didactic camp oppose flipping the classroom to preserve the role of the lecturer, while the progressive camp instead advocates for a move toward project-based learning and inquiry. “That’s where I’m seeing the rub,” he said.

Still in Favor of the Flip
October 30, 2013
By Carl Straumsheim
Given what I see here in my own district, and given what I read, Bergmann's characterization of the two sides in this argument is correct.

It's the 'didactic' camp versus the 'progressive' camp, instructivists v. constructivists. As usual.

Flipped classrooms are championed by constructivists.

Speaking of, I'm not sure I ever got around to posting this, but Salman Khan is, at heart, a constructivist. He's a constructivist who believes in mastery learning, which makes him a rare bird, but he is a constructivist nonetheless:
…a teacher can finally have every kid going at their own pace [no grouping by achievement or ability] and have the teacher really focus on what we would consider kind of higher value-add activities, which is running simulations with students, doing actual interventions, getting the students to teach each other the concept. [emphasis added]

[snip]

I mean, I think everyone can testify that in college they learned most of what they're learning the night before the exam from their peers, and then all the way fast-forward to now, what we're seeing in Los Altos is what's happening is all the kids are working at their own pace. They are watching the videos on their own when they have a question. Some students might get 90 percent from a video. Some students might get 60 percent from a video, but when they start to connect with each other, they can start to point out other things, and then they can look for other resources on the Web and they get each other to 100 percent. [guide on the side] …. You know, we're going to try to make the videos as good as possible, but what we think it does is it takes lecture out of the room. We think we're really effective in getting the lecture out of the room and allowing these videos to be consumed in a way that different people [students] can take what they can from them and from other things on the Internet, frankly, and then when they go into the classroom, since the lecture's off the table now, they are now liberated to actually communicate with each other and they're liberated to have a conversation about mathematics. They're liberated to, like, sit next to their teacher. [guide on the side...] So the power, the real beauty isn't actually like, you know, some magic that Khan Academy has a neural plug-in to your brain and can deliver -- the real magic, I think, is that class has so much potential that we're letting happen now, because we're taking all that other stuff that was kind of disrupting traditional class out of the way. And so the real magic is actually what happens when you let people talk to each other.

[snip]

For me, like, the deepest learning happens with a project-based story, [emphasis added] but the projects can only be useful if people go into the projects with the core toolkit that -- so they can understand what's actually going into -- going in an analytical way. So every student working at their own pace, it doesn't matter what grade they are, what age they are. In fact, we're starting a few pilots with multi-age groups in the same classroom, and some can work on things that are below grade level. [in-class tracking via differentiation]

[snip]

And then what we're hoping is it informs the teacher enough, saying, "You know what? I think the students in my class are ready for this type of a project and that type of a project". And I think right now we are putting it on the teacher, like, "We've kind of liberated a lot of this core stuff off of you. You won't have to give the traditional lecture. You won't have to do the traditional homework, but you how [sic] have, I would say, maybe a larger responsibility to do more of this less-traditional stuff, which is invent an interesting project or find an interesting project". Two summers ago I was running a little summer camp myself and I wanted to experiment with this, just eat my own dog food, to some degree, on what's going on. So what I did is I had the students that used the videos and the primitive kind of the exercises back then to learn a little bit about probability and multiplying decimals and fractions and all that. And then what I wanted them to really internalize what probability is and what expected value is. I did a bunch of simulations. One of them had the -- I don't know if you've ever played "Settlers of Catan". It's like a trading game, right? So, like, we're all in one civilization and we can build roads, but we trade. Like, to build a road you need, like -- I don't know. I forgot -- like, two woods and three bricks, and you can build a road. And you might have four woods, and so we'll try to trade. We're competitive, but we're also trading with each other, but obviously if you see students who've already mastered the basics of probability, they've watched some of those videos on expected value, then this would be an ideal exercise for them, because they're really going to internalize what expected value is.

[snip]

We genuinely feel like the teachers are getting liberated here. Do what you want on whatever day and the students are going to do what they want on this day, and we're freeing tons of class time for you to do what I think you went into teaching to begin with. Like, when I ran my little summer camp -- and I won't claim to have 30 years of experience and all the rest, but what was fun for me was not having to give a lecture on these common multiples, not having to give a lecture on probability, to know that that was out of the way and getting to do this super fun simulation where the kids are trading pieces and all this. And I felt like I was able to express my creativity. I was able to go home and say, "What would be a really cool way to understand this concept intuitively"? And when I went to classroom, that's what we did, and I felt like it was a much richer experience. And so we genuinely feel and we genuinely hope that it's doing that for teachers, and the teachers of Los Altos have expressed that, that they love -- that they feel liberated.

Salman Khan on Liberating the Classroom for Creativity (Big Thinkers Series)
It's all there, the entire constructivist project, but with the recognition that students need knowledge in order to take part in group simulations.

Lecture is gone, "traditional" homework is gone, the responsibility to make sure students are actually acquiring the knowledge they need is gone (if the Khan videos don't do the trick, students help each other find what they need on the internet)…. et voilĂ  : the teacher is "liberated."

I remember, listening to Salman Khan's keynote address at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning, his saying that one of the reasons he began taping himself was that he found teaching the same core content over and over again to different cousins boring.

He was bored.

That is the problem, right there.

If you can't find teaching and reteaching the same core content interesting, exciting, and engaging, you shouldn't be teaching.

I am teaching basic content to my students, who are "basic writers," and I am never bored. Ever. Maybe one day I will be, but not now. The content I teach always seems new to me, and exciting, and thus via the magic of mood contagion I am able to persuade my students, at least to some degree, that the content I teach is new and exciting to them, too.

A bored teacher is a bad teacher.

If our schools have bored teachers, the answer isn't to "liberate" them from teaching.

The answer is to fire them and hire teachers who aren't bored.

For the record, throughout all my years of having children in public schools, I haven't seen a big problem with bored teachers.

How long have I been writing ktm now? (Don't answer that!) Have I ever written a post about bored teachers in lo these many years? No. (At least, I don't remember writing any posts complaining about bored teachers.)

All of my kids have had numerous teachers who gave the impression of being fully engaged with the kids and with the content they were teaching. The problem has always been curriculum, absence of effective practice regimens, absence of formative assessment, absence of accountability for kids actually learning what was covered in class, etc, etc. Oh, and the artifacts.

At least from where I sit, Salman Khan is trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist. He is projecting his own boredom with basic instruction onto actual classroom teachers and then fixing the problem he would have if he were a basic classroom instructor. Which he isn't.

And of course he has tiny little kids who have not attended public school, so he has absolutely no idea what public-school group "simulations" are actually like, or how fun it's going to be for his kids to sit through 6 hours of public-school group simulations every day, 5 days a week, for 13 years.

He's got a lot to learn, our Salman.

In the meantime, though, and thanks to his elevation to superstar status by Bill Gates, he gets to transform US public education.

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

18 comments:

Hainish said...

I'm not so sure. I've seen comments from constructivists criticizing the flipped classroom because it still relies on the transmission of information through lecture--still a no-no for them. Also, I'm not as down on the concept of flipping as you are. Once a teacher has perfected a lecture--gotten it as good as she can get it--there's no reason NOT to transform it into a static, durable form. I like the fact that students can access a lecture and replay it as often as they like. (If, like me, you sometimes gather wool during class, this can be a very, very good thing.) While I don't think flipping is the miracle some make it out to be, I do see the benefits that come with it.

I can also imagine lectures being shown DURING class, with the teacher stopping at points to ensure that students understand.

Allan Folz said...

Well, in his defense, I'm pretty sure Salman was bored as a K-12 student as well.

I know I hated grades 2-12 because it was all so repetitive and boring. By middle school, the only way I could sustain any interest was through handicapping myself by taking tests as fast as possible. If I could get a gentlemen's A- while finishing a 60 minute test in 35 minutes... well, that was an interesting challenge.

Finally, there is a certain irony to the flipped classroom reformers in that national policy is obsessed with the racial gap, but anything that serves autodidacts (instead of the active neglect they typically suffer) is more likely to drive it wider.

lgm said...

>>Some students might get 60 percent from a video, but when they start to connect with each other, they can start to point out other things, and then they can look for other resources on the Web and they get each other to 100 percent.

This just means some students have insufficient thinking skills for the level of the course, and the other students process for them and then tell them the result, which they memorize and spit back on the test to gain a score high enough that the grades of the two groups are the same BTDT. Which person in the group would you want to hire for what job?

There are many sims available in games, which are far superior to what Khan is proposing. My kiddo did learn a lot from them, I credit a certain online game to quite a lot of the learning that he obtained in Gr. 4-5 when the teachers were so busy with the included 1s and 2s that they ignored the 3s and 4s. However, I think it is inefficient to learn your essay writing craft from other posters...too many wrong alleys to go down. I'd prefer that school actually teach some basic skills. And obviously no need to go to school if we're going to play online games and learn from other students discoveries.

Cal said...

There's nothing even remotely constructivist about flipped classrooms. Although you are correct that SK pushes peer tutoring. That came through in TEACH! with the one teacher who was using KA.

But flipped learning is just doing the lecture at home.

The proponents are now trying to claim that no, it's not really a lecture, just a catchy intro. Oh, please.

But if you're instructivist, then you should love flipped learning. Boring lecture at home, work at school. Constructivists don't lecture.

SteveH said...

"At least from where I sit, Salman Khan is trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist."

Some think that pedagogy is everything. If they solve that, then mastery of content and skills will flow naturally. Some go so far as to think that the curriculum (e.g. EM's "trust the spiral") is self-working by definition.

However, my son talks about classes (in his high school where they have a good curriculum) where you can do well only if you already know the material. I can understand why many don't like direct instruction. However, in many of his math classes, the teacher takes only part of the time to go over homework and to introduce new material. The rest of the class is spend getting a start on the new homework, either individually or in groups. I like this model because the teacher keeps kids on task for doing the homework and gets to answer questions that might stop them cold if they did it all at home. Is that flipping?

I think flipping is like critical thinking, problem solving, and 21st century skills. It's a way for educators to argue with generalities while they get to define their own details and level of rigor.


"I am teaching basic content to my students, who are "basic writers," and I am never bored."


I don't see the problem as whether you are bored or boring to your. I see it as whether you are effective or not. How do you know that your students are becoming better writers? Do you have an absolute standard, or do you just see your job as relative improvement? It's got to be more than seeing non-bored "active learning", or being non-bored yourself.

I think the key ingredient is the detailed feedback loop you use. All teachers give homework and tests, but do they just go through the motions or do they try to fix the problems they see? Constructivists don't worry about this, but some instructivists just test, grade and move on in a sink-or-swim process.

I could talk about effective Harkness Table or direct instruction approaches. I think that both approaches (to work well) have to push, but provide good support. You can't just engage, and you can't just directly teach and test. There has to be a good feedback process for individual work. That is fundamental flaw in many group discovery approaches. The individual can hide in the group.

I used to tell students that I was willing to give them all A's - that I was on their side and would give them lots of chances to succeed. They soon learned, however, that that didn't mean that I was an easy grader or set low standards. They had to do their part. Some of the best teachers I had pushed the hardest and set the highest standards - although I might not have thought so at the time.

Catherine Johnson said...

Once a teacher has perfected a lecture--gotten it as good as she can get it--there's no reason NOT to transform it into a static, durable form.

No!

That's wrong!

Lectures are never "perfected"; they are always evolving, always being polished, and more importantly always evolving & being polished always in response to a live audience.

That said, I'm not at all opposed to professors (and teachers) taping their lectures/lessons. It's a free country!

On the other hand, I think that taping your lectures is a waste of time (unless you simply set up your camera and tape yourself in the classroom).

I haven't posted anything about the Harvey Mudd brouhaha …. some professors there are running an NSF-funded study of flipped classrooms, and one or two of them gave interviews to USA Today saying their flipped classrooms were a flop. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

All heck broke out after the story appeared, so the quoted professors both backtracked.

However, it's clear to me, reading the quotes, that whether or not students learn the same amount in these classrooms as they would have in a non-flipped classroom, the professors are spending a huge amount of time on this project when they should be doing their research.

Catherine Johnson said...

I don't see the problem as whether you are bored or boring to your. I see it as whether you are effective or not.

Boredom & learning are related because of 'arousal levels' which I hope to get to soon.

Catherine Johnson said...

Finally, there is a certain irony to the flipped classroom reformers in that national policy is obsessed with the racial gap, but anything that serves autodidacts (instead of the active neglect they typically suffer) is more likely to drive it wider.

No kidding.

Every once in a while I think the Paranoid View of public schools (they're doing it on purpose…) may actually be right….

Catherine Johnson said...

I like the fact that students can access a lecture and replay it as often as they like.

I like it, too, IN THEORY.

In actual reality, no one "accesses" a lecture so they can replay it as often as they like. No one even watches the darn things the first time.

Ask everyone you know who's ever bought a course from The Great Courses if they actually watched the videos.

Catherine Johnson said...

I think the proper analogy (or a proper analogy) is to plays versus movies and television shows.

A movie is not a filmed play.

Nor is a television show.

To make movies and TV shows work, whole new forms had to evolve.

It may be that we'll see a recorded form develop that works beautifully for learning & that competes with live classroom lectures/lessons/instruction.

But we haven't seen it yet, and the filmed lecture is definitely not it.

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm pretty sure Salman was bored as a K-12 student as well

That's his problem!

I was never bored in school! My mom once told me that I was finishing all my work ages before the other kids, and the teacher wouldn't even let me read a book when I was done….and yet I don't remember being bored for one minute.

I'm sure that was because I spent a lot of time talking to my neighbor.

Catherine Johnson said...

At some point in my marriage to Ed, we discovered that both of us got in trouble OFTEN for talking to our neighbors in school.

Nothing else, ever. I was never sent to the principal's office, and neither was he.

But we had LOTS of reprimands for talking to our neighbors….

Anonymous said...

A few points...

1. A taped lecture is better than nothing, helpful for the kid who was absent.

2. At least at the high school level, a lecture is never "done", ready to be put in the can because it is always interactive. If you are not paying attention to the continuous feedback you are getting and making adjustments as you go, well then yes, you might as well be replaced by a video.

3. If you are bored by your own material, that's a problem. It would be like playing in a jazz band or performing Shakespeare but not being interested in or connected to your own performance. You should be happy to have such interesting material to work with and eager to see how this version will turn out, what you can bring to it that is different this time, what may work better and what still lies there for you to discover. And even if you discover nothing new in it this year, you are still introducing it to your students for their first time. You should be excited about that.

Phil

Catherine Johnson said...

But if you're instructivist, then you should love flipped learning.

Absolutely not.

If you're an instructivist, you love lessons/lecture/whole-class Q&A.

An instructivist does not consider lecture 'boring.'

I certainly don't.

Catherine Johnson said...

True story: Ed went to a department Christmas party Friday night & was talking to a young English professor at Cornell.

She told him students are incredibly lucky because they get to attend lectures.

She loved attending lectures as a college student.

So did I.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

Catherine said "However, it's clear to me, reading the quotes, that whether or not students learn the same amount in these classrooms as they would have in a non-flipped classroom, the professors are spending a huge amount of time on this project when they should be doing their research."

But the project was a research project. Catherine, are you saying that you are opposed to people doing research in education, or that such research is somehow not real research?

Glen said...

"In actual reality, no one 'accesses' a lecture so they can replay it as often as they like. No one even watches the darn things the first time.

Ask everyone you know who's ever bought a course from The Great Courses if they actually watched the videos."

I keep responding to this but not submitting. My comment gets too long. I'll try again.

I've completed dozens of Great Courses (aka, The Teaching Company or TTC) courses. I've completed (literally) hundreds of audio-visual courses of some sort over several decades.

The way I do it is by exploiting what I've discovered about my own learning styles, so it won't apply to everyone.

I don't watch TTC videos. If I did, I would have to sit there not doing anything else (except maybe knitting!) as the lecture droned on and on. I wouldn't get past the first lecture, either.

Instead, I *listen* to TTC courses while I drive, wash dishes, exercise, clean the garage.... These are activities that engage my eyes and hands, but leave my ears and brain with nothing to do. Now THAT'S boring. So, I turn on The History of Ancient Rome, and it's a relief, not a chore.

One "secret" is impedance matching: matching the cognitive demands of the course to my cognitive capacity at the moment. I DO watch video courses, but only those for technically demanding topics that demand my full attention. Since, by requiring full attention, these can't brighten a dreary chore such as washing dishes, they *must* be topics I seriously want to learn or I won't bother. In general, I prefer books for these, but sometimes videos offer extra visualization. And, yes, I *definitely* skip over some parts, replay others, and pause to think.

Topics of less interest must be *listened to* while doing something else. If the something else leaves me with a lot of cognitive capacity (ex: brushing my teeth), I listen to technical material that is less demanding than those things that require my full attention (or I *listen* to a video and glance at the screen as necessary, ex: Lynda.com videos). If my chore is more demanding (ex: driving), leaving me with less spare thinking capacity, I'll listen to something like a history or literature course. If I'm exercising hard and can't even follow history, I'll drop down to music. (Note for anyone who might be married to a history professor: doing historical *research* would require full brainpower (or more), but following the narrative the clever researchers have pieced together is much less demanding.)

The mismatch between my approach and video lectures of required classes that kids don't care about--kids who haven't spent decades learning to teach themselves--is stark. Some proponents may be people who think it sounds good in theory but don't do it themselves, so they aren't aware of how sensitive it is to various conditions. And some opponents apparently think that nobody "in actuality" benefits significantly from a recorded course. But that's not all there is to the story.

SteveH said...

"Boredom & learning are related because of 'arousal levels' which I hope to get to soon."

Boredom usually implies that the material is not taught well or that coverage is too slow. It could just be tedious. I could have the most exciting teacher, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the course is good or working properly. Lack of boredom is neither necessary or sufficient. That is, of course, you define boredom to mean ineffective.