Pedagogy always matters, even flipped

I want to start off by saying that good pedagogy is important in teaching. I think sometimes we forget that. It can be easy to be seduced by a format or a tool and think that will solve your problems or make radical changes to how your students learn.

It can. But only if you use sound pedagogy when you employ it.

As an example, I’d like to take the flipped classroom. (Note that I have some problems with how Educause defines the flipped classroom. I’ll get to those.)


cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by AJ Cann
Is this it for flipped?

The flipped classroom has come up a few times in our EC&I 831 course this semester. It’s also something I’ve done some research on previously to run a workshop to discuss it. I totally admit it’s a concept a really like, maybe because it makes sense with my humanities background. To explain, we were assigned readings to do outside of class but, all too often during my undergraduate degree, I’d get to class and the readings were irrelevant, or the material was duplicated. If I had to do the readings, why weren’t we talking about them? Why was the instructor just repeating the text? I’ve been guilty of this myself.

So the flipped classroom makes sense to me in terms of a) making work done outside of class relevant and b) giving space to unpack that work, that content, in a meaningful way.

There has been some flack about flipped classrooms, though. CXMaria shared some thoughts and a response to a critique she’d read. I must admit, the critique bothered me, but it wasn’t totally surprising. I’d read similar critiques.

Today I came across another post about how flipped classrooms don’t make a difference. In reading it, though, I found that I had a fundamental issue with how the study was done. The definition of flipped classroom there, and in other places like Educause, is to have lectures as homework. Let’s say that again. Lectures for homework.

People, we have our problem right there. If you are flipping your classroom and just recording your lectures, expecting your students to watch you talk and/or show slides, and expecting you’ll see a difference if students view that digitally or view it in a classroom, you are in for a shock. It is still a lecture. Pedagogically, lectures have their time and place, but it is not for every single class, every single piece of content. So the pedagogy has already failed by assuming that a lecture is the de facto best way to deliver content.

While a huge part of flipped classroom is to have students apply concepts and have time to use and discuss them in the classroom, I think it is unfortunate when it is just a simple swap of where students do what. If you are using the same old homework in the classroom and the same old lectures out of the classroom, you have made almost no changes.

Yes. According to Educause, that is the definitely of a flipped classroom. According to the Chronicle article, that is a flipped classroom.

In my mind, that’s the most basic level and a bare bones starting point.

Having delivered an entire course in a lecture format, I now understand that I was wasting a lot of the time in the classroom. There are far more interesting ways to get content. Yes, students can read the textbook. But what else can I do? Instead of lecturing, are there video clips I can show of something actually happening rather than me talking about it? Are there good definitions that already exist? Can I chunk out content in a useful way so students can review only what they need for concepts, and then we can talk about it in class?

It is a lot of work to think about doing things differently. It should be a lot of work. Lectures, to be quite honest, are easy. You write it out, you deliver it, and then you can tweak and deliver it again. You are the expert and you can talk about it.

To find alternate modes of content delivery that are informative, engaging and useful, though, that may take some time with your phone or tablet filming something outside the classroom that you can’t take your students to. It may take combing through available videos to find just the right one to chop. Maybe it’s just the right reading. Maybe it’s getting students to develop lectures for their peers.

There is a need for innovative thinking, regardless of whether it is happening in or out of the classroom.

So how do you envision a flipped classroom? What are you doing with yours? How would you deliver content and get students to engage with it?

2 thoughts on “Pedagogy always matters, even flipped”

  1. Thanks for this post Kristen. I have very little experience/knowledge about flipped classrooms, and your thoughts have helped to clarify what there are and there there place may be. You are absolutely correct in saying that pedagogy is important no matter what your classroom style may be, and simply switching the order between lecture and homework is not really changing anything. Having taught most middle years, my main question regarding flipped classrooms is what happens to those students who don’t do the “homework” (whatever that work may be)? I also don’t like to assign a lot of work that has to be done at home, as I think that students should use that time to be with friends, family, and involved in extracurricular activities. Flipped classrooms seems to bring with them the idea of more work that needs to be done at home. Having experience with this, would you agree?

    1. Heidi, I think that it is up to the teacher how much ends up being done outside of class. With the stereotype, yes, students need to spend time out of class learning. But maybe you don’t flip that much. Maybe you make space in class to do content delivery but try to make more space for dealing with that. Or maybe there’s a small amount students take with them (how much time would they do of homework right now?). And it depends on grade level too. The idea isn’t so much MORE work to be done at home as different work. That students should, or could, come having encountered content.

      As for getting students to do the work, maybe you make space within class for that. I’m more familiar with the issue in higher education and there, the issue is that if you aren’t prepared, then how do you participate? If there’s a discussion or an activity and you can’t answer anything or don’t know what’s going on, you lose the time and opportunity, then there’s a problem. But obviously that’s a little more higher ed or older student focused. But maybe then there are ways to help those students catch up. Maybe other students can explain the concepts. They gain from peer instruction. Make smaller groups, let students interact, set up reasons why they would want to participate.

      The maker culture stuff we talked about tonight is a great motivator. If they haven’t checked things out before they show up, then they end up behind other students who can dig in. They will see the difference in class, when they could be doing something cool.

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