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Historicizing the Flipped Classroom

jspohrer's picture

The latest article posted to the Tomorrow's Professor mailing list, "1330. Flipped Classrooms- Old or New?," reconnects the idea of the "flipped" classroom to long-standing educational practice.

Current media coverage paints "flipped" as a revolutionary form of blended or technology-enhanced teaching. Instead of lecturing, an instructor introduces key concepts and skills though online videos or interactive tutorials, which students are required to complete before class. The instructor then uses class time for active learning exercises designed to help students engage with and master that material -- such as problem-solving, group projects, in depth discussion, debates, etc.

But although some of the tools students use to prepare for class might be new and improved -- a interactive tutorial with feedback, for example, as opposed to a textbook -- author Marilla Svinicki argues that the pedagogical ideas behind the flipped class are not. Instructors have long assigned reading and expected students to come to class prepared to discuss and engage with it. They have even developed various "analog" measures to test that preparation -- the pop quiz, cold calling, and so forth -- with the understanding that students will learn more from in-class activities if they come to class with some basic, common understanding of key ideas. Flipped classes are often celebrated as a means of maximizing the value of an instructor's expertise -- allowing them to spend more time coaching students one-on-one or leading them to deeper discovery, but these too, she argues are very old goals. The flipped model is "new" in the sense that new technologies are allowing teachers to better acheive these goals.